Art Review: The Dalston Project

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 166 months ago

Last Updated 22 July 2010

Art Review: The Dalston Project

Ridley Road shopowner Hamid; photo by Nick Aldridge
Set in a little-known WW2 air raid shelter just off Kingsland Road, the Dalston Project is an atmospheric photography exhibition that aims to tease out the true stories of everyday life that permeate one of London's fastest-changing areas.

Descending the steps into the darkness armed only with a flashlight, the viewer is forced to make her way gingerly through the enveloping gloom, stepping through pools of water and brushing past superannuated electrical equipment. Hung at intervals in the space are large photographs of local people from Dalston: shopkeepers, restauranteurs, stallholders at nearby Ridley Road market. Alongside the photographs are short interviews with the subjects, in which they are quizzed about how they think Dalston is changing, what their experience of life in E8 has been, and what they believe the future holds.

The creators, Matt Franks and Nick Aldridge, say that their aim was to acknowledge those who've been in the area for decades, the people who "provide the produce that you put on the table, those that provide services and entertainment in the area", and tease out their reaction to the rapid changes coming to Dalston. What's perhaps surprising, upon reading the dozen interviews, is the palpable sense of optimism. Almost all of the shopkeepers and stall holders think good things are coming: the arrival of the new train station and the 2012 Olympics have combined to create a real sense that better times are just around the corner.

For Dalston residents and regulars, it's an intriguing look into the lives of people who make up the fabric of life in the area; if you run into one of the subjects in the street, hopefully they'll become more than just a blank face. Even if you're not a Dalston habituée, it's worth going for the chance to explore a bunker that's barely been opened since the war ended.

The Dalston Project is at The Bunker behind the Print House, 18 Ashwin Street, E8. 12pm - 8pm daily, until Sunday, July 25th. To find it, follow the alleyway behind the Print House until you find a rusted metal door with steps leading down