The Book Launch at Christ Church
As I left the house at quarter to seven and made my way through the dark foggy streets towards Christ Church, the bells began to ring. Turning the corner from Princelet St into Wilkes St, I met Stanley Rondeau the Huguenot – whose ancestor Jean Rondeau came to Spitalfields in 1685. Stanley was lingering outside number four where his forbears’ house once stood. “The bells are ringing for us,” I said to him and he gave me a sympathetic nod of recognition as we shook hands, before walking onwards to the church together.
Coming round into Commercial St, I had the biggest surprise of my life to witness hundreds of excited people gathering to be admitted into the church. With the clamour of bells echoing in my head, I climbed the steps quickly and made my way through the crowd to the door. “They’re not opening it until seven,” I was told by an authoritative bystander, causing me to break into a sweat, and so I hammered on the door. Thankfully, speaking the magic words, “I am the author,” assured my admission.
Once inside, I was greeted by my oldest friend from college days, now a teacher in Somerset, who had let her class go home early in order to get a train from Taunton and be in Spitalfields by seven o’clock. She brought me a bunch of primroses picked in a lane near Wiveliscombe that morning and we sat quietly in a corner, immediately absorbed in exchanging news.
Then the doors opened and great surge of people led by a contingent of magnificently attired Pearly Kings & Queens came into the church filling the nave and side aisles – a wonderful vision to see so many of those I have written about, all together in one place consuming Eccles cakes and beer. At once, readers were recognising those they knew from my stories and I saw many spontaneous introductions which ignited the party, firing up the social event at the core of the evening, as hundreds of people who had never met before entered into lively conversations with each other. It was the party of the year in Spitalfields. A night that will be discussed in The Golden Heart for months to come. I could have stood and watched the spectacle of it all evening. I could have spent all evening talking to all the friends that I made through my interviews – but it was not to be.
I sat down at a table and, even without announcing myself, I was handed a book to sign and then another and another. In fact, I signed three hundred in an hour and a half, concentrating my mind upon the practical task of maintaining the quality of my handwriting and spelling everyone’s name correctly. Yet most touching were the moments of connection as I shook hands or made eye contact with readers who had so graciously come to meet me. What an extraordinary, unforgettable moment of mutual recognition it was when we got to see each other at last, meeting in the temporal world. Now I know who I am writing to.
Rodney Archer, the Aesthete, escorts Sandra Esqulant, the Queen of Spitalfields.
Leila’s Cafe served the Eccles Cakes from St John with slices of Lancashire Cheese.
Truman’s Beer served Truman’s Runner Ale.
Elizabeth Hallet, Editor of Saltyard Books, introduced the book.
Andy Rider, Rector of Christ Church Spitalfields, made a blessing upon the book.
Mark Hearld, Artist, Elizabeth Hallet, Publisher & Angie Lewin, Artist.
Gary Arber, Printer & Flying Ace, with two admirers.
Stephen & Clive Phythian, Tailors from Alexander Boyd.
Nevio Pellici & Fiancée.
Matthew Reynolds of the Duke of Uke introduces the Ukelele Orchestra.
The Ukelele Orchestra played “Troubles are like bubbles.”
King Sour, Rapper of Bethnal Green.
Pearly Kings & Queens.
Captain Shiv Banerjee, Justice of the Peace.
Paul Gardner, Paper Bag Seller, autographs books for fans.
Jason Hart, WordPress Wizard, & Rob Ryan, Artist & Papercut Supremo.
Novelist Sarah Winman & stylish friend.
Mavis Bullwinkle & photographer friend.
Jodie Krestin & Pamela Freedman, formerly of The Princess Alice in Commercial St.
Paul Gardner, Market Sundriesman & Jo Waterhouse, Antiques Market Trader.
Nick Appleton, Animator & Paul Bommer, Artist.
Boudicca & admirers.
King Sour & his crew.
Paul Bommer, Artist, Kitty Valentine, Artist & Leo, Artist.
Carrom Paul, Proprietor of the Carrom Shop, supplied Carrom Boards.
Nikki Cleovoulou, Pamela Freedman & Renee Cleovoulou.
At one point the line stretched round to St John in Commercial St.
Film by Sebastian Sharples