As part of Dazed & Confused's 'Is East London Dead?' issue and Dazed Digital's 'A Secret History of East London' project, we chat to a few of the local creatives who have seen the area change over the last 15 years. In conjunction with Jamie Hawkesworth's shoot for the magazine, we sat down with Goldsmiths graduate Phoebe Collings-James for her take on the issue.
Migration and immigration keep cities alive and constantly changing, that is what makes them exciting places to be. When you are on the inside it can be hard to see the changes take place – they often happen quite slowly. And you are usually moving with them, if you’re lucky
The artist, who works across sculpture, performance, illustration, mixed media installation, photography and video, discussed the 'Silicon Roundabout', the Olympics and her favourite hang outs. Get involved with our memory timeline HERE and check out Collings-James' posted memory HERE.
Dazed Digital: Who are you and what do you do for a living?
Phoebe Collings-James: Phoebe Collings-James. I am an artist.
DD: Where in east London are you based?
Phoebe Collings-James: As of next week I will be in New York, doing a residency with The Still House Group. I will have the space and time for some new large-scale sculpture work that I have been wanting to do for a while. It’s nice to have a base here but I am always wanting to see what’s going on in other places.
DD: What first attracted you to the area and how long have you been working here?
Phoebe Collings-James: I was born at Homerton Hospital so I have been here forever! I have been working here for the last six years.
DD: How has east London changed?
Phoebe Collings-James: Migration and immigration keep cities alive and constantly changing, that is what makes them exciting places to be. When you are on the inside it can be hard to see the changes take place – they often happen quite slowly. And you are usually moving with them, if you’re lucky.
DD: What is the most exciting part of your local creative community?
Phoebe Collings-James: Being part of a creative community is important, it allows you to exchange ideas and grow artistically.
DD: Has the area informed your creative work at all and if so, how?
Phoebe Collings-James: It feels weird to speak about a creative community geographically in an internet age. I am in Marrakech at the moment doing a piece for the Biennale, which has been a massive creative influence. Having to work within a completely different social context has been a real challenge, particularly in relation to my position as a woman and an artist. I have had the help of interns from the local university and some of the discussions that have come from working with them have given me the biggest insight into how my work can function beyond London. This idea of learning through creative exchange has been vital.
DD: Is it possible to say ‘Silicon Roundabout’ aloud without laughing?
Phoebe Collings-James: Is it possible to answer that question without Googling it?!... Old Street roundabout, ‘often colloquially known as Silicon Roundabout, owing to the prominence of British web-based companies there.’ #wikipedia
DD: What's your favourite East End hangout?
Phoebe Collings-James: Sunstone, the women-only gym in Stoke Newington. It has the best swimming pool and sauna with very low lights, lots of whale music and gossiping.
DD: Does anything annoy you about the area? If so, what?
Phoebe Collings-James: People are often quick to be cynical about what are usually sincere efforts to be creative. My grandparents and parents all grew up in the area, and when they speak about how it has transformed from what was a very dangerous place to be, they speak positively. My mum is always excited about the galleries, community projects and general arty ‘hipster’ influence. The only thing that I truly hate are the three Tescos on Kingsland Road; they are badly stocked, often smelly and an unnecessary threat to small local businesses.
DD: What are you going to do during the Olympics – stay or flee? Why?
Phoebe Collings-James: I will be in New York. But my sister has tickets for the basketball so if I did stay I would probably be bribing her to take me.
DD: Is east London dead?
Phoebe Collings-James: No.
Dazed Digital invites you to map your east London memories on our timeline, 'A Secret History of East London'. Get involved HERE!
Photo by Jamie Hawkesworth