A 4-metre sculpture by street artist Stik entitled “Holding Hands’’ has been erected in Hoxton Square, Hackney. Stik, who calls Hackney his ‘spiritual home’, says:
“Holding Hands‘ depicts two figures facing in opposite directions, yet holding hands in a sign of universal love and solidarity.
Traditionally cast in patinated bronze, the sculpture is roughly twice human height, the hands low enough for the viewer to reach, the feet planted firmly on the ground, legs forming a doorway the viewer may pass through. One figure walks determinedly westwards towards the city centre, the other moves gracefully to the east, eyes turned to the treetops. The composition has been constructed in such a way that at first, one figure appears to lead, then the other, depending on where the viewer is standing in relation to the sculpture. It is a subtle reminder of what it is to look at the world from other people’s perspectives — as relevant today as it will be in 100 years. The “Holding Hands” sculpture is being installed at a poignant time in our history when holding hands is not always possible but is a symbol of hope for what has always been and what will be again.
The sculpture is intended as a timeless and inclusive meeting place for all “regardless of race, sexuality, gender, faith or social status”. It was cast at Pangolin Editions foundry in Stroud, Gloucestershire, which has specialised in producing large-scale public art for 35 years.
Behind Stik’s sculpture is what used to be the White Cube gallery, which in 2000 moved here from Duke Street and has now moved to Bermondsey. The White Cube became famous for exhibiting works by Young British Artists (YBAs), who included Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, who loved the Hoxton area.
On the corner of Hoxton Square is a blue plaque commemorating Dr James Parkinson (1755-1824), who lived and had his laboratory at no.1. The physician and geologist, who worked at nearby St Leonard’s hospital, was the first to describe appendicitis and identified what has come to be known as Parkinson’s disease.
The former metal merchants warehouse and offices at no. 58 were converted into the Bass Clef jazz club, later the Blue Note, which Time Out described as the “Most fashionable club in London”. It was frequented by former MP and Father of the House of Commons, Ken Clarke, now Lord Clarke. Above the Bass Clef was the Tenor Clef. There is still a music venue here.
Just around the corner is the National Centre for Circus Arts, formerly Circus Space, a professional circus school offering contemporary circus training and degree programmes in circus arts. Performers at the Millennium Dome, Greenwich and the Paralympics Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Park trained here. Founded in 1989, Circus Space moved in 1994 to its home at Shoreditch Electric Light Station, a converted power station, whose steam-powered generators burned refuse to produce electric power. The Borough of Shoreditch was so proud of this that they took the motto e pulvere lux et vis “out of dust light & power”, which can still be seen outside Shoreditch Town Hall.
That’s all for now, but there’s plenty more to see in Shoreditch and Hoxton. If you are fascinated by the area, check this cycling tour around Hackney Downs, a delightful article by Mary Sewell.
About the author:
Mary Sewell is a Blue Badge Tourist guide, City of London guide, Clerkenwell & Islington guide and member of the Hackney Society. She specialises in many aspects of East London, also in Parks & Gardens and guides in German and French. Mary is available for walking, cycling, coach and virtual tours www.guidedtours.uk.com. Copyright of all photos is Mary Sewell.