More Than Just a Wall – Getting Messy at Hackney Festival

Myah Popat

More Than Just a Wall – Getting Messy at Hackney Festival

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When art is diverse and accessible, it holds a mirror up to a community, allowing people to see themselves in it; it mobilises a movement for creativity. Paint the Change believes street art can be used as a tool for social change. It can go beyond simply being a feature piece of an area; it provides a space for the representation of issues affecting the heart of the community and encourages passers-by to engage in deeper conversations.

This year, Paint the Change partnered with Hackney Council to take part in the Discover Young Hackney Festival 2019, running workshops for local youth and working with street artist Guido Palmadessa to produce a mural on the walls of Westgate Street.

Discover Young Hackney is a youth arts and culture festival that allows young people to get involved in various creative activities, free of charge. The programme, which is available for 13- to 19-year-olds, offers activities from music production to circus skills, and takes place every year across the borough. Ultimately, Discover Young Hackney is part of a larger project to bring attention to the potential of Hackney’s youth, provide opportunity to learn more about artistic expression and build a supportive community network. As Hackney’s Deputy Mayor, Councillor Anntoinette Bramble highlighted, “young people are Hackney’s greatest asset” — so by teaming up with a range of creative arts collectives, the council sought to inspire young people to get involved in their local area and experience something new.

This year Paint the Change also got involved by offering street painting workshops, which took place during the week of August 19th to August 25th. Children from all over the borough got involved, getting their hands dirty by spray-painting walls near Netil Market. Street painter Guido Palmadessa then joined the fun on the weekend, creating a mural celebrating the diversity of Hackney’s young people, all taking pride in their creativity, and symbolising the positivity and growth that can come from a strong community.

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Guido, an Argentinian-born street artist currently living in Berlin, began his journey more than seven years ago in Buenos Aires. Even though he has sometimes experienced negative encounters with police while working on the streets, Guido believes street art is a powerful format that can make a great impact in a community. He says he was inspired by the “invasion of the street and feeling part of your own city”, and it fed his growing interest in street art. He believes that murals can be “meeting points”, where every individual can share their own thoughts and has the right to be a critic. And he hopes that, just as street art transforms his own reality, his work will help transform the reality of the local communities in which he paints.

When asked why he got involved with Paint the Change and Discover Young Hackney, he cited a shared interest in community work: “I felt that we had things in common. I used to work in a community way also, evolving into social painting… in a participative process… It is a very beautiful project”.

Guido’s mural includes the images of the young Hackney residents who participated in the workshops embracing one another and features a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt: “We can’t always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” Just as Paint the Change believes street art can be a powerful tool for social justice because it sparks debate about key issues and welcomes the whole community to get involved, Guido’s work with Hackney’s young people similarly brings attention to Discover Young Hackney and Hackney council initiatives. Together, they celebrate diversity, unity and prosperity. The mural stands proudly as a powerful reminder of this aim.