Sadly, however, funding ceased in 2011, and officially Hidden Art came to an end. ‘But Dieneke kept Hidden Art going against all the odds,’ says David Dewing. ‘She moved further out and supported her designer-makers almost entirely online. But there was less personal interaction and by 2018 her own health was failing. She never once lost her enthusiasm for life and for her work – she was always cheerful and hopeful, and my goodness, was she a fighter!’
As design writer for the Evening Standard’s Homes & Property, I was often involved with Hidden Art. We eagerly reported on the open studios, and on stands at 100% Design and Milan and so on. I profiled Dieneke in her own home – we smuggled in a few extra pieces for a great Hidden Art photo-op. As a photographer, I also exhibited with Hidden Art, notably at Broadway Market in 1999 and 2000. My show of street photography, Hidden Heart of Hackney, was centred around a little graffiti heart photographed on an early tour with Dieneke – ‘It’s a bit of mascot for us now,’ she remarked.
Later Dieneke asked me to photograph Hidden Art members in a pitch for a photography exhibition at Europa House and then City Hall organised by The European Programmes Management Unit. We were thrilled that Snowden Flood was selected.
Dieneke surprised me over and over again. Like the time I suddenly saw her on a huge poster on the tube. ‘My home funds my ceramics collection,’ said the slogan. The poster was advertising Airbnb in its infancy, when being a ‘host’ was a totally new idea – which Dieneke of course had enthusiastically adopted. Naturally the ceramics included those by Hidden Art members. Dieneke, a pioneering London host, was later chosen to represent Airbnb as a torch carrier at the Rio Olympics in 2016. By then she was suffering from myeloma, but she stabilised her condition by taking large and concentrated doses of curcumin, an alternative remedy which she researched herself. Although initially sceptical in the extreme, her haematologist at Barts finally acknowledged her success with a report in the British Medical Journal, and the news percolated into newspapers and blogs and onto TV and radio all over the world. Yes, there she was on BBC News in my living room....
Barbara Orton from Glasgow, now an independent TV and film producer, shared many trips and jaunts, professional and personal, with Dieneke including an initial bonding in Cuba (at Dieneke's invitation to be a speaker) for a Crafts Conference. She chatted with her in hospital the day before she died, and speaks for the many, many friends and colleagues who have been sending messages and sharing memories. ‘She was determined to continue her life despite illness right to the very end, and was a very special person in so many special ways.’
Indeed, when Dieneke was in hospital, I put an earlier portrait I had taken of her onto Instagram and asked for messages of good will. Well over 100 poured in. Do please scroll through the whole feed – @sunnygran – and add another tribute if you wish. We hope to hold a memorial for Dieneke when COVID-19 eases its grip.
Please also explore Hiddenart.co.uk, painstakingly updated by Dieneke to the very end of her life. It’s a full chronicle of a game-changing organisation and a wonderful woman. One of the last images Dieneke saw on her iPad were four new purchases for the Hidden Art eShop which she curated/administered with no personal profit.
David Dewing assesses Dieneke’s effect on East London: ‘Hidden Art had a strong impact on its regeneration. The creative industries had moved into Hackney and surrounding boroughs because both domestic and industrial property was available and cheap to rent, and because Hackney in particular has its own charm – it’s on the edge, a place where people of all ethnicities and backgrounds could live and work without too much interference from authority, and develop new art, theatre, music, and design. The Geffrye provided for Hidden Art not only a platform but also a degree of mainstream endorsement. Later, of course, developers moved in, property prices increased and many of the creative industries have struggled to stay or have moved to cheaper areas.’
Let the last word go to Manuel Ruiz-Adame, Dieneke’s business partner and much cherished friend for 45 years, who came with her to London in 1978 – he Mexican, she Dutch. They were married and later divorced, but Manuel remained Dieneke’s unfailing support system, particularly as her health failed. Manuel was keeping vigil in hospital when she died, along with her brother Paul, who came from Holland. ‘Dieneke may have physically gone. But her modest and humble legacy is here ever present. You are here, and you will continue to be here for all the rest of the time which I may remain alive.’