Vintage loo roll on show in Hackney Wick art project launching tonight

Pristine loo roll that could date back 80 years is displayed in an ambitious art project documenting the history of a two mile, man-made stretch of the Lea River Navigation Canal.

Artists from Space arts studio in Mare Street have been working on the Hackney Cut exhibition for the past year, using oral histories they collected about Hackney Wick’s social and industrial scenes as inspiration for three art projects.

The scratchy, hard toilet paper made by Bronco is on show to reflect the variety of industries populating Hackney Wick when it was a thriving industrial area.

Space project co-ordinator Esther Collins was given the vintage loo roll by her friend as a joke, after he picked it up from a jumble sale in Kent.

“I mentioned it on the side that I had this toilet roll with an E9 postcode, as it’s quite ridiculous - and the others got all excited about it and said, “We have to have it in the exhibition.”

“I have no idea about its worth, probably it’s worth a lot for a toilet roll,” she added.

Rough on one side and shiny on the other, non-absorbent toilet paper like the ‘Bronco’ brand dates back as far as the 1930s.

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Gruesome tales

The year-long project about Hackney Cut entailed training local people as historians, who were then sent out armed with digital recorders to collect personal testimonies about the area.

This material then provided inspiration for the artwork now on show in the Heritage Lottery funded project.

Fiona Fieber, head of learning and participation at Space, said: “We had a real cross section of canal life from a retired couple living on Kingsmead Estate to an artist with a studio on the canal.

“One man had worked on the canals most of his life, and had amazing memories of a horse going into a pub and bodies being found in the water - some of it was gruesome but interesting.

“The whole thing about it was, there was this place pretty much quietly getting on with its own life and along comes the Olympics and completely changes things,” she added.

“Space realised there was this big change happening and how important it was to capture those life histories and stories before it disappeared, because it’s an extraordinary area.”

A five metre long pencil drawing illustrating people’s memories by Jessie Brennan, which has just been shortlisted for the prestigious Jerwood art prize is on show as well as a collection of historial 19th century “then and now” photos.

Chinese Whispers, a project by children at Gainsborough School in Berkshire Road exploring the authenticity of stories which are passed down through generations.

Rare 1960s footage of pop star Cliff Richard and his band The Shadows, playing to 700 screaming teens at St Mary of Eton Church in Hackney Wick as Princess Margaret looks on, will also be screened.

The exhibition runs at Space until Friday August 12, Monday to Friday 10am - 5pm and Saturdays 12pm - 4pm.

Tonight there will be a talk Wednesday 20 July, (6pm – 7pm), Ken Worpole & Dr Toby Butler

A publication, The Cut Newspaper, will be launched for the exhibition and circulated to local households.