Sixth Annual Report
Today – after more than two thousand posts published in these pages – we come to the end of the sixth year of Spitalfields Life. Perhaps the most unexpected moment of the last twelve months came one Sunday when I discovered myself sprinting down Folgate St exhorting people to spread out and hold hands. It was not random evangelism, but my hare-brained plan to invite people to join hands around Norton Folgate as a symbol of the widely-held desire to see the old buildings reused rather than demolished.
Two days later, Tower Hamlets Council rejected the application for redevelopment and now the Spitalfields Trust is devising an alternative scheme for Norton Folgate in collaboration with local businesses which, by seeking the minimum architectural intervention, can match the viability of the expensive and destructive British Land proposal.
The past year has also seen the publication of Spitalfields Nippers by Horace Warner and London Life by Colin O’Brien. Each of these books is a remarkable testimony of the culture of London by a distinguished photographer. Both have been critically acclaimed and proved to be very popular with the widest audience – yet neither of these would have seen the light of day, if not for the generous support of you – the readers of Spitalfields Life – who funded their publication.
It never ceases to astonish me to recognise what has come from the simple act of publishing a story every day. Six years ago, I never expected to produce books or get involved in campaigns to save old buildings in the East End, but I am hugely proud of our endeavours in both departments.
In spite of all this excitement, my essential task of undertaking interviews and writing stories remains at the core of my work. I love going out with the Contributing Photographers on assignments and we are never disappointed by the everyday wonders we encounter here in the East End.
Above all, I value the experience of meeting the people whose lives I have recorded in these pages. Listening to their stories is an ongoing education for me, offering inspiration and restoring a sense of proportion too.
On contemplation, I wonder if perhaps the act of retelling these stories for a wider audience is akin to running down the street and asking strangers to join hands? I consider myself privileged to do what I do because undertaking these interviews is such a source of joy to me – and it is this constantly-renewing sense of delight which keeps me going.
And thus, with all these thoughts in mind, I come to the end of this sixth year of Spitalfields Life.
I am your loyal servant
The Gentle Author
For the next week, while I am completing my book about THE CRIES OF LONDON, I shall be publishing favourite posts from the past year and then resuming with new stories on Monday 31st August
You may like to read my earlier Annual Reports