The changing nature of London is nothing new to those living in the city. Just a few years ago the sunday markets were the fountainhead of second-hand chintz lamps and questionably obtained items. Now these places are packed full of tourists and city workers, and surrounded by apartments with rents far too expensive for the artists who made the areas fashionable, or the light-industry that preceded them. Since the recession in 2007, Zone 2 has become a victim of the housing market, for better and for worse.
Artist and designer Hannah Fasching’s installation for the London Design Festival, ‘The Deep Ford’, looks at this change through the eyes of residents of Deptford. The film, screened at The Intertidal Cinema (a functioning port on the River Thames), gives a complex picture of a phenomenon that is often boiled down to simplistic semantics. T-R-E-M-O-R-S reached out to Fasching to learn more.
'The Deep Ford' looks at the current architectural identity and possibilities of Deptford. What sparked this interest?
Hannah Fasching: It came about by researching and investigating the temporary spaces that occur in nature. I looked for ways to try and occupy these spaces, through design, to create a new, different relationship with them. The first cinema screening took place in a coastal town on the Bristol Channel called Burnham-on-Sea. This little town has a very unique relationship with nature, more specifically tides. After one particularly severe storm in 1981, an architecturally striking sea wall was built along their coastline.
What I wanted to do with the first cinema was transform this resistant architecture into a social space, bringing people back around the tide facing side of the wall, creating a closer relationship with this natural space. People gathered in the Intertidal zone as the tide was coming in to watch a series of films containing archive footage of Burnham's seafront before the wall was built. These films were projected directly onto the curved sea wall, using 3 projectors. After 30 minutes the tide was right by our feet, creating incredibly thrilling and unique cinema experience.
What are your impressions of the topographies of Deptford's past? Is there a particular character you were looking to capture?
The Dockyards in Deptford played such a huge part in the expansion and transformation of London. I wanted to revive this lost history and bring it to life on the shores of Deptford. In terms of topographies, the contrast of old and new architecture is something I wanted to portray with the film. The film tells a narrative of place through a conversation with the architecture itself, creating a portrait of the urban landscape through the sites. The voices of Deptford are used to animate various sites, the physical space takes on the voice of the social.
Where do you feel Deptford stands in relation to the growing expense of living in London? Arguably the docklands have a very different cultural persona now than they did 10 years ago, particularly financially, what do you think Deptford will look like in 2024?
Deptford is undergoing an immense transformation, and I think London as an expanding urban landscape is something the film specifically addresses. I interviewed an array of people, people who live and grew up in Deptford, people who work and run businesses, people involved in the local community on varying levels, but also people involved with how Deptford is changing such as the Redevelopers of Paynes and Borthwick. Issues of gentrification are hugely topical and the film touches upon these transformations, by using the sights and the people of Deptford to draw out these critiques and opinions.
Deptford is possibly one of the best examples of how London is transforming and living costs are rising. Lewisham is one of the poorest boroughs, with Deptford specifically experiencing a huge economic decline since the Dock's were closed. Recently Deptford has become an area of interest in terms of property development, with high rise riverside apartments attracting City workers and commuters.
I hope that the rich and diverse community that exists in Deptford will not be pushed out due to these redevelopments. Deptford market and the high street are such assets to the area, it would be a shame to see them go. At the same time I don't think we should be hostile to change and new people coming into the area, this is how places grow, but places should maintain a form of their original cultural and historical backgrounds even in the light of such change.
We also asked 'What would Deptford be like in 10 years' to many of the people we interviewed. We received many, many different answers. So we’ll just have to see who’s right, maybe they all are.
'The Deep Ford' runs Saturday 13th, Sunday the 14th and Monday the 15th as part of the London Design Festival. For more information and showtimes, see here
Video: Hannah Fasching
Text: Margaret McCormick