More Cats of Spitalfields
Contributing Photographer Chris Kelly, author of book of cat photography The Necessary Cat – A Photographer’s Memoir, has been making a survey of the cats of Spitalfields and following the first selection last Sunday, I am delighted to publish more of her portraits of famous local felines and their human slaves.
Lenny, pub cat at The Pride of Spitalfields, with admirer Dean Whatmuff.
Lenny snuggles in a cosy corner.
Lenny napping watched over by Terry Hutton.
Anne Butler – “Lenny is from a Liverpool refuge centre. He is nine years old and immediately took to being among the customers, but moving for no-one. He is very good with my other cat, Patch, although they fight a bit, he is always cleaning him and lets Patch get to his dinner first. He has a real good fan base and affection for all those who give him titbits.”
Terry Hutton – “Iʼve been coming here since I was fourteen. I like the atmosphere – and the cat. I was born in Spelman St and the old chicken market used to be nearby, so there were always a lot of stray cats and sometimes the cat lady used to feed them.”
Dean Whatmuff – “Iʼm from Yorkshire and Iʼve lived in Spitalfields since 1981. I went to the Slade in 1983 and my first studio was near here in the early eighties. Shoreditch was like a ghost town at night then and you had to come to the beigel shop to get something to eat. Iʼve been sketching the customers here for a while now. Itʼs part of a long term project and I hope theyʼll be displayed locally. I do some building work at the pub too and rehang the pictures occasionally. It doesnʼt change much. And Iʼm a DJ at the disco here every Monday at six. Itʼs called ‘mondayvinyl’ and weʼre the ‘one-deck-wonders.’”
Battie with Philippa Stockley
Battie & Philippa Stockley
“Battie is a rescue cat, heʼs half Bengal and half Fat Tabby. There was a pair of kittens and this little cat on its own in a box looking miserable. Suddenly, he jumped into my arms – and I gave him back because Iʼm heartless. So he walked round my legs and sprayed me like a tree. Iʼd been marked out as his.
He was frightened at first but now heʼs my constant companion. Heʼs nearly seven, heʼs always waiting when I come home and heʼs only happy if Iʼm within smelling distance. And heʼs a most beautiful jumper.”
Ambrosia & Rev Andy Rider, Rector of Christ Church
Ambrosia & Rev Andy Rider, Rector of Christ Church, Spitalfields
“Weʼve only had Ambrosia for four and a half months. We wanted a tortoiseshell and her name had to begin with the letter A, so sheʼs named after my favourite pudding. Our golden retriever, Archie, is her role model. She definitely aspires to be a dog and she doesnʼt realise sheʼs quite small. Sheʼll make a dive and hang on to Archieʼs leg but, luckily, heʼs very tolerant.
I always say Iʼm not all that bothered about pets, but my wife would dispute that. Our first cats here came from Eric Elstob, who lived in Fournier St. He was one of the great champions of the restoration of Christ Church and, when he died in 2003, his house-keeper asked us to take on the two cats Julio & Antonio. Towards the end of their lives, we thought weʼd better have a new cat to take over mousing duties. So far no results from Ambrosia, but weʼre encouraged by some scurrying under kitchen cupboards.
The painting by Alison Neville, where Ambrosia is sitting, was part of an exhibition in the Rectory gallery. Itʼs a detail of St. Johnʼs, Smith Sq and the sale of that church paid for part of the rebuilding work at Christ Church.”
Mittens & Yasmin
Mittens & Rosie Dastgir & her daughter Yasmin
“Mittens came from the 5th Ave Cat Clinic, Brooklyn. Sheʼd been in the window for a while with a sign saying CAT FOR SALE. My daughter Yasmin used to walk past the window and she really wanted this cat. When she saw the SOLD sign she was so disappointed. Luckily for her, Iʼd just bought the cat.
Bringing her back to this country was a complicated business – there were problems with the microchip (the vet put in an American chip instead of a European standard one), there were questions about the size of the crate, she was driven from Heathrow to Aldgate in a Defra endorsed van, and the whole operation cost a fortune.
But now sheʼs taken control of her territory better than she did in New York. There was an aggressive stray where we lived that used to fight with her. We named it Evil Kitty. So far, we find the London cats more friendly.”
Sebastian & Mark
Sebastian & Cordelia & Lindsay Friend & Mark Jackson at IMT Gallery
“Sebastian & Cordelia are Sphinx cats. They are named after characters in Brideshead Revisited and theyʼve grown into their namesakes. Sebastian is a bit roguish and he eats anything he can find – he once tried to eat staples – whereas Cordelia is more sensible, she tells him off and looks after him a bit.
Iʼve always liked this breed. I saw a picture of them in a book once when I was a child and immediately wanted to have one. And theyʼre the friendliest of all breeds. Mark likes them because he studied axolotl salamanders in a biology class and he thinks their faces are similar.
They came from a north London breeder. We just wanted Sebastian, but at our interview Cordelia took a shine to Mark so then we had to have them both. Theyʼre brother and sister and they were three and a half years old in March. Theyʼre quite high maintenance, they have to be bathed once a week and have their ears and claws cleaned.
They live with us at the gallery, so thereʼs constant stimulation and they are always around when people come to the gallery. Our exhibitions are constantly changing and some of our artists produce particularly cat-friendly work. Sebastian & Cordelia joined in during a session of voice recording recently.
The little girl who lives opposite, who is about eight, likes to come and see the cats when theyʼre sitting on the window sill. They adore her and sheʼs transfixed by them. We once overheard her telling her friend, ‘These are my cats. Well, theyʼre not actually my cats but they love me.’ She has two cats of her own now but she still comes to see Sebastian & Cordelia.”
Truman & Stella & Chris Dyson
“Truman came from a Mare St pet shop. His father is a Russian Blue and his mother a Norwegian Long Hair. We bought him as a kitten in 2009 and our other cat, Stella, came six months later. We found her very pregnant mother on the doorstep of Number Eleven and took her to Samantha Morton who lives nearby because we knew she looked after cats. So when the cat produced her litter the very next day, we felt obliged to have one of the kittens. And Truman was going slightly nutty on his own – these cats love company, they always want to join the party.
You never know with cats how the chemistry will work. Stella is basically a street cat, sheʼs a mixture of ginger tabby and tortoiseshell and sheʼs always been very nervous. The two of them get on reasonably well although Truman picks on her if he gets bored. But she fights back and now heʼs got a bit of ear missing, so heʼs more careful.
Theyʼve both fallen from the parapet of the gallery. Truman used to run around on the rooftops and, one wet day, he fell off. Fortunately, he landed on all fours but his chin was bruised. He never did it again. Stella has done the same too, so theyʼve both fallen three storeys to solid ground and are still standing.
Truman sometimes disappears for a few days but we know he calls on friends. He likes the girls in offices nearby who feed him titbits and someone else said recently, ‘Your cat calls on me on Thursday afternoons.’”
Photographs copyright © Chris Kelly
Chris Kelly’s THE NECESSARY CAT – A PHOTOGRAPHER’S MEMOIR is available from many independent bookshops including Brick Lane Books, Broadway Books & Newham Bookshop.
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