East London (2)

I have now finished reading Maryam Eisler’s study of the East London creative community in her book Voices (actually, it could be called Vices) which studies the range of different creative types who have inhabited East London over the last three decades.   What I realised and is obvious is the extent of inward settlement and migration, all of which has given vitality to the area.   But what I also began to notice is how little the existing community is referred to.   Doreen Golding, a Pearly Queen, describes how ‘Most of the old white English, the Pearlies, moved out to Essex, Basildon and Southend’.   Colin Rothbatt describes how one of his neighbours threw a brick over the wall during one of his all night parties.   And Jack Leigh, a retired gangster, describes how ‘The ’60s and ’70s were wonderful.   The Krays were in Bethnal Green and we were in Roman Road…There was a sense of belonging because we loved one another and relied on each other’.   It would be interesting to know a bit more of the views of those who have been displaced.


4 thoughts on “East London (2)

  1. pbmum says:

    The occasional search on social media for my former school friends (people who were at school in Stepney in the late 60s and 70s) reveals them to have largely moved to Essex. Many of them moved in order to have a house with a garden after growing up in flats. I remember that my nephews, growing up in an enviable spot in Wapping in the 80s, were desperate to move out and did so as soon as they were adults. Brick Lane bookshop has numbers of memoirs of people who grew up in the East End remembering it fondly as a place of friendship and solidarity. I think that what is difficult, as someone who grew up in the area when it was a place that people wanted to leave rather than to move in to, is a story that the East End didn’t really exist until it was discovered by a certain group of creative people. When my own children moan about growing up among the dirt and violence (particularly keenly felt if you are a teenager given the gang situation) of the much less hip but still East London Stratford I point out to them that the area is full of people trying to make a good life for themselves. Our next door but one neighbours have lived in their house for 64 years and the man opposite (now in his 70s) was born in the house he still lives in. Interesting and valuable lives have been lived without fanfare long before places were ‘discovered’.


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