WALK THROUGH GILLETT SQUARE, EVEN ON A PLEASANT DAY IN THE MIDDLE OF SUMMER, AND YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN THAT IT’S ANYTHING MORE THAN A QUIET PIECE OF THE URBAN ENVIRONMENT. SINCE IT WAS CREATED AROUND A CAR PARK AND OLD INDUSTRIAL WORKS IN THE EARLY-90S, THIS AREA OF TARMAC AND PAVEMENT HAS BECOME THE HEART OF MUCH OF HACKNEY’S MUSICAL GOINGS-ON.
In the corner, the Vortex Jazz Club is a mainstay of the currently thriving London scene, hosting gigs from the likes of rising star Moses Boyd, free jazz legend Evan Parker, far-out new skronkers Sloth Racket, as well as being a key venue for the London African Music Festival and EFG London Jazz Festival. The action on the Square isn’t just indoors, either. It’s a popular hangout for the local skating community, who get involved in SkatePal charity events that combine skating, food and music to raise funds for Palestinian youth charities.
In fact, Gillett Square must be one of the most musically diverse open space in London - there are Rastafarian Nyabinghi drumming workshops, community music festivals and open mic events. Away from music, the physical space of the square has been used for sound and light installations, with architects working in collaboration with young writers. One of the many free live events in the square is run by NTS Radio, who broadcast from a small shed-meets-market-stall on its south side. You’ll often find a crowd of people hanging around outside, listening in.
Producer, DJ and Diagonal Records boss Oscar Powell is an NTS veteran, presenting his late-night Melon Magic show on NTS since 2013."It's a wicked space, that Square", he says. "We've had some funny experiences - there's always people coming up to the window or sitting around listening, lots of people who'd never encounter the kind of music we play on Melon Magic love it and can't believe what's going on in there. It's a really nice vibe."