New mosaic ‘Making History’ unveiled in Shepherdess Walk

Two mosaics commemorating the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games were officially unveiled in Shepherdess Walk, N1 yesterday (24 May).

The mosaics, which have transformed a once disused area owned by Hackney Council are made up of around 216,000 tiles, and took over 100 people, with the help of mosaicist Tessa Hunkin, around eight months or 1,560 hours to complete.

The mosaics, will leave a record of our lives for future generations, just as the Roman mosaics have done about life in their time celebrates everyday life in Hackney in 2012. The scenes shows the variety of outdoor activities enjoyed across Hackney’s parks and open spaces and are depicted season by season, in a style that conjures up the Roman mosaics of North Africa, so that at first sight it looks like a Roman mosaic, and it is only when it is examined closely that contemporary details emerge. Embedded in the design are mobile phones, frisbees, skateboards and other bits of modern paraphernalia, but there are also the trees and animals that were so much a part of Roman life.

For two days a week, from a shop in Murray Grove, N1 a core group of around 28 people, recovering from drug or alcohol problems worked closely with Tessa Hunkin on fabricating the mosaics through her History in the Making project. The project was also a great success in bringing the community together as the group worked alongside people of all ages from the local area, many of whom dropped in while passing and got involved.

Research in the field of mental health and substance misuse indicates that hands-on participation in making an art work provides a range of benefits. All of those involved have learnt new skills, met other people, felt part of a local community and contributed to a beautiful piece of public artwork that they can be proud of for years to come.

Tessa Hunkin who has designed mosaics for buildings up and down the country including Westminster Cathedral and Terrance Conran restaurants said:” I really wanted to make a big public mosaic to celebrate the London Olympics because both mosaic and the Olympics originate in Ancient Greece. When we started I wasn t sure what would be possible with people who had never made mosaics before, but the team have surpassed all my expectations. They worked with such dedication and ability, and I think everyone enjoyed the satisfying process of creating such a large artwork. I know I did.”

Hackney Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, Social Care and Culture said: “The mosaic is amazing and will tell the story of Hackney in 2012 for years to come, everyone involved should be very proud of what they have achieved. Hackney Council is committed to helping and supporting people with drug and alcohol addiction, and this innovative project, shows just what a powerful thing art can be in bringing communities together and providing real benefits for people who need our help and support.”

The reaction of all the project participants has been very positive. Nicola O’Grady, who has been involved with the project from the outset said: “I feel that I don’t want to use or have the need to use before coming so that I can focus and enjoy using my mind. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment and belonging that I haven’t had for a long time. I also have something to be proud of that I can share with my friends and family”.

Mark Denney, said: “Coming to the mosaic group has given me the opportunity to socialise. Its given me a feeling of doing something worthwhile and it has given me more structure to my week.”

The project is supported by Hackney Council’s Drug and Alcohol Action Team in partnership with the Cultural Development team and Lifeline - Hackney’s drug treatment service. Much of the funding for this project came from section 106 contributions to Hackney Council - money from developers towards the costs of regeneration and community projects. The Council and Lifeline are now looking to secure additional National Lottery funding to continue the project and make mosaics for other parks in Hackney.

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