Find out how sacred the ground you’re walking on really is with ‘East End Promise 1985-2000, A Story of Cultural Migrants’ at the Londonnewcastle project.
From the skinheads to the punks, acid house to grunge, the exhibition maps the origins, digs out the depths and tells the stories “you can’t Google” through photography, painting, film and installation. i-D Online met curators (and old school East End ravers) Ernesto Leal and Paul Sakoilsky with the intention of a quick tour; what we received however, was an education. “I want the younger generation in East London to understand its history”, says Ernesto, “There’s a heritage, and I want them to know they’re part of a long line”. Referencing Thatcher’s famous comment, “There’s no such thing as society”, Ernesto emphasises the influence Thatcher had on young people in the 80s, spawning a generation of DIY creative thinkers. Some of the works on show document the local haunts of the times, like art galleries ‘Factual Nonsense’ and ‘30 Underwood Street’ and infamous pubs ‘The London Apprentice’ and ‘The Conqueror’, where the landlord would switch the sound system on and off to fool patrolling police, claiming it was a private function, and where more often than not, “you’d come out with a black eye”. Other highlights include Damien Hirst dressed up as a clown, Irvine Welsh at The Blue Note club, cards reading “Turner Loves Us” from Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas’s ‘The Shop’, Kylie Minogue slumming it in Shoreditch and the Queen driving down Rivington Street on her way to open The Prince’s Trust.
Ernesto and Paul were also keen to tell the uglier story of East London; the racism and riots in the area, including a photograph by Phil Maxwell of the Anti-Racist Demonstration in Bethnal Green in 1991. “Up until the 70s”, Paul explains, “one end of Brick Lane was entirely National Front; there were parts of Hoxton you’d be afraid to walk alone in.” As we watch Dick Jewell’s film of skinheads filmed in 1979 entitled ‘Old Bill and Young Skins’, I comment, “It’s like This Is England”, to which Ernesto replies, “Yeah, but this is the real thing” – highlighting an authenticity and living history that runs throughout the exhibition. i-D gets a look in too with Derrick Santini’s images of Bull Terriers with their owners Alexander McQueen and Katy England, which ran in Family Future Positive book.
East End Promise 1985-2000 at the Londonnewcastle Project Gallery on Redchurch St is open until 23rd October, with a catalogue launch on 21st October from 7pm.