At The Launch Of My Album
The crowds pour into Christ Church
In Spitalfields, the October dusk was gathering as the bells rang out through the narrow streets to summon the crowds and, when the great wooden doors swung open, the excited throng poured in to fill the magnificent baroque church.
But Crudgie, London’s most famous motorbicycle courier, celebrated for his great height and astonishing facial hair, was already inside. Ever ingenious at finding ways in, “Don’t people realise there is a side door? “ he queried with more than a hint of swagger. I showed him his portrait in my Album. “Oh! Couldn’t you have airbrushed my nose?” he gasped, exclaiming in surprise at seeing himself. “It’s a very fine nose, Crudgie,” I reassured him, as he took consolation in a glass of Truman’s beer.
Just that morning, I had collected the huge screen sewn together by the tailor in Hanbury St from fabric supplied by Crescent Trading in Quaker St, and now favourite images from the Album appeared shining like apparitions in the gloom of the old church. After all the months that designer David Pearson and I worked through the night to make the most beautiful Album that we could for you, it was a joy to see people taking up the treasured copies and leafing through them with eager curiosity now.
With newly-purchased copies under their arm, guests were enjoying Justin Gellatly’s spicy buns and slices of his enormous ‘Cathedral Loaf ‘served by the team from Leila’s Shop. One by one, people from the Album appeared as if they had stepped from its pages to join the party.
There were Punch & Judy Professors meeting Wax Ladies from Wentworth St meeting Boxers photographed by John Claridge. There was Gary Arber the printer, Henrietta Keeper the ballad singer, Sandra Esqulant the Queen of Spitalfields, Clive Murphy the Oral Historian, Viscountess Boudica the Trendsetter from Bethnal Green, Mister Mondo representing the Pellicci regulars, among many others – and Aaron Biber, London’s Oldest Barber at ninety-one years old, was guest of honour. Meanwhile in a corner, Barn the Spoon produced an unfeasibly large pile of wood chips as he took the opportunity to show off his bravura spoon-making abilities by knocking up a few examples for guests.
Then it was time to sit at a table and inscribe copies of my Album and enjoy the rare opportunity of this special occasion to meet you, the readers. It was an extraordinary moment, as I sat signing books – after writing more than fifteen hundred stories over the last four years and two months – to realise how far we have come together. And it fills me with excited anticipation to continue in my chosen path through the years that lie ahead and discover where it will all lead…
Event photographs by Simon Mooney & paparazzi shots by Jeremy Freedman
On bookshop duty, Charlie De Wet and friend enjoy a bracing drink before the doors open
Leila McAlister serves Justin Gellatly’s spicy buns with slices of caerphilly to Punch & Judy Professors
Glasses of Truman’s Swift & Swallow to quench our literary thirst
Stefan Dickers, Archivist at the Bishopsgate Institute, makes the speech of welcome
Admiring Adam Dant’s ‘The Map of Spitalfields Life’
Actor Harry Landis settles down to look at the Album
Paul Gardner regales Ros Niblett and Jo Waterhouse
Tate & Lyle Concert Party Veteran, Henrietta Keeper, sings
Roger Mills and Mavis Bullwinkle spotted in the crowd
Carrom Paul was teaching the rudiments of Carrom
At 91 years old, Aaron Biber London’s Oldest Barber, was guest of honour
Pearly Queens enjoy a chinwag
London’s most famous motorcycle courier, Crudgie, flirts with Joan Rose
Barn the Spoon quickly produced a pile of wood chips
King Sour performed his poems
Henrietta Keeper signed autographs for fans
Staff of Bishopsgate Institute performed as ‘The Costermongers’
Remembering Philip Christou of Gina’s Restaurant
Photographer, Jeremy Freedman, got out his ring flash and turned paparazzi, as you see below
Pictures above copyright © Simon Mooney
Pearly King grapples with Tayo & Abby Abimbola
Delwar Hussain and Julie Begum
Landlady of The Golden Heart & Queen of Spitalfields, Sandra Esqulant, & Rodney Archer, Aesthete
Photographers Bob Mazzer & Patricia Niven with Paul Bommer, Artist.
The glamorous Abimbola sisters of Franceskka Fabrics in Wentworth St
Henry Freedman with Philip Pittack of Crescent Trading
Angling Writer, John Andrews, & the Duchess
Cheers to the Spitalfields bell ringers!
The Truman’s van arrives at Christ Church
Paparazzi shots copyright © Jeremy Freedman
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