Hackney Is Home

Sep 2020 - May 2021

In partnership with Mouth That Roars


#HackneyIsHome was a project exploring experiences of home and migration in the London Borough of Hackney


Eight young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds created outcomes that reached people in Hackney and beyond


Inspired by the stories of people who have come to Hackney, the project used creativity to ask what makes our borough home

about the project

For #HackneyIsHome, Autograph teamed up with youth media organisation Mouth That Roars to provide workshops, training and a creative media qualification for eight young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. They worked with artists and filmmakers for inspiration about how to tell stories, create powerful images and raise awareness of important social issues. The group created new artworks reflecting on identity and belonging in the borough – both their own and across generations.

Asking what makes Hackney home, the work the #HackneyIsHome artists created was featured online, on social media, on a digital billboard at one of east London's busiest intersections and in the press. We invited the public to join in at the end of the project, with a call for photographs on the theme 'Hackney Is Home'. 

images from the project

#HackneyIsHome artworks broadcast at Old Street roundabout

Filming workshop at Autograph's gallery in Hackney

The #HackneyIsHome artists

Photograph by Heather McDonough submitted to the public call

Photograph by Florian Sachisthal submitted to the public call

Interviewing Hackney Elders

One of the artworks displayed at Old Street

Working together online during lockdown

From the 'front door portraits' photography challenge

Photography equipment was posted to participants so the project could continue during lockdown


Identity workshop with artist Aida Silvestri

What we did

Recruited the #HackneyIsHome artists

We worked with local networks, including New City College, to recruit participants to join the project. Andreus, Luis, Andrea, Francia, Francois, Mohammad, Brian and Djamila are all young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds, who joined us to become the #HackneyIsHome artists. We all worked together for seven months, including during the upheavals of Covid-19 and lockdown.

Intergenerational interviews

At the heart of the #HackneyIsHome project was intergenerational dialogue, sharing lived experiences of migration and community. We invited two residents who live in the borough to be interviewed by the #HackneyIsHome group about their lives. Joe is a member at Headway East London, and shared his story about growing up in Hackney after coming to the UK from the Caribbean. The second interview was with Modinat, who told us her story about moving to Hackney from Nigeria and what she loved about her new home. The group took on all the different professional roles from interviewing to sound, camera and lighting, controlling all aspects of the films they created.

Watch the interviews on Vimeo.

Lighting up Old Street roundabout

Artworks created by the #HackneyIsHome artists were broadcast six metres high on the Old Street Digital Canvas at Old Street roundabout (one of east London's busiest traffic hubs) from 15 March - 15 April 2021. For the Digital Canvas, the group wanted to create messages of hope for our current times. Having themselves recently arrived from countries including Congo, Djibouti, Afghanistan and Madagascar, the works they produced celebrated Hackney and the many people who proudly call it home.

Read our blog post about the display and see the artworks.


The #HackneyIsHome group took part in 20 workshops, covering topics including photography, film, identity, documentary, community, and activism. To stay Covid-safe, the workshops took place both at Autograph's gallery in Hackney and online. The sessions were led by Autograph’s Ali Eisa and Denise Rose from Mouth That Roars, alongside Brian and Djamila – two young people from refugee backgrounds who are gaining professional experience in facilitation.

Workshop speakers included artist Aida Silvestri, socially engaged photographer D. Wiafe, documentary filmmakers Ka-Miller Reid and Sam Leibmann, and Josie Stevens from Hackney Museum. Further inspiration was provided by Mouth That Roars’ community film collection and Autograph's photography collection, sharing artists like Syd Shelton and Mahtab Hussain.


At Autograph, we believe that visual representation is empowering. Working with our staff, the #HackneyIsHome group were given access to – and training on – professional photography equipment to create portraits with personal objects that told a story about their lives. Throughout the project we set the group a number of film and photography challenges.

Poster collages

Artist Aida Silvestri set the group a creative task: to create posters for the #HackneyIsHome project combining a self-portrait with an important message they wanted to share with people. The images they created were a starting point for activist artworks with a message for the public #HackneyIsHome campaign.

Taking part

The #HackneyIsHome artists collaborated with Aida Silvestri to contribute to the Coronaquilt Silhouettes Initiative public art project. They created works based on a traditional quilt square pattern called 'Corona', overlaid with a silhouette portrait of themselves and a few words describing their mental health state during the pandemic. The project was run by Art Refuge. Ultimately, all of the public contributions will be combined into a single tapestry artwork.

Public call for photographs

We invited the public to join in the #HackneyIsHome campaign, and help show the many perspectives and experiences of home, identity and community life in our diverse borough. From more than 100 submissions, a panel including young people from the #HackneyIsHome project selected their favourite images to be featured on Autograph’s website and social media.

See the final selection on our blog.

what we accomplished

we reached people

We estimate that elements of the project were seen more than 1.9 million times online, at Old Street and in the press


media coverage

#HackneyIsHome was featured in The Guardian, BBC Radio London Early Breakfast Show, Hackney Citizen and more


Young people on the project received a NCFE Creative Media Qualification

skills building

Through 20 workshops, participants learned how to conceptualise, research and produce film and photography


collaborative artworks

14 new artworks exploring home and reflecting on experiences of migration were created and displayed publicly

public participation

Through an online campaign the public joined in and shared their photographs

community and belonging

Hackney Is Home reflected on many different experiences and definitions of ‘home’ in our community

what participants said

Before the project I never used cameras. It’s given me hope to start working in media

like a family because we all know each other now and feel comfortable with each other and we all supportive and helping... It was very helpful mentally



#HackneyIsHome was a partnership between Autograph and Hackney-based youth media organisation Mouth That Roars. A team of staff and artists made it happen, in collaboration with two young facilitators.

Ali Eisa

is Autograph's Learning & Participation Manager. He is an artist and educator with passion for doing creative work with young people and getting their voices heard on the big social issues we face.

Aida Silvestri

is a UK based artist. She creates work that challenges the status quo of stigma, prejudice, and social injustice/inequality by highlighting issues of migration race, class, identity, and health. Her work explores unique approaches to documentary photography and manipulation of the photographic surface.

Denise Rose

set up Mouth That Roars 21 years ago with the sole purpose of training young people in film production who wouldn’t ordinarily have access to media resources, enabling people who are often misrepresented to be heard.

Brian Testore

was a co-facilitator for the project. A young person with lived experience of the themes in #HackneyIsHome, he is a member and facilitator at Mouth That Roars.

Djamila Bukako

was a co-facilitator for the project. A member and facilitator of the Black Young Women's Group at Mouth That Roars, Djamila bought her lived experiences of migration to #HackneyIsHome.

supported by

#HackneyIsHome is supported by Hackney Council’s Shoreditch and Hoxton Arts Fund, created from a levy on developers to support arts and culture programmes that bring different communities together.

PROJect Partner

Banner image: Courtesy Autograph / Mouth That Roars.

Images from the project: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11 and 12) Courtesy Autograph / Mouth That Roars 3 ) Florian Sachisthal, Ext. Hackney Garden – Day. © Florian Sachisthal 8) Heather McDonough, Cliff's Mother, from the series RePose. 01. © Heather McDonough.

What we did images: 1 - 7) Courtesy Autograph / Mouth That Roars 8) Matt Jerrmans, Sisters. © Matt Jerrmans.

Other page images: 1, 3, 5 , 6 ,7) Courtesy Autograph / Mouth That Roars 2) Manal Massalha, Convivial Hackney, 2019. © Manal Massalha 4) Eithne Nightingale, from Life Under Lockdown 2020: objects that have sustained us [detail]. © Eithne Nightingale