Hackney Beach – England 2020
As lockdown eased and small gatherings of friends in open spaces were permitted by the government, people flocked to parks and green spaces across the capital.
Although Hackney in north-east London has a large amount of public parkland, it is in short supply of free swimming options. The River Lea, running from the Chiltern Hills to the Thames, provides just that. Heavily polluted, it winds its way through miles of built up industrial areas, picking up raw sewage, Leptospirosis and E.coli on its path.
Despite the health warnings posted along its banks, people waded and swam and the popularity of the river and its surrounding fields grew as the summer slipped on. A festival atmosphere developed; sound systems, extravagant bbq, drinks and people sunbathing wherever the light pooled.
Under the cover of the trees, down by the river, memories of the past months, the governmental guidance on social distancing and health concerns were all left behind. The hedonism normally explored on the party islands of Europe set roots in the silt of the Lea’s bed.