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Event: Hackney's Community Nurseries & Who is (Still) Holding the Baby?

Join us at Hackney Museum for free activities, play and discussion. Share your memories and experiences of Hackney’s community nurseries and your experiences of accessing or providing childcare now. Bring the kids!

Saturday 25 November, 1-4pm

Hackney Museum

1 Reading Lane, London

E8 1GQ

Hackney has a rich history of community nurseries. Between 1970 and 1982, seven community nurseries were set up by groups of parents / carers and childcare workers in the borough, with many more opening since.

In the 1970s there was very little childcare available for working parents. Setting up community nurseries was seen as one solution to the lack of childcare for working parents and children in the area, alongside campaigns for improved childcare on local and national levels, within trade unions and organisations like Hackney Under-Fives.

Image: Hackney Flashers, ‘Who's Holding the Baby', 1978, travelling exhibition, detail, 1 of 29 laminated panels

© Hackney Flashers, archive at Bishopsgate Institute, City of London

Community nurseries that were running in the borough by 1982 included Market Nursery, Rainbow Nursery, Beatty Day Centre, 136 Nursery, Oranges and Lemons, the Defoe Day Care Centre and the Old Fire Station nursery – with many more nurseries opening during the 1980s. What made community nurseries different was that they were not-for-profit, and parents/carers and the wider community could help to manage them.

In 1978 the Hackney Flashers used documentary photography, including of Market Nursery, to create ‘Who’s Holding the Baby?‘ a touring exhibition which combined photographs, appropriated imagery, cartoon illustrations and texts in laminated panels to show the lack of childcare and the impact this had on women’s lives.

Have things improved or got worse for parents, children and childcare workers in 2023?


Community room

All afternoon – 1-4pm – Drop in to make a new childcare collage: ‘Who is (Still) Holding the Baby?’ with the Post-Pandemic Childcare Coalition – childcare workers, parents and carers please join us to share your experiences and add them to this new collage.

2 pm - Hear from members of the Hackney Flashers & Market Nursery

Main space

1 pm – Storytelling and craft with Stone Soup Group – a new childcare co-operative. Hear the story of Stone Soup, discuss childcare co-operatives past and present, make autumn crafts.

2 pm – Join Art Burst for the Hackney Boogie

2.30 – 4 pm Artist-led play session for 0-4s and their carers (older siblings welcome)

See below for accessibility information. All activities are drop in. Priority given to people who book a free space.

If you’ve used a community nursery between the 1970s and today, or been involved in or concerned with childcare in any way, come and tell us about it!

This event is organised by the Grow Your Own oral history project, run by On the Record, with Post-Pandemic Childcare Coalition, and hosted by Hackney Museum. Grow Your Own is recording the history of community action and campaigning for childcare work to be valued and all children to have access to childcare and early years education.

Further information

Small, cooperative, non-profit and public nurseries (council-run day nurseries, and maintained nursery schools) have been closing their doors or taken over by private chains since the launch of the underfunded 30 hours 'free' childcare policy in 2017. In 2021, Hackney council proposed to close Fernbank and Hillside children’s centres in N16, however following a successful parents campaign, these subsidised nurseries that offer affordable childcare to local families were saved – for now.

Post Pandemic Childcare has been raising issues with the way the current funding and 'free' entitlement system has driven privatisation of early years – reducing access for all children – and supporting local campaigns against the closure of early years provision by connecting activists. We support demands for increased government support and recognition of the value of all kinds of childcare work, and for universal public early years support and services. Campaigns have called for abolishing the Two-child cap and No Recourse to Public Funds, meaningful increases to Child Benefit, and conditional, direct funding of childcare settings – including childminders – to prevent further closures of the remaining infrastructure of quality small community nurseries, and maintain local skills and experience, while increasing local democratic accountability, ensuring real living wage for all staff, and affordable accessible places, with no profits to shareholders.

The Hackney Flashers’ exhibition ‘Who's Holding the Baby’ was first exhibited in 1978 at Centreprise bookshop in Dalston, Hackney, and then toured to community centres and libraries across the country. The laminated panels combined documentary photographs with statistics and text to share the options for childcare provided by the state, private provision, and parents experiences of loneliness, calling for shared care, raising recent cuts to nurseries, and the potentials of worker and parent-led solutions with Market Nursery. The work is currently being shown at the 'Women in Revolt!' exhibition at Tate Britain until 7 April 2024.

The Hackney Flashers collective was formed in 1974 and remained active until 1980. It was started by a small group of photographers and an illustrator with the purpose of making 'Women and Work' (1975) a photography exhibition, celebrating 75 years of the Hackney Trades Council.

Accessibility at Hackney Museum

  • Hackney museum has created this visual story for children with different needs, to introduce them to the museum in advance of school trips, which your child may find reassuring to view:

  • Security staff can help with the entry door to the building and the exit door operated via a push button.

  • Hackney Museum is conveniently located on the ground floor of the building, with level access and automatic doors.

  • Accessible toilets are available inside Hackney Museum, just opposite the main reception. They include: male and female and a gender neutral toilet. A wheelchair accessible toilet and baby changing facilities.

  • We can provide foldable stools and a foldable wheelchair for visitors with mobility difficulties.

  • We welcome guide dogs.

  • Blue badge parking is available at the front of the building on Reading Lane. More parking spaces are available around Hackney Town Hall.

  • Bicycle parking is available on the building’s forecourt. Please note that bikes are left unattended at your own risk, bring your own lock to prevent theft.


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