Developers Are Gentrifying Vittoria Wharf. Here's How London Artists Are Fighting Back
DJ Pangburn — Aug 31 2016
Vittoria Wharf Residence protesting against the LLDC. Photo: Kirsten Allen. Images courtesy Conrad Armstrong and Save Hackney Wick
For the last ten years, London’s Hackney Wick neighborhood has been a creative epicenter, drawing in array of performers, craftspeople, musicians, illustrators, and many other creatives and artisans who work and cross-pollinate in this area of light industrial units and messy yards. Now, in an all too familiar story, development projects threaten the area’s very existence. But artists in Hackney Wick’s Vittoria Wharf neighborhood, located on Fish Island, are banding together to fight eviction.
As Conrad Armstrong, one of the organizers behind Save Hackney Wick, tells The Creators Project, the eviction grew out of London’s winning 2012 Olympics bid. During this process, the city created the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), an unelected organization charged with economically developing the Hackney borough. Rather predictably, it has triggered a wave of evictions.
Vittoria Wharf Community, proudly holding the tools of their practises. Photo: Kirsten Allen
At the time, LLDC bought half of Vittoria Wharf, committing to building a footbridge across the River Lee from the Olympic stadium to the Wharf. The stated purpose of this bridge is so that new Fish Island residents’ children can make their way to a school being built next to the stadium. As Armstrong explains, the community prevailed upon the LLDC to build a bridge two minutes away from Vittoria Wharf in what he believes is a far better location logistically, with a network of streets that wouldn’t require demolition of their building. Vittoria Wharf residents breathed a sigh of relief, and also got what they thought was LLDC’s full support for the Vittoria Wharf community, including an admission that the original bridge plan was a terrible idea.
But LLDC’s plan to effectively split Vittoria Wharf’s creative studios in half didn't die, despite Vittoria Wharf being listed as an Asset of Community Value in 2014, and other footbridges being within convenient walking distance. Five weeks ago, the bridge plan was officially resurrected, with Vittoria Wharf residents receiving unexpected eviction notices demanding they leave by September 5th.