Brick Lane Market 1987
I bought these tiny hares made of alloy in the Coppermill Market on Cheshire Street on my first visit to Brick Lane Market in November 1987. At a Bonfire Party at Strand on the Green (a line of old houses built right into the river bank beside Kew Bridge) where I lived at the time, I met Joshua Compston who also lived there. He offered to show me the market, so next Sunday he hammered on my window before dawn, dragged me from my bed and we caught the first District Line train from Gunnersbury to Aldgate East.
We were both connoisseurs of grimy cafes at the time and I recall escaping out of the frost into a splendid example at 1 Cheshire Street, where the grease permeated the smoky steamy air with such ferocity that the first breath you took caused you to gag violently. But we toughed it out for the unlikely charisma of the clientele which comprised exclusively old men in caps with Frank Auerbach faces. Afterwards, we examined the tiny stalls with items laid out on the frozen bare earth between Cheshire Street and the railway line, each stallholder with their own light glimmering in the grey pre-dawn winter gloom. We walked back down Brick Lane, and then Joshua took me to visit Jocasta Innes in her remarkable old house on Heneage Street with the oval stairwell and the secret door disguised as a bookcase, leading through to the architect next door.
Joshua had great success as a gallerist and art entrepreneur but died in 1996, still in his twenties – and I had quite forgotten about that first visit to the market with him, until I found these hares in my desk drawer where they have been all this time. It was when Joshua introduced me to the market that I fell in love with this place, so I suppose you could say it is because of him that I am here in Spitalfields today.