Creating Hackney as Home (CHASH) used participatory video production to explore how young people experience a sense of home and belonging under conditions of rapid urban change; how they negotiate and manage these changes in order to maintain their sense of home; and to evaluate the effectiveness of visual research methods in portraying affective relationships within, and with, the city. Facilitated by cultural geographer, Dr Melissa Butcher, a team of five peer researchers from the neighbourhood spent a summer creating short films that captured their experience of living in the east London Borough of Hackney. From journeys through the city came reflections on the impact of gentrification, using fashion to demarcate belonging and being different, growing up and out of space, and managing everyday cultural diversity. Following the completion of filming, the videos were made publically available, via screenings, the website and social media, to invite a wider audience into dialogue on the issues raised. The research also collated ethnographic description of particular sites within the borough and incorporated the research team’s critical reflections recorded on flipcams throughout the project. Key findings included that while demolition of the built environment and existing social networks was evident, there was also an ambivalence expressed towards change. Crucially, young people were found not to be necessarily averse to change in itself but to those changes that they felt left them, and other residents, marginalised. Particular concerns centred on inequality, displacement and the speed of change. The transformation in the physical and socio-economic character of Hackney has led some young people to question whether they fit into the emerging urban landscape. Adapting to this context was for some at times seen as an opportunity but for others it was a more challenging process. Maintaining a sense of home did not necessarily require learning new ways of doing things, but instead required coming to terms with change emotionally.
Researcher: Melissa Butcher, Birkbeck, University of London