Years ago, I went to a talk by Anthony Burton, the then Director of the Bethnal Green Museum, about the Bethnal Green Road. He treated it as a foreign country. Since I have been forced to think carefully about the cultural consequences of a vote for Brexit (I’m on a podium about it on Wednesday), I thought I would take a walk down it to see how the Bethnal Green Road has changed.
I had my first cappuccino in Jonestown, a neo-1950s, new wave coffee bar:-
Then I went to Pellicci’s, established in 1900 and now listed, the queen of east end cafés, which must now be in every tourist guide because it was packed with cultural tourists as well as a few old East Enders tucking into full English as I did (it’s a long time since I’ve had proper fried bread):-
My third stop, which was the raison d’etre for the trip, was Padron, the new Spanish delicatessen which advertises productos de España:-
My impression is that if the Bethnal Green Road is representative of anything – I’m not sure it is – then it is evidence of the strange, mixed, polyglot culture that England has become. How much of this will disappear if we vote for Brexit ? Of course, it’s impossible to tell, but some of the easiness of interchange is surely bound to go.