A new and extensive photography exhibition revealing 80s Hackney is to be hosted by Hackney Museum this May. 

The exhibition is the result of the extraordinary find of thousands of old colour photograph slides found in the basement of The Rio Cinema whilst refitting their second screen three years ago. After some investigation, Rio staff linked it back to once belonging to a community funded street photography group called The Tape/Slide Project. 

The collective was set up in the 80s by the late Centerprise Bookshop (previously opposite The Rio) and gave young people access to professional photography equipment with the intention of capturing the highs and lows of Hackney life. The basement of The Rio was then used as a darkroom to process the images with the best being screened at the cinema before films as a local news item. 

Recognising the value in this important part of the borough’s history, The Rio called on Stoke Newington photographer Alan Denney to restore and digitise the slides of which could tally up to 10,000 images. A selection of the images is already being shared on a dedicated Rio Cinema Instagram account and gathering lots of excitable engagement. 

The Tape/Slide Project captured the activist spirit of the time with photographs from protests in support of the NHS to the peaceful rallies after the murder of Colin Roach at Stoke Newington Police station in 1983. They also reveal Hackney as a vibrant, sociable and busy borough from giddy gatherings at the Hackney Show kids festival, nights at the bingo, days on the housing estates and weekends down on a bustling Ridley Road Market. 

With each picture telling a thousand stories, work is now underway to connect locals now to the images of back then. Hackney Museum is appealing to anyone who was involved in the Tape/Slide Project, Centerprise Bookshop or the Rio Cinema to get in touch and be credited for the work. The museum is hosting two sharing events inviting people to view the images, recall their memories of 80s Hackney and help identify people they recognise. The sessions will be an opportunity to contribute to the curation of the exhibition which will run from May to August 2020. 

Cllr Guy Nicholson said: ‘The journey of these images, from the way they were made to there unexpected rediscovery in The Rio basement to becoming a major exhibition at Hackney Museum, is a testament to how our local Museum captures the history of Hackney’s communities and curates it in a way which enables us to connect with and celebrate our cultural past’. 

Notes to editors 

The sharing events will be on Friday 13 March, 1-3pm at the CLR James Library, Dalston and Thursday 19th March 5-7 at Hackney Museum 

Tickets are free but booking is essential. You can also get in touch with the museum by emailing museumbookings@hackney.gov.uk 

Images Copyright Rio Cinema Archive. 

Follow the Rio Cinema Archive on Instagram. 

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