A meditation on place as
central to our experience of history
Using the script of poet Michael Rosen’s documentary play, the film is shot on location in the London Borough of Hackney and intercut with rarely seen archive footage, much of which shows the locality’s commitment to social housing. As we hear from the famous – Shakespeare in Shoreditch, Anna Sewell, Anna Barbauld – alongside a Jamaican builder, a Bangladeshi restaurant owner or the Jewish 43 Group taking on Oswald Mosley in Dalston, we see past and present streets, parks, cemeteries and markets.
‘If you let it, a street will grow,’ says a voice as the film shows ‘layers of lives’, offering a lyrical, painterly defence of the everyday even as it raises questions about the process of ‘regeneration’; and while David Cameron claims that ‘multiculturalism has failed’, this film celebrates how ‘the world comes to Hackney’.
In terms of both the visual and the aural, the film heightens the real: the soundscape mixes documentary with poetry, music, song and location recordings, while the picture juxtaposes slow, still shots with paintings by East London artists, Leon Kossoff, Jock McFadyen and James MacKinnon. Breaking with the linear narrative convention, the audience is invited to apprehend the city as fragmentary and
multi-layered. – “past in the present; present in the past.”
Hackney Canal - oil on board
by James MacKinnon