Work, protest and play on the streets of Hackney

  • Published
Ken Jacobs, Chatsworth Road, 1977Image source, Neil Martinson

During the 1970s and first half of the 80s photographer Neil Martinson recorded the lives of those who lived and worked in Hackney, east London.

At that time, children still played in the street and on old bomb sites yet to be developed.

Indeed, some of the pictures were taken when Martinson himself was still at school, using a Zenith-E camera, which he describes as "everything a boy could want from a camera".

"It had lots of knobs and dials and they all had a satisfying clunk when operated," he says.

"Hackney was a place to leave, with its crumbling council estates and high unemployment.

"Yet there was vitality and resilience among local people.

"Few people owned their own homes.

"There were no gated communities and no gastropubs.

"Students, radicals and artists started to move into Hackney.

"It was an exciting time to be a photographer and activist."

Image source, Neil Martinson
Image caption,
Giorgi’s Cafe, Bethnal Green Road, 1971
Image source, Neil Martinson
Image caption,
Dalston, 1971
Image source, Neil Martinson
Image caption,
River Lea, 1971
Image source, Neil Martinson
Image caption,
Graham Road, 1971
Image source, Neil Martinson
Image caption,
A family living in Rachel Point, Nightingale Estate, 1974, one of the high-rise housing blocks being built in the area
Image source, Neil Martinson
Image caption,
"It was common to see children playing on the streets in the 1970s," says Martinson. "The lack of traffic, and very different attitudes, gave children a freedom that seems quite remote now. My own memory was of going out to play all day long and my parents having no idea of where I was or what I was doing."
Image source, Neil Martinson
Image caption,
The Telsner family, Stamford Hill, 1981, photographed for a book on Jewish life in Britain
Image source, Neil Martinson
Image caption,
Ridley Road Market, 1981
Image source, Neil Martinson
Image caption,
Martinson photographed these nurses, protesting over pay outside Bethnal Green Hospital, for the Hackney People's Press
Image source, Neil Martinson
Image caption,
Inside Lesney's factory, where Matchbox cars had been produced since the late 1950s. At its peak, it employed 3,600 people, mostly women, but when this was taken, production had all but ceased, with closure coming a year later
Image source, Neil Martinson
Image caption,
Garment factory, Shacklewell Lane, 1981

Hackney Archive: Work and Life 1971-85, by Neil Martinson, is published by Hoxton Mini Press.

All photographs courtesy Neil Martinson / Hoxton Press