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Unveiling the Map of Spitalfields Life

September 19, 2011
by the gentle author

[youtube mvq38fBhGDI nolink]

Click to enlarge the map

There was a hullabaloo in Fournier St on Thursday night as the people of Spitalfields crowded excitedly into the Town House at number five for the unveiling of The Map of Spitalfields Life by Sandra Esqulant, landlady of the Golden Heart in Commercial St. Fortunately, Leila McAlister was on hand to provide steadying glasses of Gin Fizz to the assembled throng as they gathered in the eighteen twenties’ doctor’s surgery at the rear of this tottering eighteenth century weavers’ house.

Once, if there was an accident at the brewery in Brick Lane or in the Spitalfields Market, the unfortunate victim was ferried on a stretcher to this surgery for the necessary amputation. Yet although Thursday night’s event was of a far lighter nature, the anticipation reached fever pitch and some were seen to dab perspiration from their brows, as the crowd parted upon Sandra Esqulant ‘s arrival, regal in a couture gown, to draw back the golden silk cloth and reveal the map.

The walls were lined with the extraordinary maps of the East End which Adam Dant has drawn over the past ten years – works that have established him as London’s Cartographer Extraordinaire. And there at the centre of the gallery was Adam’s latest creation The Map of Spitalfields Life under its silken drape glistening in the light, ready to delight the crowds and take its place among his other masterpieces of cartographic ingenuity.

It was only in the preceding days, as I delivered the invitations in person, that I discovered how this metaphor of being “on the map” acquired real meaning, and the most commonly heard line of Thursday evening was the critical question, “Are you on the map?”

A great number of those you have read about here in the pages of Spitalfields Life are on the map and, at the unveiling, it was exciting to welcome Molly the Swagman, Andy Rider the Rector of Spitalfields, Mick Taylor the Sartorialist of Brick Lane, Rochelle Cole the Poulterer, Paul Gardner the Market Sundriesman (proprietor of Spitalfields’ oldest family business), Clive Murphy the Oral Historian, Philip Pittack & Martin White of Crescent Trading, Mark Petty the Trendsetter, Dan Cruickshank the Architectural Historian, Mike Myers the Spitalfields Crooner, Robson Cezar the King of the Bottletops, Simon Watkins & Rachel Wythe-Moran of Labour & Wait, Roy Emmins the Whitechapel Sculptor, Philippa Stockley the Historical Novelist, Rodney Archer the Aesthete, Gary Arber the Printer from the Roman Rd, Mick Pedroli & David Milne of Dennis Severs House, Laurie Allen of Petticoat Lane, Cecile Loyez of Agnès b Spitalfields, Bill Crome the Window Cleaner who sees ghosts, Andrew Coram the Antique Dealer, Chris Dyson the Architect, Pam & Raj Chawla of Mama Thai Noodle Bar, Paul Bommer the Illustrator, Marge Hewson the Nursery Nurse from Christ Church School, Sarah Winman the Novelist, Leo Epstein the last Jewish trader on Brick Lane, Cynthia Grandfield the Queen of Ryantown, Mavis Bullwinkle the Secretary, Boyd Bowman of Alexander Boyd, Stefan Dickers the Archivist at the Bishopsgate Institute, Marianna Kennedy the Arbiter of Elegance, and Jim Howett who is responsible for many of the best renovations in Spitalfields. As you can imagine, I took great pleasure in making introductions, especially between those who had known each other by sight for years but not spoken before.

Adam Dant raised a hand to silence the hubbub and then – with a few plain words from the heart  – Sandra Esqulant pulled back the gold silk cloth. It slid from the picture with a satisfying rustle and fell to the floor in silence before a collective gasp of wonder arose from the room. Then Adam Dant’s daughter Grace presented a bouquet of exotic roses to Sandra for performing the honours and the crowd surged forward in excitement, with index fingers extended to seek their portraits upon the map.

The Map of Spitalfields Life is published by Herb Lester in a pocket-sized edition with Adam’s cartography on the front and my stories of the people of Spitalfields on the reverse. A hand-tinted limited edition is also available suitable for framing, signed by Adam Dant and yours truly. Both can be purchased directly from as well as limited editions of many of Adam’s most popular maps featured in his exhibition, including The Map of Hoxton Square and The Map of Shoreditch as New York.

The exhibition Adam Dant – Unusual Cartography of East London runs at the Town House, 5 Fournier St, until Sunday 2nd October. Open every day except Monday, from 11:30 am – 5:30pm and at other times by arrangement with Town House.

Artist Adam Dant, the Hero of the Hour.

Illustrator Paul Bommer & Trendsetter Mark Petty

Archivist of the Bishopsgate Institute Stefan Dickers & Mike Myers the Spitalfields Crooner.

Rodney Archer, the Aesthete, embraces Sandra Esqulant.

Mike Myers, Stanley Rondeau the Ninth Generation Huguenot & Paul Gardner, Market Sundriesman.

Jane Wildgoose of the Wildgoose Memorial Library & Simon Costin of the Museum of British Folklore.

Photographer Patricia Niven with Phillip Pittack, Cloth Merchant of Crescent Trading.

Photographer Martin Usborne with canine friends.

Adam Dant & Sandra Esqulant

Adam Dant, Sandra Esqulant & Grace Dant

Grace Dant with the bouquet she presented to Sandra Esqulant.

Photographer Jeremy Freedman & Architectural Historian Dan Cruickshank admire the map.

Secretary Mavis Bullwinkle makes a new friend.

Mick Taylor the Sartorialist of Brick Lane & Robson Cezar, King of the Bottletops.

Clive Murphy, Oral Historian & Writer of Ribald Rhymes.

Rachel Wythe-Moran & Simon Watkins of Labour & Wait.

Martin White, Cloth Merchant of Crescent Trading.

Gary Arber, of W.F.Arber & Co Ltd Printers in the Roman Rd

Photographer Patricia Niven & Novelist Sarah Winman.

Roy Emmins, Sculptor of Whitechapel.

Jim Howett, Sandra Esqulant & Dan Cruickshank.

Robson Cezar & Cynthia Grandfield, Queen of Ryantown.

Photographs by Spitalfields Life Contributing Photographers Sarah Ainslie, Lucinda Douglas Menzies, Jeremy Freedman & Patricia Niven. Photograph of the folded map by Stepanie Lynn

17 Responses leave one →
  1. September 19, 2011

    a wonderful moment in time recorded with some of the stars of your “manor” gentle ….thanks for sharing your spitalfields life ,….it is always a tonic !

  2. September 19, 2011

    Looks like it was a wonderful night and such a beautiful map!

  3. September 19, 2011

    It was good to be there!

  4. jeannette permalink
    September 19, 2011

    seldom do i attend a party where all the eyes are so bright and the smiles so genuine. all your doing — the roses for ms. esqulant are unbelievably spectacular and you deserve the same. thanks and congrats.

  5. September 19, 2011

    Thank you for sharing this event. What a great night it looks to have been and all those friendly faces quaffing gin fizz. I’m terrible anti-social nowadays but I would have loved to have been there.

  6. Marina permalink
    September 19, 2011

    Loved watching the video and seeing some of the people I’ve read about. Felt quite tearful!
    But who/where is the gentle author?

  7. September 19, 2011

    Oh, I so wish I could have been there… your blog makes my German mornings 😉

    I ordered the map last night and I’m very much looking forward to it – thanks for making it possible for us readers to have a litte bit of Spitalfield’s spirit at home!

  8. September 19, 2011

    Looks wonderful. Next time please invite me. I would loved to have been there. Looks great and the site is brilliant. Best wishes Annette

  9. the gentle author permalink*
    September 19, 2011

    But Annette, all the readers were invited. I too am disappointed you weren’t there but I look forward to meeting you next time!

  10. September 19, 2011

    A fabulous evening! Congratulations to you and Adam. So many amazing people. x

  11. September 19, 2011

    Congratulations! What a wonderful party, and what a rewarding experience it must have been for you. Thanks again for sharing the life of Spitalfields, it makes me feel as if I’m living there, if only in the mind.

  12. September 19, 2011

    It’s so nice to feel part of the family of Spitalfieldslife. Thanks for a lovely evening. Roy

  13. Rhianwen Guthrie permalink
    September 19, 2011

    I came, I saw…

    It really was as dazzling as it looks. I accompanied my dad, the illustrator Peter Bailey, who taught Adam Dant at Liverpool Art School in the 1980s. I remember Adam from his student days, when I was a child the same age as his daughter Grace is now, so it was lovely to see him again in the flesh and view his amazing work.

    A great night, but I was sad not to speak to you in the flesh, Gentle Author…

    Next time!

  14. Sally Baldwin permalink
    September 19, 2011

    What a treat to look at pictures of a party in another part of the world… and recognize half the partygoers! Feel as though they were friends I could chat up on the street!

    Gentle Author, I salute you and what you and your friends have created!


  15. September 20, 2011

    Thank you for sharing your lovely party with us! I am a Californian (now living in Texas) that had the amazing fortune to live in London for a good while. I have never loved a city more. I felt more at home there than anywhere. You daily post help me feel connected still. I love your beautiful map….so much creativity in one person : ) Cheers!

  16. Chris permalink
    September 21, 2011

    What a charming map, a combination of Happy Families and Monopoly where every card and every trinket has a story of its own, known only to the readers of Spitalfields Life. Adam may have been the artist, but you, Gentle Author, are the instigator. Who else could could arrange a gathering of such divers people to view a map?
    Why is Mr Pussy looking so sad, is he miffed at not being invited?

  17. TokyoDon permalink
    September 26, 2011

    But why no picture of the gentle author?

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