Walk past Hackney Downs Pavilion on a Wednesday or Thursday evening and you'll notice a group of dedicated volunteers chipping away at multicoloured tiles. These tiles will soon be decorating London Zoo.
Since 2011 The Hackney Mosaic Project has been quietly transforming neglected corners of Hackney, but increasing budget pressures mean the group will no longer have a community space to work in once Hackney Council starts charging rent for use of the Pavilion.
Founder of the project and professional mosaicist Tessa Hunkin told Londonist about her efforts to keep the project going with a mosaic for the new lion enclosure at London Zoo. It's the project's first proper commercial commission and potentially the last.
Tessa said: "It's slightly hair raising because it means we have a proper commercial deadline, with a building site and a contract, which is quite difficult to manage with a group like this because you don't know whether they're going to turn up. But it's going well and it will keep us going until the end of February."
See volunteers hard at work on the London Zoo commission in the gallery below. Photos: Kyra Hanson
The Hackney Mosaic Project is made up of those referred by the Hackney Recovery Service and members of the local community. Many struggle with drug and alcohol problems, learning disabilities or mental illness but all are united in their task of creating mosaics to brighten up the local area.
Jamie Johnson, a recovering alcoholic who has been with the project for 18 months, said involvement has given him confidence, self belief and a sense of purpose. He said: "This was the last thing I tried but the first thing that worked,"
The project began with a commission at Shepherdess Walk Park in time for the 2012 London Olympics. It has since received commissions from Sainsbury’s in Hoxton, as well as schools, cafes, charities, churches and parks around Hackney. In the map below you can find out the exact location of each mosaic. You'll be able to see the completed London Zoo mosaic in March.
The project receives no funding from Hackney Council or the drug and alcohol services despite Tessa filing 13 grant applications.
The council plans to reopen Hackney Pavilion for sporting use in the future.