Wick Curiosity Shop


SAY YES! - Hackney Wick Take Back, Swan Wharf

DIY - V&A Hackney Wick Takeback - Saturday 5th April 2014, noon till late, Swan Wharf

You, Hackney Wick artists, performers, musicians, etc...

The DIY - V&A Hackney Wick Takeback !

By popular grassroots demand, in response to the success of the Hackney Wick Takeover night at the V&A. No other community invited to the V&A has ever said thank you very much, and then gone on mass to bring that spirit back home and with our good times Hackney Wick trademark.

How long is on for?
For one special day only.

How do I get involved?
Come along with your ready to go idea. If you weren't selected for the V&A - nowʼs your chance to be part of the DIY Hackney Wick Takeback. As well as the 26 projects from the V&A night, we will try and accommodate as many artists as the space permits.

What shall I bring?
Leave your CV at home, but do bring your great idea, your enthusiasm, adaptability, spirit of collaboration and sense of humour.

Whatʼs the curation policy?
This is hardcore DIY remember, so we need savvy self organising artists, who will be ready to show up, set up, and source their own equipment for the day.

When & where do I come to get my space?
Wednesday 26th March - Swan Wharf, Dace Road, Fish Island, Hackney Wick E3 2NQ
TIME: 6.30pm prompt. If you can't make it send someone on your behalf. The spaces are approximately based on a car park space and away you go.

Lets talk money?
Simple - we abolished it. This is strictly a DIY artists response. Our own economy of creativity and collaboration to make something happen. What you see is being given for free, time, buildings, posters, advice, contacts, equipment, bartering & lending, so be nice to everyone, that costs nothing (and help out where you can!).

If I get a space, when is the DIY - V&A Hackney Wick Takeback scheduled for?
Saturday April 5th 2014

SET UP TIMES: Noon on Friday 4th April until 10am Saturday 5th April
EVENT TIMES: Noon on Saturday 5th April until late

Swan Wharf, 60 Dace Road, Fish Island, Hackney Wick E3 2NQ
We have the courtyard, ground floor, first floor and if we need it the second floor too.
Check out images of the venue here: http://swanwharfproject.co.uk

Why such short notice?
a) It coincides with the grand opening of the Olympic Park to increase footfall
b) to be as close as possible to the V&A Takeover date to capitalise on the creative juices unleashed by that event
c) this is when Swan Wharf is available to us

Who's in charge?
Rebecca Feiner, a local artist, haunting Hackney Wick for the past seven years.
In collaborating with as many Hackney Wickers as possible we are going to make the DIY – V&A Hackney Wick Takeback happen and have fun!
Hackney WickED are just assisting to round up artists and help out where we can – if you would like to help manage the event please let Rebecca know (cc'd).

Please reply to Rebecca with YES in the title - rebecca_feiner@hotmail.com - to let her know you would like to get involved so we can get an idea of numbers before meeting on 26th March to book our spaces in.


Join R-Urban Wick at V&A Lates. A celebration of Hackney Wick at the V&A Museum. For one night at the end of February only. R-Urban Wick will host a Wick Session on DIY Culture and the Wick Curiosity Shop will take the guise of a DIY Estate Agency celebrating the DIY culture of Hackney Wick and Fish Island.

Friday the 28th of February from 18.30 - 22.00 at the V&A

Visit the V&A facebook page for the event here

Planning for Protest


Hackney Wick and Fish Island (HWFI) is located in east London, directly adjacent to the Olympic Park and separated from the surrounding neighbourhoods by a network of motorways and canals. It is, quite literally, an island. And it is so in a figurative sense as well; it was one the last industrial areas in the East End and until the late 2000s a semi-secret, unregulated and cheap location.

Artists and creatives started coming to the area in the late 1980s. They transformed many of the empty warehouses into self-built, collectively-run studios, and with them came a wide array of more or less unsanctioned uses, from live/work to informal markets, gra!iti or notorious raves.

The early 2000s showed the fragility of this ecology. During the economic boom, East London became a prime investment "opportunity" and the kind of generic new builds that have become synonymous with London made an appearance. Some industrial buildings were demolished, others converted into expensive lofts. Prices went up; new cafés opened.

And then, in 2005, the bid to host the Olympic Games was won. A huge plot of land that had until then existed in close psycho-geographical continuity with HWFI was compulsory purchased, emptied, fenced up, remediated, cleansed. The blue fence erected around the 16 km perimeter of the future Olympic site - later replaced by an 3,000 volt electric version - made clear that the mega-event was to be protected from its undisciplined neighbours. The physical extirpation of the Olympic park from its surroundings was later complemented by an exceptional set of measures destined to further isolate it, from the military policing of the fence and dispersal zone orders to image-making restrictions and tax exemptions.

However, the concentration of most interest and resources around the Olympic project, together with an economy in ta"ers following the 2008 crisis, produced a respite for HWFI. This is the context in which R-Urban Wick has developed: an area under temporary relief, enjoying a "delay", existing in an interim condition.

Now that the Games are long gone and the respite almost certainly over, the question is whether the Olympic site will expand into HWFI or the other way around; whether exceptionality and order will take over, or rather the informal, collective, DIY city-making practices that have shaped the area will prevail.

HWFI has not been a site of protest in any traditional sense. Unrest has been subdued, if at all. And yet, we argue that the bo"om-up city-making practices that have shaped the area o!er an important experience of vernacular progressive architecture. These actions occupied an interstice, a terrain of urban vagueness which o!ered the possibility of experimenting with and prototyping a city made from below. R-Urban has been inspired by these practices, and hopes to contribute to their continuing capacity to a!ect the area. Within RUrban, architecture is a tool amongst others for creating networks of commoning practices, i.e. an infrastructure for producing and capturing the commons, a time and a space for sharing communities and o!-market exchanges.

We have proposed exerting two displacements in approaching the relationship between planning and protest:

- From urban planning to minor urbanism: actions that operate tactically, in the interstices of planning. -

- From the politics of protest to the micro-politics of the commons: practices that stand for creating commons through reciprocity and solidarity.

Somewhat surprisingly, Olympic-related development did not trigger an immediate surge in construction in Hackney Wick and Fish Island. Combined with the economic crisis which hit the city soon afterwards, a very unlikely respite took place instead. This produced a vital parenthesis for the area. In spite of the increasing pressure that private landowners were putting on tenants, the Wick's informal condition continued to prosper under the shadow of the Olympic spotlight.

From urban planning to minor urbanism. The actions and projects here gathered do not operate at the level of planning. Rather, they are embedded in tactical networks of bottom-up practices which operate in the interstices of planning. They are temporal and mobile; they roam and adapt. They are also relational: they involve more than plans and propositions; they summon objects, events, publics and knowledges in the pursuit of an alternative, collectively-made city.

From the politics of protest to the micro-politics of the commons. R-Urban does not attempt to foster protest in the sense of "standing against" something; it rather aspires to contribute to ways of "standing for things together". It is about creating spatial commons which feed into, and are fed by, other social, cultural and environmental commons. Re-appropriations, self-management, knowledge exchanges, sharing and caring are some of the methods deployed.

R-Urban exists within a glocal network of bottom-up city-making initiatives. It draws from its parent project in the City of Colombes, near Paris, led by aaa (1). It is closely linked to Richard Brown's Affordable Wick campaign (2). It shares key values with Assemble's Yardhouse project in Stratford (3). It could be seen as part of a local movement for collective self-management, which also informs the people's plan for Carperters Estate, also in Stratford (4), or neighbours-led planning in nearby Clapton (5).

The practices included here show us how so-called scarcity can be a source of abundance. In times of imposed austerity and generalised precarity, it is not banal in the slightest to consider the politics of these actions. The respect and understanding of the environment, the rejection of corporate strategies, the production of unsanctioned knowledge, practical wisdom and ingenious tactics, the will to share and learn from each other, they all speak about activating relations of solidarity and reciprocity. R-Urban Wick shows how an expanded understanding of architecture can contribute to creating what aaa call "networks of commoning practices, i.e. an infrastructure for producing and capturing the commons, a time and a space for sharing communities and off-market exchanges."

What follows is a glimpse of the constellation of subjects, objects, knowledges and practices which are effectively re-making Hackney Wick and Fish Island from below, collaboratively, openly. The four legs of R-Urban Wick and the methodologies they use are an extension of the local dynamics the project has identified and aims to support. They represent four ways of doing, four distinct ways of intervening in the city fabric and developing an economy of the commons.

(1) http://r-urban.net/ (2) http://affordablewick.com/ (3) http://assemblestudio.co.uk/ (4) http://savecarpenters.wordpress.com/ (5) http://www.chatsworthroade5.co.uk/

The Wick on Wheels (WOW) is a roaming production and recycling unit. It is an open resource which engages with local communities in order to reuse, recycle, repair and re-make. It facilitates direct, collective on site production using existing local materials, resources and skills. WOW has been used to organise experiments with Comfrey plants, in 'suplus food harvesting', and in workshops which are part of the process of building an anaerobic digester.

The Wick Sessions are a series of talks, walks and workshops dedicated to Hackney Wick and its surrounding area. They are designed to provide a public forum for debating and creating a shared body of knowledge around issues of bottom-up and sustainable developments. The politics of self-building; the legal side of communityled development; or strategies for interim use are some of the topics that have been addressed. Sessions take place in varying locations, hosted by supporting organisations, and frequently co-organised with collaborators.

Experiments in Household Knowledge are a series of collaborations with East London ecological and environmental innovators. They gather and showcase unusual and inventive ways of making and experimenting, from gardening techniques to alternative forms of energy production. These are often unique and self-taught skills that operate outside of sanctioned knowledge. They include making cladding material out of burnt timber, building a self-regulated plant growing system using discarded bathtubs, or extracting human-friendly juice of market waste.

The Wick Curiosity Shop is an alternative archive which exists on-line and as a series of pop-up events. The Shop documents the area's unofficial and "minor" history through an eclectic collection of memories, local produce, memorabilia, oral history, songs and stories. It doesn't provide an overarching narrative, but a tapestry of mostly disregarded facts and experiences one can navigate in various ways creating as many narratives. The Shop highlights the area's industrial and working-class history, and provides the elements to connect it with present-day circumstances.

To see the full publication and purchase a copy visit: www.planningforprotest.org

To download this contribution as a pdf click here.

LEAP - Micro Anaerobic Digestion


LEAP micro AD is a cross sector partnership developing micro anaerobic digestion, a renewable technology that turns all organic waste (except wood) into a clean fuel and fertiliser. The biogas produced can be used for heating, cooking and lighting or be cleaned and compressed for use as a vehicle fuel. The fertiliser is a valuable product with excellent levels of nitrogen, good for food growing and turf strengthening.

Seed foundations

Just as a pearl forms from a tiny grain of irritation, so the LEAP project evolved in response to a dissatisfaction. In 2011 Community by Design, the organisation who went on to found LEAP, realised their latest 3-year project was not sustainable. It relied on regular injections of funding to deliver its free health and wellbeing services to the community.

Previous projects followed similar lines, with the excitement of an initial concept leading to fundraising and subsequent realisation of the idea. However, missing in their design was an inbuilt ability to become economically sustainable, thus limiting benefits and autonomy.

Another concern arose; providing something for free can sometimes encourage reliance; how could we create something that generates concrete opportunities for people so they can sustain themselves? And while we’re at it, how can those benefits be mirrored in the environment, particularly those largely unsustainable arrangements we call cities?

These questions led to research into establishing a social enterprise to generate biodiesel from waste oil. Several months in, anaerobic digestion (AD) emerged as more promising technology around which multiple social, environmental and economic benefits could be woven.

Sending out roots

Networking played a large part in forming the LEAP partnership. Later in 2011, a 3-year pilot project exploring micro AD was reaching its culmination after having commissioned several reports and demonstrated the technology with a 0.6m3 digester in Newcastle.

Led by Cath Kibbler from the Community Composting Network (CCN), it had gathered substantial interest across the country, forming a Micro AD (mAD) steering group with members spanning engineering/manufacturing, public, academic and community sectors.

This blend of private, public and community interests informs LEAP, which comprises Community by Design, the Community Composting Network, several members of the mAD steering group including James Murcott and Angie Bywater from Methanogen, Guy Blanch (Alvan Blanch research engineer) and David Neylan PhD, plus a few new additions - Mark Walker and Davide Poggio from Leeds University and Aleka Designs.

First shoots

The partnership’s first funding application with Camden Council was successful, giving us a solid 2-year foundation upon which to build. Camden is known for its progressive approach to sustainability, which led to their installation in 2008 of the first biomethane refueling station in Europe, despite other countries having larger AD industries e.g. Germany’s 7000-8000 plants compared with the UK’s 100 plants. Biomethane burns cleaner and more quietly than petrol or diesel, significantly lowering PM10s ((particulates) and NOx (nitrogen oxides), the most harmful emissions for health.

Kicking off in April 2012, the project designing its first system building on CCN’s experience. While AD plants in the West are generally medium-high tech large-scale industrial affairs, developing countries actually have more m3 of digester capacity, with millions of low-tech micro plants in China, India, and Nepal.

Our challenge involved making micro AD cost effective in a colder climate where heating and mixing are required, and expectations of user friendliness, aesthetic design and regulatory compliance are generally higher.

Our initial system design addressed changing gas use across the seasons to include electricity and heat generation in winter and cooking and water heating during summer. It also featured feeding flexibility with a mill and pre-feed tank that could receive feedstock (organic waste) and pump it ready macerated and mixed into the digester at regular daily intervals.

Regularity is important, as the digester is essentially like a stomach where microorganisms break down organic matter in the absence of oxygen, releasing methane, carbon dioxide and traces of hydrogen sulphide and moisture in the process.

This methane is largely identical to the mains gas we use to cook with and heat our homes. It is also given off from landfill sites when food waste is dumped there. Currently, around 50% of UK landfill sites capture and clean up this gas for fuel use however, the rest don’t, allowing it to escape into the atmosphere.

Methane is a greenhouse gas 20-30 times more potent than CO2. Reducing methane emissions is a an effective way to combat climate change. Scotland has taken the bold move of banning food waste to landfill from 2014, while Wales has committed to zero waste by 2050. England remains on the fence and currently relies on raising landfill tax to dissuade people from dumping waste there.


We applied for full planning permission for our pilot 2m3 AD system after having found a home at Camley Street Natural Park – a London Wildlife Trust environmental education centre set in a beautiful 2-acre nature reserve by the canal near Kings Cross.

While waiting for consent to build, we were commissioned to produce a report for the Technology Strategy Board’s Future Cities Competition, where cities were encouraged to dream up ways of integrating systems within a dense urban area to demonstrate sustainability, efficiency and better quality of life.

Our proposal naturally focused on micro AD and how networks of small-scale digesters ranging between 1-500m3 could help reduce waste transport and emissions, save waste management costs, generate local energy and employment and produce fertiliser to support local food growing and greening projects. The report quantified these outcomes and explored the business case for their sustainable development post funding.

Meanwhile, with planning permission granted, we began building the infrastructure for our pilot plant at Camley Street, a process that would take us through the cold winter of 2012. It was freezing! A welcome interruption in the spring of 2013 came with another feasibility study, this time for WRAP – Waste & Resources Action Programme – a government funded body focused on waste prevention and recycling.

While the Future Cities report had a theoretical budget of £24 million to play with (which eventually went to Glasgow), WRAP’s DIAD II fund was more modest and realistic, focusing specifically on driving innovation in the AD sector. We scaled down our initial AD network concept to three sites within a 1-mile radius. A potential fourth self-funded site was 6 miles away.

WRAP liked the proposal. They felt it was both innovative and achievable and granted us funding to demonstrate the network.

For a group of engineers, academics and community bods, this was hugely exciting! A chance to show how decentralized, closed-loop, integrated thinking can create sustainability and benefits on multiple levels. Aside from environmental and economic gains, the project has great potential to develop educational and community engagement opportunities as the technology is easier to grasp at a more human scale. People get to see the benefits close up and can be inspired by it.

Site 1 Camley Street Natural Park would be upgraded to include a micro CHP (combined and power) unit. Its about the size of a boiler and generates electricity and heat from the biogas, which will be scrubbed (cleaned) to remove most of the hydrogen sulphide, moisture and CO2, leaving largely methane. The design is simple and if it works as well as we hope, will be a massive cost reduction on the nearest scrubbing unit we can find. The site will also host algae cultivation and low cost hydroponics to utilise fertiliser and CO2 from the AD process. We plan to grow Spirulina and Chlorella, two stains of algae with regenerative properties used in cosmetics and soap making, and as a food supplement.

Site 2 The Calthorpe Project on Grays Inn Road is a well-established community garden and centre. The biogas there will be used raw to heat polytunnels and a greenhouse - a fantastic use as the CO2 and sulphur released during burning helps plant growth, so nothing is wasted. The fertilizer will of course be extensively used on-site. The Calthorpe’s 1m3 modular digester will be a low-cost, manually operated system that will become affordable to community groups.

Site 3 Alara Wholefoods was established in 1975 with a factory and successful wholefood shop, both close to Kings Cross. Their commitment to becoming the most sustainable business ever, led them to manufacture high quality organic wholefoods. They have also created a 300m2 forest garden, vineyard and orchard on their factory grounds - ample space to utilise the fertiliser from a 6m3 digester. The biogas there will be scrubbed and compressed to biomethane for use in their local food delivery van.

Site 4 Loop Management Services based in Waltham Forest collect a wide range of recyclable waste including half a tonne of food waste daily. They are keen to keep on improving their sustainability both economically and environmentally. We proposed a 20m3 system with the ability to convert biogas to biomethane for their collection vehicles. We’re still waiting to see if this might materialise but it is worth mentioning as the economics of this size work out nicely with a 5-6 year payback period.

This may still seem a lot in today’s world but is worth it for a technology that saves waste miles and makes use of what might otherwise be a wasted resource, not to mention the benefits of recycling nutrients and closing the urban waste-energy-food loop. As the technology is more widely taken up, these costs will reduce. This is what we are working towards.

Early flowering

We launched the pilot system at Camley Street Natural Park on October 4th this year. Commissioning is still in progress, which means some feedstock has been introduced into the digester from established digesters as a starter culture complete with microorganisms. The heating has just been turned on as the organisms like to be around 38-42oC. Energy wise, this along with power used for mixing and monitoring is considered a parasitic load and must be carefully managed to ensure systems produce a positive net energy total.

We use a cargo bike for collections and have so far collected 200kgs food waste from local businesses including Kier, a large construction company championing our cause and supporting us with timber, St Athans Hotel, whose manager Stefan Geyer is Chair of the Permaculture Association, and London Contemporary Dance School, whose CEO, Kenneth Tharp OBE personally made sure they were involved with the project at the early stage.

The more businesses we talk to the more we are realising the scale of available food waste and how many people there are wanting to do something useful with it. One 2009 statistic described the volume in Central London as 200 tonnes produced in a 2-mile radius daily!

Future fruit

We are currently in early discussions with R-Urban a Hackney Wick-based initiative and Cob in the Community, both with exciting visions involving urban micro digesters in closed loop demonstrations.

Cob in the Community’s proposal is evolving around a 20m3 digester insulated with cob and straw that would become a beautiful, educational sculptural feature. Site expansion would include a café and resulting food waste complete with Loowatt waterless toilets providing AD ready feedstock.

R-Urban Wick aims to set up a citizen-led Re-Use Centre in Hackney Wick & Fish Island (HWFI), a public facility supporting and making public the culture of re-use, invention and resourcefulness that is embedded in the area. Their proposed centre would include a 20m3 digester, workshops, tool library, kitchen, shop, archive, research space / artist residency space.

For both proposals, community engagement opportunities would be maximised throughout the building and operational phases and the AD systems could be modular, able to expand if more food waste became available.

LEAP’s previous research contributes a number of additions; pre-processing biomethane collection vehicles operating locally with parallel zero carbon cargo bikes collections to canalside drop points; biomethane barges to transport this waste plus residential barge food waste and sewage pump outs collected en route to the digester; barges could also distribute fertiliser to users along the canal.

By utilising AD byproducts methane generated heat and electricity, CO2, sulphur and fertiliser, a range of micro enterprises could complete the closed loop demonstration;

  • polytunnels with raised beds for food growing,
  • micro algae cultivation to produce ingredients for soap and cosmetics making,
  • hydroponics
  • aquaponics (micro fish farming) and
  • a micro brewery (thermal synergy with AD).

Waste products from these activities would be fed back to the digester.

These projects would benefit temporary sites or brownfield sites by the canal, which could be regenerated using digestate and provide a training ground for young unemployed people learning to grow food. Any potential site owners out there…?

Part of the groundswell

The future is a creative act we all participate in on a day-to-day basis. We tap into rich seams of energy and inspiration when we focus on the best we can be, the best we have to offer at any given time. In this collective endeavor, every contribution counts, be it local or global, corporate or community individual or state. We hope these micro ADventures can contribute to the emerging vision of sustainability and joined up thinking that may just carry us through the 21st century.

To find out more about the LEAP project or visit the pilot system:

To speak to Andreas about the R-Urban Wick Re-use Centre proposal contact:

To speak to Linda about the closed-loop, sculptural, cob-insulated digester proposal:

Travelling across networks

Our publication - BEYOND RECEIVED WISDOM - is slowly dissaminating through different networks. We were especially pleased when Tom Fletcher used it last week to spread his work on food waste in Burssels at an European Union meeting on Reuse.

The 400 copies are flying off the shelf and if you want a hard copy you need to get in touch quickly.
Get in touch if you want a copy - or if you like you can download the pdf here

Or visit our Issuu account to see all R-Urban Wick publications in one place.


We need your extra bits
The stuff you have too much off
The stuff you don't mind sharing, or lending.
Your surplus!

R-Urban Wick is assembling a pop up Surplus Shop as part of Open East - the opening festival for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park which takes place on the 27th and 28th of July 2013.

In the two weeks leading up to the event we are collecting the stuff Hackney Wick and Fish Island has in abundance.
Most of it will be documented in form of a poster.
Some of it will be on display.
Some of it can be sold or bartered.

We are collecting everything you might have too much off:
Materials, time, advice, compliments, boxes full of things, stacks of stuff, generosities of all kinds, things you don't mind lending, your can of old coins, performances ...etc...
Whatever is in abundance and you are happy to share.

The surplus will be documented in form of posters which will form the backdrop of the shop. The shop will display some carefully selected contributions at the back of our milk float (www.wickonwheels.net). It is part display, part brokering agency, only a selected number of items are for sale - most of them on a 'pay what you think its worth' basis.