Evering Road is a mile long road in the heart of Hackney. I've lived here for more than eight years, without ever truly knowing those around me.
Lockdown presented a unique opportunity. I couldn’t do my usual work, but I could turn my camera on to my own community. With people having more time on their hands, I started documenting my neighbours from a safe distance.
At first, the project was mostly for my personal sanity, but in talking to the people of Evering Road, I began to uncover a consoling web of human stories, small gestures and common threads. One of the few positives of this pandemic has been how communities have pulled together. I saw evidence of this every time I stepped out of my front door.
So I opened an account on Instagram called @everingroad and posted daily. The idea was to tell at least one story per day during the first phase of lockdown, which began on the 24th March 2020 and ended on the 31st of May.
The account quickly became popular, featured in Guardian Weekend and on the Instagram account of Vanity Fair Italia, and the BBC. This was great but I’m particularly proud of the way in which it became a community hub; a way for neighbours to connect and get to know each other.
Evering Road is unique. Built at the end of the 19th century, this long, leafy road is strikingly diverse, a microcosm of London life in 2020. Its levels of social housing and ethnic diversity are significantly higher than the national average. Many properties are owned by housing associations and estates are interspersed amongst the Victorian villas.
Just twenty years ago, the area was considered rough. Although gentrification has inevitably crept in, the road holds traces of how east London used to be. It’s a wonderful melting pot, where a strong sense of community sits alongside liberal values. Here people can be whomever they choose.
There is also a real mixture of ages, from young families to students just starting out, to retirees who have lived entire lives here, frequently after having arrived from faraway countries and impoverished backgrounds. In documenting the road’s residents, I’ve had the privilege of listening to a wide variety of stories across the generations - from the struggle of millennials to the anxiety of people in their 80s.
Despite the huge range of voices, what emerged most from the many people I spoke to was our collective humanity. Whatever our age or background, we share so many of the same joys and fears.
That’s why I decided to go one step further and create a photo book. A unique diary of these unprecedented times. A memento of how we pulled together, to take forwards with us into the future. I put the project on Kickstarter, swiftly raising enough to make it a reality, with many generous donations from the very community I’ve documented.
So here we are. A road, like hundreds of others but also distinctive. Its residents united through their smiles to each other, the views shared from windows, the small gestures of cooperation. Lives lived side by side and - perhaps more than ever - together.