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The Book of Spitalfields Life

January 1, 2012
by the gentle author

It is my delight – on this New Year’s Day – to announce the news to you that the book of Spitalfields Life will be published by Saltyard Books (an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton) on March 1st. For over a year, I have been working to bring this mighty four hundred and fifty page book into existence, and here you will find one hundred and fifty of your favourite stories, published as a handsome illustrated hardback designed by distinguished typographer David Pearson.

Everything you seek in London can be found in this book – street life, street art, markets, diverse food, immigrant culture, ancient houses and history, pageants and parades, rituals and customs, traditional trades and old family businesses. Spend a night in the bakery at St John with baker Justin Piers Gellatly, ride the rounds with Kevin Read the Spitalfields milkman, drop in to the Golden Heart for a pint with landlady Sandra Esqulant, meet Paul Gardner the fourth-generation paper bag seller, Steve Brooker the mudlark who discovers treasure in the Thames, Bill Crome the window cleaner who sees ghosts and Alan Hughes the master bell-founder whose business started in 1570. In these pages, you can join the bunny girls for their annual reunion at The Grapes, visit the wax sellers of Wentworth Street and the curry chefs of Brick Lane, and discover the site of Shakespeare’s first theatre in Shoreditch.

As you can see, Rob Ryan made these fine Staffordshire dogs to grace the cover and it has been a pleasure to collaborate with him on a set of bells that tintinnabulate throughout the book as colophons to divide the stories one from another. Equally, it has been my privilege to work with Lucinda Rogers, commissioning her to make a suite of six large detailed drawings of the streets of Spitalfields which will be published in the book as double page spreads. Finally, to complete the trio, Mark Hearld – a favourite artist whose work is new to Spitalfields Life – has contributed lyrical images of the creatures that share our neighbourhood, the cats, rats, foxes and pigeons – as well as magnificent endpapers of the rooftops of Spitalfields.

Alongside prime examples of the work of Spitalfields Life Contributing Photographers, Sarah Ainslie, Lucinda Douglas-Menzies, Jeremy Freedman, Phil Maxwell, Patricia Niven and Martin Usborne, you will find the first publication of photographs by Mark Jackson & Huw Davies recording the last year of the Fruit & Vegetable Market, George Gladwell’s pictures of Columbia Rd Market in the 1960s and the Society for Photographing the Relics of Old London’s images of London in the 1880s.

When I set out to write my daily stories of Spitalfields Life in 2009, I had hardly written prose before and I did not know where it would lead, but it was my intention to pursue the notion of recording the stories that nobody else was writing. Although it was not in my mind that this would become a book, over time many readers wrote asking for a collection of these stories and then, in the Summer of 2010, several esteemed publishers came over to Spitalfields to discuss the notion of publication in print. Meanwhile, I discovered that Elizabeth Hallett, editor of a select list of titles at Saltyard Books, had subscribed to Spitalfields Life and been reading it daily from within a few weeks of commencement, and so I was happy to accept her as my publisher.

More than a year ago, I promised to invite you – dear readers – to a wonderful party in Spitalfields to meet all the infinite variety of people that you have been reading about in these pages, and now it is time to issue that glorious invitation. On the evening of Friday 2nd March, please join me in Nicholas Hawksmoor’s towering masterpiece of Christ Church, Spitalfields at a gathering to celebrate the people of Spitalfields, as we launch this book of their stories into the world.

Your loyal servant

The Gentle Author

Click here to buy your copy direct from Spitalfields Life and have it signed or personally inscribed by the Gentle Author.

You may also like to read about

Rob Ryan, Papercut Supremo,

Lucinda Rogers’ East End

and watch this short film introducing the Art of Mark Hearld.

60 Responses leave one →
  1. January 1, 2012

    congratulations gentle author
    my only regret is that i wont be there with you in march

  2. Susan permalink
    January 1, 2012

    Congratulations! What wonderful news. I wish I could be there for your book launch but for those of us who can’t fly across the Atlantic, I hope there will be a way to order a signed copy. May your book expand your readership ever wider.

  3. anonymous permalink
    January 1, 2012

    1+ joining the list. Congratulations!!

  4. January 1, 2012

    Many Congratulations. A very Happy New Year dear Gentle Author to you and Mr Pussy I sincerely hope I shall be able to attend on the 2nd of March

  5. rhondajean permalink
    January 1, 2012

    Congratulations! That is wonderful news and so well deserved. I too have a book coming out next month, it grew out of my blog. I look forward to reading your book.

  6. Ree permalink
    January 1, 2012

    It’s still 2011 in Tucson…HAPPY NEW YEAR to my beloved London…So looking forward to your book being published March 1st…four days before my birthday…I shall lobby hard for this as a birthday gift from my friends/family…
    Love your blog soooo much…Best Wishes to gentle author…Mr. Pussy…and all their loved ones…8>)

  7. Gill permalink
    January 1, 2012

    I too have been reading your wonderful stories for some time now … it’s my favourite blog. I do remember suggesting quite a while ago that a book would be perfect to preserve and share these moments in time.

    You say “… I did not know where it would lead…”

    Well, the writer of the blog below says it best … you took a risk and made the world a better place by being amazing.

    Congratulations and thank you!

    (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada)

  8. Ree permalink
    January 1, 2012

    Those dogs by Mark Hearld are beyond brilliant…!!!

  9. jeannette permalink
    January 1, 2012

    hurray, i am so happy for you, and for the lovely people whose profiles and purlieus you have introduced us all too. it sounds like it will be the best party EVAR, wish i could join you.

  10. January 1, 2012

    Well done! What a marvelous achievement.

  11. January 1, 2012

    Congratulations! Wonderful. I wish I could be there on March 2. Jack, Snug, Charlotte, and Inky-Dinky-Doo send their best wishes for a happy new year to you and Mr. Pussy.

  12. Jaki permalink
    January 1, 2012

    How wonderful! Congratulations! 🙂 xx

  13. January 1, 2012

    How thrilling for you – and how richly deserved. Spitalfields Life is an absolute joy and is one of the few blogs that I make a point of reading every day. Even though I no longer live in London, all my roots are there, stretching back over many generations, and this daily connection keeps that history alive for me.

    All good wishes to you and Mr Pussy for the coming year and, if I possibly can, I hope to leave the wilds of Exmoor behind on 2 March and head for Spitalfields . . .

  14. January 1, 2012

    If ever there was a book just waiting to be written, it was this one.

    Back in my WW2 Army days I served under a Sergeant Major who’s ultimate compliment was to bellow out “Well done that there man !”

    Gentle Author ?

    Well done that there man !!!!


  15. Barbara permalink
    January 1, 2012

    Congratulations – many times over. I hope to be part of the March 2nd celebrations.

  16. lesley Manousos permalink
    January 1, 2012

    Congratulations on a sterling achievement!! I always thoroughly enjoy reading your daily posts. I think a collection of your stories is a wonderful idea. All the best for 2012.

  17. Good-tree permalink
    January 1, 2012

    What good news to start the New Year. Congratulations!

  18. John_F permalink
    January 1, 2012

    What a wonderful way to begin a New Year – REAL good news !!

    The Olympics and whatever-the- royal- anniversary-it-is pale into insignificance…

    I hope to be there on 2nd March.

  19. January 1, 2012

    How wonderful. My hearty congratulations to you.

  20. January 1, 2012

    How wonderful and so richly deserved. I want to reserve a book now and would love it if you would sign it for me. I will be at the party even if I have to get a cab over from West London. Really thrilled for you and hopefully you will find a bigger market so more people can enjoy your wonderful blog. The blog is so much more than about Spitalfields – you have recorded the lives of past immigrant communities and the present ones. I also love your days out to the seaside – something I like to do and for bringing memories of my childhood in Hackney. Best wishes your avid reader. Annette. Oh yes I love the Spring time stories of bulbs and the china they are in and of course the pussycat. You really enrich my life. Annette

  21. Chris F permalink
    January 1, 2012

    I can only mirror all of the things that everyone else has said… Well done. Now you can start thinking about volume 2!

  22. January 1, 2012

    A superb accomplishment, gentle author. I look forward to your book. It will show the world the value of community. And I look forward to celebrating with you and friends at your party!

  23. January 1, 2012

    What wonderful news to start the year! Congratulations, and happy new year!

  24. Brendan Ross permalink
    January 1, 2012

    congratulations on a most excellent edition to the libary

  25. Rowena Macdonald permalink
    January 1, 2012

    This is brilliant news! Well done. I would love to come to the launch. I’ve been an avid reader of Spitalfields Life since very early on and if ever there was a blog that ought to be made into a book, it is this one. It’s the only blog I regularly read, it is so heartwarming, diverse and generous to all its subjects. Congratulations and happy new year! x

  26. Elinor permalink
    January 1, 2012

    Great news to start the New Year! Many congratulations & thanks for this wonderful blog.

  27. Sally Baldwin permalink
    January 1, 2012

    Wonderful news to read on this new year’s morning!

    Rob Ryan’s PERFECT dogs gave me a huge grin; what a great way to start a year.

    Warmest wishes to you both, to Mr Pussy, and to all your (OUR!) Spitalfied neighbors.

  28. January 1, 2012

    You deserve this; congratulations! I’ve never commented here but read the blog daily.

    The dogs are wonderful.

  29. JerryWh permalink
    January 1, 2012

    Gentle Author, I hope your book makes you a millionaire.. I suppose it won’t, but if it did, it would be no more than you deserve for this wonderful blog… I look forward to reading vols. 2, 3 and etc as they appear. Meantime, a prosperous New Year to you and us all 🙂

  30. Adrienne permalink
    January 1, 2012


  31. Jackie Cardy permalink
    January 1, 2012

    Many many congratulations Gentle Author, your posts have drawn me in almost daily and a book is a wonderful idea.
    I hope you have a successful launch. On 2nd March I shall be on the West coast of Clare so London will be even further away then…but thank you for the invitation.

  32. January 1, 2012

    Congratulations Gentle Author. I was absolutely delighted when I saw this post. I’ve been reading your blog since the beginning and I’m looking forward to giving your book to many London loving friends over the years, starting with my husband has also adopted the East End as “home”.

  33. Herry Lawford permalink
    January 1, 2012

    Dear Gentle Author; this is the natural evolution of your superb evocation of life and lives in this fascinating quarter of London. You can be sure of several sales as not only would love to give your book to many friends but I can also think of many people who don’t yet ‘do’ the internet who would appreciate it so much. Who will write the Foreward?

    The 2nd March is in my diary.

  34. CornishCockney permalink
    January 1, 2012

    Many Congratulations Gentle Author, and here’s to a very Happy and Successful New Year in everything you desire.

  35. Pam Smith permalink
    January 1, 2012

    Brillant start to the New Year and great news on the launch of your book. I will certainly be making the trip from Winchester to London. Happy New Year and many thanks for your lovely stories keep them coming………

  36. joan permalink
    January 1, 2012

    Many congratulations.

    Really enjoyed the interview with you in Random Spectacular. Like you I was much influenced by Raymond William’s ‘Culture and Society’ but the Williams’ book that was most important to me was ‘Border Country’.

    Best wishes for 2012,


  37. January 1, 2012

    I just let out a loud “Hurray!” over here in Toronto, Canada. Did you hear it? I hope there will be a way for us overseas fans to order your book. I’ll keep my eyes on the publisher’s website.

    Happy New Year and congratulations!

  38. Dorota permalink
    January 1, 2012

    The best news in the New Year so far! Congratulations!

  39. January 2, 2012

    I’ve pre-ordered your book on Amazon – can’t WAIT to see it.

  40. Ekaterina permalink
    January 2, 2012

    That is so great I couldn’t even believe at first )) I am one of those readers for sure who asked for a book as I don’t like to read from screen but am tempted to read your stories every day! Sadly I won’t be able to come to a party as I don’t live in London but 1st – I will order a book as soon as it will be available and 2nd – in April this year I’ll go to London for 2 weeks holiday and pay special attention to the places you told us about so gently 😉
    Would be even better to read the book before the trip!
    Truly the best beginning of a New Year!

  41. gillian darley permalink
    January 2, 2012

    i’ll be there to say thank you for so much pleasure, enlightenment and humanity from your posts.

  42. Josie permalink
    January 2, 2012

    What everyone else said, really! That it’s coming out in book form is the best news I’ve had so far in this new year. I’ve been telling people right and left about your classy and fascinating blog. Now I look forward to introducing people to your work by means of making them a gift of the book. I trust you will announce the publication when it happens. Thank you for the invitatoin to the launch party. It will not be possible for me as an aging American to attend but I’m sure it will be an exciting event.

  43. Jill permalink
    January 2, 2012

    Fantastic! It’s my diary now. How exciting for you – and I love Staffordshire figures!

    Many congratulations, and looking forward to your daily insights. Happy New Year.


  44. Kate C permalink
    January 2, 2012

    Well done! Can’t wait to get my copy of the book – I’ve just pre-ordered it. I’ve been following your blog daily since I discovered it a couple of months ago. With all my ancestors living around Bishopsgate, Spitalfields and Ratcliff, your blog become an amazing resource for me.

  45. Catherine permalink
    January 2, 2012

    How exciting! Only wish I could be in London for your book launch party–it would be fun to meet some of the people you write about.

  46. Gilly permalink
    January 3, 2012

    Congratulations! I was going to try and buy fewer books this year, but this one is a definite purchase! Very good luck, and I hope (am sure) it’ll sell really well.

  47. Anne Forster permalink
    January 3, 2012

    Oh ,beyond exciting gentle author. Very well done.

    Wonder if I could be there at the launch?

  48. Emily permalink
    January 3, 2012

    Congrats, Gentle Author, I can’t wait to read it! I’ve been longing to travel to London again, and this is just the impetus I needed to start researching airfare!

  49. TokyoDon permalink
    January 4, 2012

    Congratulations! I was wondering how long it would be before a book was born – and here’s the answer.

    I’ll be there in March as no doubt will hundreds of others who, like me, love this blog and appreciate what you’ve been doing this past two years.

    Will the Gentle Author relinquish his anonymity, I wonder?

  50. January 7, 2012

    This is brilliant news, and a timely reward for all your labours of love which are felt and appreciated by all who regularly read your stories that continue to embellish our routine lives by reminding us that among us all there are amazing people and amazing stories that you have uncovered in your daily posts.
    On March 2nd (which is just a day before my birthday haha) I will be away unfortunately, which is most annoying as I would have loved to be there.
    This book is going to make a difference and it will be a great success. Can’t wait to see the film!

  51. MzTallulah permalink
    January 10, 2012

    Congratulations, and such excellent news. Your stories are always fascinating, and they make me wish I could just move to Spitalfields to live amongst such interesting characters.

  52. February 2, 2012

    dear gentle author,
    i have been truly fascinated to read your stories each day, having been a framer in spitalfields since 1989, I know many of the characters in the stories. We were on Bishopsgate in a small shop next to the Institute for many years – nowadays we are in Artillery Lane next to Morella from Mr City sandwich bar.
    I would love to share my story with your readers,



  53. February 6, 2012


  54. melbournegirl permalink
    February 10, 2012

    Many, many congratulations, Gentle Author. I can’t wait to buy your book, and I wish I could be in London for the launch.

  55. February 10, 2012

    As one of the Gentle Author’s long term devotees, I was privileged both to meet and to be interviewed by the author myself.

    I was even more delighted to learn that my story would find a place in this long overdue book and today had the joy of actually seeing a preview copy.

    In my ignorance I thought this would be a paper-back…… silly me !

    It’s hard-back, lovely & chunky and full of the wonderful articles that first drew me to the Spitalfields Life site.

    I have already ordered two copies to give to my offspring so that they can share in my joy.

    Well done Gentle Author !

  56. February 14, 2012

    I’m so very pleased for you, Gentle Author! I always thought your blog would be a marvellous book. x

  57. Juliet Wrightson permalink
    February 17, 2012

    Dear Gentle Author,
    Since we met at Laura Knight’s vernissage and you mentioned this party ,I have been waiting for the invitation, but nearly missed it as I have your missives delivered to my Inbox. However I shall be there on the 2nd and look forward to meeting all the people to whom you have “introduced” me over the weeks. Warmest wishes Juliet Wrightson

  58. February 23, 2012

    Hip Hip Hooray I am flying back to London on 1st and so I would love to come along to your book launch myself + 1

  59. Richard permalink
    February 24, 2012

    Wonderful news! I hope to buy a few as a lovely present for lovely people.

  60. February 27, 2012

    Great great news. See you Friday!

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