Work / Film

Compelling insight into the Hackney factory that hand-makes ballet shoes

There’s no shortage of documentary shorts made in east London, so one has to be rather special to make us sit up and take notice. Freed of London from Jack Flynn and Nick David is indeed rather special, offering an exploration of the Freed factory in Well Street (you know, the one with the Lidl) in Hackney that produces thousands upon thousands of delicate little ballet shoes.

“Initially we wanted to document the manufacturing process but what became apparent after a couple of visits were the stories of the people who worked there,” Jack explains. “The factory located in Hackney is a very ordinary building from the outside and one that you would pass by without a thought, but inside there is another world. The contrast between ballet and the factory floor was really obvious yet we saw a real connection with the sheer physicality of both disciplines.”

It’s a beautiful insight into the skill and craft it takes to make the pieces, each hand-crafted by a team of individuals who know their trade inside out. Many have been there decades: two even met in the factory more than 40 years ago, and have been married for 35 of those. As stories of very niche skills and dedication to one family business goes, it’s a heartwarming one indeed. A gorgeous a reminder that way before Pringle and Aquascutum bowled in to the area to try and forge a mini Bicester village Hackney had a long history of beautifully crafted garments, thanks all the same.

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Jack Flynn: Freed of London (still)

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Jack Flynn: Freed of London (still)

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Jack Flynn: Freed of London (still)

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Jack Flynn: Freed of London (still)

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Jack Flynn: Freed of London (still)

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Jack Flynn: Freed of London (still)

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Jack Flynn: Freed of London (still)

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Jack Flynn: Freed of London (still)