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East London 2012: A-Side B-Side Gallery

We continue our investigation into the future of the area by talking to local creatives shot by Jamie Hawkesworth for Dazed's May issue

As part of Dazed & Confused's 'Is East London Dead?' issue this April and Dazed Digital's 'A Secret History of East London' project, we spoke to a few of the local creatives who have seen the area change over the last 15 years. Here we present the full interview with Tinsel Edwards and Catherine Magnani from A-Side B-Side Gallery about their memories and thoughts on the future of the area. Get involved with our memory timeline HERE and check out Tinsel Edwards' posted memories HERE and HERE.

Dazed & Confused: Who are you and what do you do for a living?
Tinsel Edwards:
I am an artist and co-founder of A-side B-side Gallery and studios.
Catherine Magnani: I’m also an artist and co-founder of A-side B-side Gallery.

D&C: Where in east London are you based?
Tinsel Edwards: A-side B-side is on the first floor of Hackney Downs Studios on Amhurst Terrace.
Catherine Magnani: I live in Homerton and work from my studio at A-side B-side in Hackney Downs Studios in Amhurst Terrace.

D&C: What first attracted you to the area and how long have you been working here?
Tinsel Edwards: I moved here from south London about ten years ago. I used to come to private views and gigs here and loved the creative energy of east London. I ended up travelling from the south nearly every day. 

Catherine Magnani: I’ve lived in London for 14 years now but only moved into Hackney four years ago. My studios have all been over in the east though. I’d always wanted to base myself in Hackney as my great, great grandparents were from Hoxton and Bow. It feels very much like home and much better than the portrayal in Eastenders – have the artists arrived in Walford Square yet?


D&C: How has east London changed since you've been here?
Tinsel Edwards: Massively! When I first started coming to art exhibitions in Shoreditch, ages ago, there were hardly any restaurants or bars. El Paso, the Mexican on Old Street, was the only place really. Nights would always be really random, ending up in lock-ins in bars like The Conqueror behind Shoreditch Church, stumbling out at 6am and feeling like we were in the middle of nowhere. Shoreditch changed years ago – it feels much more like part of the City now. The creative edge that it once had has since moved on to Dalston and round London Fields and it is now spreading further east, to areas like Hackney Wick and Clapton.
Catherine Magnani: The biggest change for me has to be the demography of certain parts of east London. Hackney especially has seen huge regeneration just in the last decade. Boutiques, cupcake shops, a creperie, a pop-up gallery, a Sunday market and a French delicatessen – all these just in one street that only a couple of years ago boasted several empty shops, two west Indian cafes, a launderette and a pound shop.

D&C: Why do you think that is?
Catherine Magnani: I guess it’s because the artists have been pushed out further out from Shoreditch to make room for the commercial artists and designers. Artists and musicians move to the next cheapest area; in this case, Dalston, Lower Clapton and Hackney Wick.

D&C: What is the most exciting part of your local creative community?
Tinsel Edwards: I really love that things are always evolving – it never stands still. I love the feeling of possibility. There is a wealth of art exhibitions to go to and the creative energy of east London is really inspiring. The landscape is always changing too, with different bits of street art everywhere and new galleries and creative outlets springing up all the time.
Catherine Magnani: It’s really exciting to be part of a brand new venture at Hackney Downs Studios surrounded by amazing talent, hope and ambition.

D&C: Has the area informed your creative work at all and if so, how?
Tinsel Edwards: Definitely. It’s really inspiring to be around other artists, illustrators, fashion designers and musicians, and creative people in general. My work has also taken very literal inspiration from living here, including references to Shoreditch and even painting from local landmarks such as the White Cube and Shoreditch Bridge.
Catherine Magnani: Yes, I would say so. I think working from a ‘real’ place forces me to address issues contiguous to my physical surroundings. Much like my practice, this area is in flux.

D&C: Is it possible to say ‘Silicon Roundabout’ aloud without laughing?
Tinsel Edwards: I hadn’t actually heard of that phrase… I had to Wikipedia it! It is a bit of a funny comparison…I won’t be able to get that out of my head when I think of Old Street roundabout from now on!
Catherine Magnani: Like Tinsel I’ve never heard of the term! My finger must have fallen off the pulse!

D&C: What's your favourite East End hangout?
Tinsel Edwards: There are many, but an old favourite is The Pride of Spitalfields off Brick Lane. There’ve been a lot of good nights in that pub.
Catherine Magnani: On a weeknight or Saturday it has to be The Royal Oak but on a Sunday probably The Royal Inn on the Park at Victoria Park – very grown-up!

D&C: Does anything annoy you about the area? If so, what?
Tinsel Edwards: The phenomenal rent! And it keeps on going up and up…. The way it’s going there will end up being a mass exodus, and local families who have lived here for years will be forced to move out. The housing situation in London is a real bugbear for me. The government either need to somehow regulate the private rental market, or put more money and energy into developing more social housing, otherwise our vibrant creative communities will all turn into soulless corporate landscapes years from now.
Catherine Magnani: Overpriced cakes, ‘pop-up’ anything and so-called vintage furniture.

D&C: What are you going to do during the Olympics – stay or flee? Why?
Tinsel Edwards: Sticking around…We’re planning an anti-Olympics event at A-side B-side which should be fun and is a good enough reason to stay!
Catherine Magnani: Staying here – I live just opposite the stadium so I’m hoping to hear plenty of cheering, and also our gallery will be hosting its own alternative event.

D&C: Is east London dead?
Tinsel Edwards: Definitely not. Although it’s changing fast, east London is unique. In comparison to other places in the UK, for me it will always have that creative edge.
Catherine Magnani: No way! It lives, it lives!

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