Here's our capital, riot and all
Sunday 19 January 1997
The warts-and-all view of the capital since the Second World War presented by the Museum of London's new London Now gallery, which opens on Tuesday, is, according to Cathy Ross, head of the museum's Later London History department, "an attempt to reflect London as it is, not a tourist's view of it".
So, although events such as the Coronation and the marriage of the Waleses do get a look in, the gallery devotes far more space to such issues as traffic jams, pollution, riots, homelessness and the decline of manufacturing since the war.
One of the most striking exhibits is a large and detailed model of two Hackney streets under threat from developers. "The Ghetto", made by photographer Tom Hunter, who lives there, and model-maker James MacKinnon, gets its title from what the artists claim was an attempt by Hackney council to "smear" their thriving community of squatters and artists as a slum inhabited by drop-outs and losers.
Residents gave Mr Hunter permission to take pictures of the insides of their homes; the resulting transparencies have been placed in the corresponding rooms on the model and back-lit, so that the view through the windows is of the real interiors. "The idea is to show that it's not a ghetto, that everyone is very productive and that we have created a good environment in which to live," said Mr Hunter.
Dr Ross said she believed the exhibit would become as popular as the museum's Great Fire of London model.
Other subjects include the Wapping print dispute of 1985, the transformation of Docklands, and the 1990 Trafalgar Square anti-poll tax riot, the subject of a 12ft by 9ft painting by John Bartlett. An eclectic mix of exhibits includes a 1965 Mark 1 Ford Cortina, a fragment of concrete from the collapsed Ronan Point tower block, costumes from 1960s Biba and 1990s raves . . . and litter.
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