In this book I have set out many bodies of work that I have created over the last twenty-five years, whilst making my journey through the streets of Hackney, trying to make sense of this urban maze and find my way home. It seems strange now to think back to a time of sitting in the pub in Blandford, Dorset with my mate Fred and discussing our nights itinerary of catching the tube to Soho, going to the 100 club, seeing some bands and ending the night at the Ritz. All a complete fantasy, funny, but, as the bell rang for last orders at 10.30pm, scary to think this pub on a wintery Tuesday night, with just the two of us at the bar, might be the limit of our horizons. A few months later and my girlfriend at the time is accepted at the London College of Furniture, it’s my big chance to escape and soon after I move to Hackney. I’ve made it to London but there’s no tube in Hackney, no 100 club and no Ritz, its Tuesday night on Lower Clapton road and just me and a local, who won’t give the time of day, in the Fountain pub. On the way home, I look in the once grand White Hart and into an unfamiliar landscape of ragga, dancehall and Jamaican heavy bass, it’s another world. Later I walk past the Mothers Hospital, closed but now squatted, the facade of the hospital makes a statement of intent by the founders, the Salvation Army, a progressive imposing building built for the people of the East End but now abandoned. Hackney is littered with veneers of a bygone era of grandeur and statements, interwoven with people washed ashore, mixing up cultures and architecture, creating worlds within worlds, showing glimpses of a life I never imagined whilst planting trees for the Forestry Commission in Dorset. But my connection with Hackney was born, as if I was one of the 123,909 live births recorded at the Mother’s hospital, and a life’s journey started.
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