Hackney in the 1980s: 12,000 photographs found in The Rio’s basement have been brought back to life

Hackney Museum is set to reopen this week, with an exciting new exhibition, ‘Hackney in the 1980s’.

The exhibition featuring an extraordinary collection of thousands of photographs taken in 1980s Hackney, found in the basement of the Rio Cinema in 2018.

The extraordinary discovery of over 12,000 photographic slides took place during a recent refurbishment by cinema staff and eventually linked them back to the Tape/Slide Project – a groundbreaking community photography initiative, which captured life in the borough during the eighties. Photographer Alan Denney soon came on board to help clean, restore and digitise the slides revealing Hackney’s rich history in photojournalism and activism.

On display for the first time, and available to visit in person now at the Hackney Museum, this unique collection explores the highs and lows of everyday life in the borough, alongside some of the key social and political events of the decade. They also capture the resilience and solidarity of Hackney’s communities in the 1980s in the face of poverty, racism, housing shortages and government cuts.

Attendees to the launch event on Thursday will hear from photographer Alan Denney and Andrew Woodyatt from the Rio Cinema who will discuss how they brought this fascinating collection to life, as well as viewing some of the highlights from the exhibition.

Andrew Woodyatt, Marketing and Development Manager, Rio Cinema, said: “This discovery has turned out to be a unique time capsule of Hackney life . We want the archive to be used by the public and by schools as a unique educational tool and to inspire a new generation of reportage and photo journalism.”

Local photographer, Alan Denney said: “The exhibition takes you back to Hackney in the turbulent 1980s when Thatcher started dismantling the welfare state, hospitals were closing, trade unions were being silenced and the police were out of control. Thanks to the photographs taken at the time by a group of young unemployed locals, we can see how Hackney survived by resisting the Tory onslaught with determination, dignity and humour.”

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