The Stinging Netil, a beautifully anarchic art fair, ten years on from the day that led to Cultivate…

Ten years on, the seeds that germinated, the thing that led, later in the year, to Cultivate. The Stinging Netil happened here in Hackney on this very weekend ten years ago, I just wrote a piece and dug out a whole load of photos and put them up on our sister Organ website

We really can’t let the events of ten years ago pass without marking it is some kind of way for ten years ago this very weekend the Stinging Netil happened.  The Stinging Netil was essentially an art fair, an artist-led art fair, a slightly anarchic, beautifully chaotic art fair that we put on over here in East London ten years ago this weekend. A whole day of art, bands, artists, people, community and more. Back then you could still get away with making things like the Stinging Netil happen here in Hackney. and this particular event happened one Sunday exactly ten years ago this very weekend in a car park by Netil House, just off London Fields and Broadway Market here in E8.

A regular market took place on Saturdays in the car park of Netil House back then, second hand book sellers, old clothes, junk stalls, food stalls, cheap veg, it was brilliant actually, there was a great family who brought their Indian food to sell every week. There was a very friendly bike repair place run by a whole load of local Rasta guys who never stopped smiling (they got gentrified out of the yard not long afterwards), there was a great big double decker bus parked in there that summer, it kind of hinted at days of free festivals and the days before the coffee, designer beer, designer beards and designer labels that you find at the way way less friendly way more “exclusive” Netil Market these days. Nothing much happened in the car park on Sundays back then and we knew all those proper old school market stalls were in storage after the Saturday market doing nothing, the Netil House people were still approachable in those days (we occasionally did arts stalls there on Saturdays), they didn’t look down at you like you were shit on their hipster shoes back in those days, it was a very different place, much friendlier times and we were based just over the road (we still are, we don’t often go to the market now) so we hired the whole thing.

I think we had 30 stalls (the East European market crew who put them all up were brilliant), each stall was taken on by either an artist or a group of artists working together, by various collectives, groups, each artist or group chipped in thirty quid each to cover the hire, we just about covered costs, we bluffed it on the insurance, invited the bands, the whole thing had a very DIY punk rock let’s-just-do-it-ourselves feel to it, we didn’t ask anyone’s permission, the authorities pretty much left us alone. We set up an (almost) stage at one end, the PA guy Gareth came along with his equipment and did us proud, he did it for the love of it, didn’t charge us a penny, work like mad all day, there weren’t too many complaints about noise, the neighbours mostly came along and joined in. It was a damn good bill of bands as well – Rude Mechanicals were on great form, Lilies on Mars were as excellent as ever, She Makes War played a fine set, Country Dirt, Perhaps Contraption did their marching band thing through the streets and into the yard to open it all in such a great great way. We had a healthy collection of artists under all the trees that are no longer in the yard – Carne Griffiths, Emma Harvey, Bortusk Leer, an excellent painter called David Agenjo, Carrie Reichardt, Geraldine Ryan, Lewis Banister and loads more, we had street artists, painters, printers, the M.A.A.D collective came along, we had performance, I can’t remember how many artists took part now, I remember more came along on the day and set up outside or on the floor and joined in with those of us who had chipped in for the stalls and the space, I guess there was about 40 of us officially taking part and more who joined in on the day, besides one unofficial artist with a big chi on his shoulder and another who though I could control the temperature, everyone got on wonderfully well, or at least that’s how we recall it ten years on.

We flyered the hell out of East London for the week before, stood at the top of Vyner Street for hours on First Thursday, put posters up, no thinking a useless Instagram story will do for the publicity back then, just hard work and old school diy attitude (and everything learnt from putting on all those Organ gigs and such, these things don’t just happen), we watched the weather and feared the worst, we got away with it (the heavens opened about ten minutes after we closed and put an end to the aftershow party that was brewing up. It was a great day, lots of people came, entry was free, the art was good, crowds flowed in all day, people hung out, watched the bands, ate food, brought their own food and drink, people smiled, connections were made, friendships cemented; Looking back it all felt so good, good enough to germinate the seeds of Cultivate, it felt like a positive collective effort, people coming together to make it happen. Cultivate opened a couple of months later on a crazy Thursday evening down Vyner Street that involved lots of naked men painted red and covered in honey but that’s another story for later in the year. It was a time before the developers really really got a hold, it was a time alive with possibility, a time that was coming to an end, it was probably a stressful day in terms of putting it all on keeping it all going, ten years on it feels like something we probably couldn’t get away with now, ten years on it fees like it was something really positive, and even if we do say so ourselves, something rather brilliant

It was great being a creative person living in East London back then, ten years on and we’re looking back and we’re full of all kinds of emotions, with sadness, a touch of anger, a touch of defiant pride in terms of what we pulled off that day and all that followed in terms of Cultivate and the many adventures that followed. We did try approaching the Netil Market people a time or two over the years, but no no no, these are far less friendly far more aloof times. Sunday July 10th 2011 was a great day, those were great times, fun times, good people, no time to dwell though, on with the next things, we couldn’t let the date pass without marking it though, can’t just quietly let these things be forgotten, far too much has, things like the Stinging Netal happened all the time around Hackney, the Wick, Shoreditch, Hoxton, all the Fates Worse Than Death and the WickEd street parties, the things like Play, First Thursday, the days before devolopers. On with the next things…. (sw)    

Do, as always, click on an image to enlarge or to run the slide show


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