UnLOCKed: still,here

Beginning at Hackney Town Hall, this eight stop audio exhibition tempted me to travel across London on a very cold and windy day.

Still, Here allows you to experience the sights, sounds and smells of this eastern borough while listening to short audio pieces at each location, and tuning into the traffic, people, music and more as you walk.

Stop 1 took in a contrast which kept coming back across the exhibition: at one end of the town hall were homeless drinkers, at the other a well-dressed pair being photographed. Hackney is both old and new, rich and poor.

Images of central Hackney

You will look around to see the cultural icons now shuttered, hear the rumble of trains strangely unpopulated, take a pause in a green oasis. Listen to the people as they walk by, take in the signs and residences, shops and hubs.

Stop 2, an artisan bakery, is one place open in a line of railway arches “to let”, with a socially distant queue and the aroma of bread and cakes. A brisk walk past ageing bricks takes us through Stop 3, London Fields, where you listen to a voice talking of peace and tranquility.

Stops 4 (Eleanor Road, in the shadow of a tower block), and 5 (stage door, Hackney Empire) highlight communication, community, and the inequalities within the borough – especially for those with disabilities. Take a moment to put yourself in their shoes, in isolation, with support networks removed.

Images of central Hackney

Into the tranquility of St John’s Churchyard for stop 6, where old gravestones are set against the walls and tombs are roped off in secure spaces. Watch as people walk and cycle past, with their music leaking from their headphones. Here the sounds of the streets recedes and you can take a pause.

Still, Here closes with the great public services of education and health in stops 7 and 8: the colour box modernism of City Academy and the traditionalism of Homerton Hospital, with banners in support of key NHS workers.

A thoughtful, curated walk through an area unfamiliar to me, with interesting narration and input from the actors of Black Cab Company. Easy to participate if you have a smartphone – just scan the QR code at each stop – and there are enough signs to allow you to navigate the route with ease.

Homerton Hospital

Still, Here remains available until the end of October. Access details and the map here: the exhibition is free.

Check out my interview with the co-directors of Still, Here.

All images by Louise Penn.

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