The independent long-standing local shopkeepers of Hackney Central tell their stories about family business, immigration, community and changing times. A series of audio portraits commissioned by Hackney Council Regeneration as a 6 month exhibition at the Hackney Museum.

Brief and Objectives

Heritage is intrinsically valued, yet people often find they are disconnected with their local heritage either through migration or lack of time to learn about the stories of a place.  When the opportunity arises to discover more about the place were people live, work and shop people they are keen to engage and share their stories and experiences; often resulting in an increased feeling of pride and greater sense of place and cohesion. 


The Narrow way should be identifiable as a community space as well as place of commerce; people will visit a place where they feel a sense of community and connection.  Loyalty to the high street can be a powerful contributor to economic stability.  It is hoped that this programme will work towards strengthening the Narrow Way and its sense of place for local residents.

Proposal and Outcome

The recording and editing of six in depth audio interviews with the owners of local long-standing shops and businesses located on or near the Narrow Way in Hackney in order to create a series of 'audio portraits'. These are to be accompanied by photographic portraits to create an complete picture of who these local shop keepers really are, how they got there and what the future holds. Curation of an exhibition installation dedicated to celebrating these local shop keepers at the Hackney Museum literally over the road from the Narrow Way. 

After several months of persuasion and persistence, six shop owners agreed to be interviewed on location in their shop. Some of these interviews were long quite emotional conversations about family history, economic hardship and accomplishments, migration and their role in the local community. The challenge was to depict a true representation of each person through sound in just a few minutes and enable the public to feel like they had got to know the story behind some of these long standing shops they have probably walked past everyday without a second glance. Curating an exhibition at a museum with limited resources and strict presentation regulations introduced some interesting challenges but this simply meant the installation needed to be simple and effective for a universal audience. 

Pop to shops: Meet the Shop Keepers was exhibited at The Hackney Museum from 12 Feb to 30 July 2015 and is now part of the museum's permanent collection. 

Exhibition curation, audio production, sound design: Lucia Scazzocchio
Photography: Kuba Nowak