Skip to main content

Under the bridge

Three women, tie-dyed to their toes, sway in the Hackney Wick wind that creeps off the canal into the A12 underpass. Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man’ is blaring through car speakers, it’s a spiritual, celebration of freedom and our psychedelic-altered brains aren’t too sure how to take it.

The space under the bridge engulfs with a sudden light, the car creeps down the slope onto the stage, each car door wide open, balancing on the bonnet is a man sporting MI5 shades, welcoming his guests with open arms, the king to his castle.

The timing is impeccable. This is now Rocket Man’s bridge. Finally, we had a name for the 48 year old man who is responsible for the organised chaos we all know too well, under the bridge in Hackney Wick.

This location has been a favorite of mine since I made the move to East London. Every day a new project was being constructed by multiple artists, concrete beams now canvases, washing machines now time machines, car-seat chariots and breeze-block sculptures making the average underpass a place for creative freedom.

“I see such a broad human race underneath that bridge, from this to that, kids to old people, from veterans to grandma’s, rich people poor people, druggies, thieves and everything else you get in the world, it goes through that bridge. Boaters, workers across the canal, where they work 24 hours, they know me the best” he explains. Though this ever-changing outdoor gallery isn’t just the work of one man, it is the absolute life of Jay’s.

His hands are cracked, but his strength floors me. Much like a lot of the creative spaces in London, the flyover that holds his work has been in jeopardy for the entire 2 years he has settled there.

Many Hackney Wick residents are saddened that artist studios and warehouses are now being overshadowed by towering, overpriced flats. Not only does this physically push out community buildings, but the entire fabric of the community will inevitably be changed. But we keep on keeping on, much like Louise, a local artist.

“They’re [the council] not doing any planned attack, it’s always been like that. You just hang in there. It’s ok, you just have to laugh at it. There’s no point getting pissed off. This is an inevitable story. it’s depressing, which is why it helps to talk about it.”

Jay’s eviction, for me, is yet another dig at the creatives of The WIck. Those who wear the trousers feel a sting, too much freedom is to be had. So why couldn’t Jay just work between the four walls of the remaining studios?

“I work during the night, it’s fresh air. I talk to the birds and the bees and the squirrels, I got two of ‘em. This is a piece of everyone’s heart, I can’t do it on my own” he explains, Jay found comfort watching the snow in winter form mini tornadoes against the black sky: “it’s the little things, that’s what kept me driving. Nature was just giving me so much back, was making me pump.I’m a million miles away but I do come back every 500 years to make sure everything is alright.”

Art is available around every corner in London, but Jay allowed us to watch the birth of his projects. From one breezeblock to the next. Jay’s art was never meant to be confined to one space, his connection to nature and need for freedom made the flyover his life-line. From saving swans to humans from the depths of the canal, who had fallen in after raving in Hackney Marshes, he talks of the time that he paddled his engine-less barge along the canal surrounded by day-time drinkers, on his birthday, with wood under his arms like a victorious jowster. “This is how I survive under the bridge. I become Tom Cruise, Charlie Chaplin. I don’t watch TV, this is my film.”

27/10/18 marked the date of Jay’s eviction. “I was sleeping in my boat, and all of a sudden I heard Louise’s voice. I opened my door, and I see 15-20 guys including 4 security men fucking with my stuff.” An assemble of the community trekked to the flyover to make sure no damage was done during the eviction, yet still the atmosphere was sobre.

It was a joint effort of the council and the Canal and River Trust who cut off one of the main arteries of Hackney Wick’s heart. As Jay reminiscens about that day, a faint clapping can be heard from one of the next door warehouses. Jay sat in silence for what felt like eternity. The clapping was earth’s way of thanking him for his efforts.

“Now I go back to it and I look at the place, and it’s worth all the memories that I have inside of me. I am lucky enough to have experienced it by myself and with others. Imagine how many people I met in two years, from the boaters that moved every two weeks. Imagine how many people I met being underneath that bridge. Since I was born everything just comes. I think of it, or nature knows that I need it, and I believe in it. For a lot of people this happens, but they don’t realise that its for them. This is who you are, take it, or use it, because it’s the tool that you need in your life. You have to be patient. They’re testing you, who? Do you think I know? Do you think I know what I’m sculpting?”

Since then, his presence has been sorely missed, “People are asking me where I am” he explains, twiddling a bike light found on the desk, “those who go to work at 5am and smile and say hello, those who watch me sweep the place or making sculptures. People miss it, I miss it too, but i’m not going to do it again. I’ve done my job.”

“To restrict the artist is a crime. It is to murder germinating life.” - Egon Schiele

Words: Ruby Munslow @rubytues_
Images: Fynn Collins


  1. Luckyland Bingo Casino & Hotel - MapyRO
    Get directions, reviews and information 광명 출장안마 for Luckyland 파주 출장샵 Bingo Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas, NV. 전라북도 출장마사지 Luckyland casino, hotel and other 경기도 출장안마 hotel information, directions, 김제 출장샵 reviews.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog


In the age of Trump, Covid and Brexit it’s hard to escape the feeling that we’re inching ever closer to some sort of chaotic crescendo. It’s an exhausting time for a lot of people, and alt-punk trio Monakis are none too happy about this mess. Their new track ‘ Fake News ’ is the Brighton band’s second single. Monakis are not keen to shy away from their outrage as the track erupts instantly at breakneck speed. Most recent bands commonly see fights break out at the gigs, but Monakis sound like a gig broke out at a fight. “Respect yourself,” frontman James Porter repeats throughout the track. It’s an unhinged mantra, one delivered with a charismatic snarl.  The sound production on this track is something that I noted right away. It does everything that it needs to do. Modern punk wannabes have a tendency to apply a sort of glimmer and shine to their sound, something which more often than not works to round off the jagged edges that the band have spent so long sharpening. This is not the

The Return

Well then, what a week that was. Many of you will have noticed that this page has been collecting some cobwebs for some time now. I have to apologise for that. Over the lockdown periods we lost something very dear to us all: live music. With this, my inspiration to write had significantly diminished - until this week. Monday night was filled with old friends and wholesome music, it was a well needed trip to the Windmill. This was followed on Saturday with a trip across the river to a park in Crystal Palace for a day of hard hitting tunes, riptide crowds and most of all dirty baselines.  That week reminded me why I wanted to write about music. The Windmill in Brixton is a personal favourite for us at ScumFiles and it was sorely missed.  On Monday I was treated to a night made up of three great acts: Zac Lawrence and The Hate, Sasha and the Shades, headlined by Ideal Husband. All of which contained one or more close friends. Many of you will know that it’s rather cosy venue and most nigh


Alien Chicks where set to play their first gig after their single release “cowboy”. The venue of choice for their endeavour was there Windmill Brixton, and what a place to do it! I haven’t ventured to the Windmill for a fair few months and to be honest with you, I didn’t realise how much I missed the place. As the anticipation built, we walked up Blenheim Gardens and the topic of conversation was full of bands I’ve seen here in their early days; Goat Girl, Lynks, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Squid and Deadletter just to name a few and how I had the same feeling walking up this street as I do now for Alien Chicks.  We bust through the door and where met by the smell of old dry vomit and the sound of thumping punky bass, and I knew I was home… I first met Alien Chicks a few months ago and was blown away with their performance. After interviewing them I was very exited to see where they would end up next, and here I am at their sold out, headline gig at the windmill awaiting the re