Still, Here: An audio tour around Hackney at Access All Areas Online
The lockdown was a challenging experience for many, but vulnerable groups felt its negative effects even more deeply. Access All Areas’ Black Cab Company provides a platform for artists with learning disabilities to co-create performances designed to challenge and inspire. As theatre doors shut in March and all workshops and activities were cancelled, members of the company found themselves cut off from a vital source of strength and wellbeing. Disconnected from the community, with no outlet to express themselves, a few of the artists have compiled and shared their thoughts in the audio exhibition Still, Here.
The listening experience of the piece is cleverly combined with a walking tour of Hackney. This tour is completely free, can be done at one’s own pace and requires no booking. Anyone wishing to do it can head to Hackney Town Hall and find the poster of the exhibition which has a scannable QR code. This will open a link to the first audio recording of the series. After listening, the narrator, who also acts as audio guide, gives directions to the next stop, where another code and audio piece await. There are eight stops in total, with opportunities to stop for coffee, lunch or a drink if one wishes.
Launching on the day when Hackney Carnival would have taken place, Still, Here begins with a young man’s reflections on what carnival means to the community, and the void that is felt by those who count on the event to have their voices heard. Next, the listener is led to a cafe, to London Fields, through a residential road, and so on, all the while listening to the voices of those who looked at those places with new eyes when they had nowhere else to look. For the most part, the artists express their sadness and loss of connection, but there are also glimpses of the kindness and compassion that kept their hope alive.
At times in the performance, the lockdown can be overdramatised and pre-lockdown days romanticised; one speaker talks of “friendly faces at rush hour” and the “exciting buzz” of commuting. Overall, however, the project is a beautiful way to draw attention to people and places whose stories may otherwise get lost in the general chaos. The tour feels like eavesdropping on snippets of the private reflections of others as they isolate behind closed doors. The atmosphere of Hackney helps fill in the context and the walk makes for a pleasant bonus. Still, Here is a valuable and enjoyable exhibition that holds an important message for locals and visitors alike.
Still, Here: An audio tour around Hackney is running from 13th September until 31st October 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.