Culture and attractive vistas in the East End of London
Started conversation May 22, 2004
Dear Pheroneous (Erroneous?),
I am not an East Ender but lived in Bethnal Green hospital as a child and lived in the East End, again when I was 19, till about age 26- and all over: Stratford, Leyton, Hackney, Chadwell Heath, Walthamstow, Leytonstone. I’ve moved away and gone back.
As the single mother says there’s no ‘snobbishness’ in the East End and by that I think I know what she means. She means that when you get off the train at say, Leyton, it’s a kind of relief after the whirligig of being Up West and it feels good to be back among people who are ordinary and aren’t full of pretence in expensive clothes and tastes.
I don’t know about East London being a ‘cultural desert’. You mention The Whitechapel Art Gallery but there’s also Flowers East in Hackney. There’s several galleries in Hackney, actually and they are all quite modern and relevant. The Bethnal Museum of Childhood is a wonderful place, although I’ve not been there since age 7, I remember the Samurai and the flickering images- the early attempts at creating the moving picture. What about the Theatre Royal at Stratford? There have been some excellent productions which have started out there and moved West later on, for example, ‘Oh!, What a lovely war!’ and ‘5 Guys Named Joe’. I saw an excellent Mike Leigh play there once, too, about the East End, in fact several plays about the East End acted by East Enders. There was a brilliant play there once called the Dis’ Brothers which featured two black actors, loosely based around the Krays, but one dresses up as a woman and entices the brother…hilarious. There’s also another theatre round the back of the flats opposite the Theatre Royal but I’ve forgotten the name of it.
What about rock’n’roll from the East End? The Small Faces, Steve Marriott, the Leyton Buzzards, Status Quo, Ian Drury (who attended Walthamstow Art College), Cock Sparrer?
You say the East End isn’t nice to look at but Victoria Park is great and all along the canal on a bright, Sunday morning- it’s a fine place to be. I am also very fond of the cemetery behind Leyton tube station and that pub on the corner there- The Birkbeck. There’s a pleasant, village-like atmosphere there which you get in London, from time-to-time. Also, what about the Northern Sewer Outlet and Bow Locks- who knows about it? Have you looked out of the tube window at that old museum piece: Bow Locks? It’s a classic piece of the secret East End of which people don’t know about. I’ve painted two pictures near there. You can’t say the East End is unattractive where it borders the river, either. If you’ve got the river to look at then that’s an attractive feature, so anywhere on the Island of Dogs would be a fine place to live, if expensive now.
As Peter Ackroyd says, London is full of surprises, you can’t make generalisations. There are probably many undiscovered artistic geniuses and writers in the East End, all struggling- I can think of several I’ve known.
Still, I enjoyed the article and I think I’ll send it to my dad to see what he thinks.