we are a group of people composed of who we are, Peer Gallery, exhibition review: ‘Sure to capture the imagination’

Jo Spence/Hackney Flashers, Untitled (From ‘Who’s still holding the baby?’), 1978. Photograph:  The Estate of the Artist Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery, London and Rome

Public services in disarray, protestors suffering police brutality, endemic institutional racism: how much has changed since the 1970s?

The answer to this question may depress, but a moment’s reflection reveals how much our conceptual vocabulary owes to those heady days of mobilisation and manifestation a generation ago.

East London was of course at the heart of the intellectual ferment of the time, and a new exhibition at Peer Gallery brings together documents, film and art from the grassroots culture of collective work in Hackney in the period between 1971 and 1986.

The local ecology of social activism and cultural activity was woven as a loose network of overlapping groups, events, publications and organisations.

The much-feted Centerprise cultural centre in Dalston features heavily in the exhibition, which emphasises its role in providing space for different groups to gather.

These included collectives focused on women’s rights, the rights and cultural interests of different ethnic groups, the peace and ecology movements, and much more.

You’ll find on display several issues of a short-lived newspaper, the Hackney Gutter Press; posters, pamphlets and flyers printed in connection with causes, demos, exhibitions and events; as well as artworks by Ingrid Pollard, Neil Martinson, Jo Spence and the Hackney Flashers, Dan Jones and Maggie Murray.

For those with an interest in local history, social activism, or the political role of art, this exhibition is sure to capture the imagination.

we are a group of people composed of who we are runs until 9 September at Peer Gallery, 97-99 Hoxton Street, N1 6QL.