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The Book Launch at Christ Church

March 5, 2012
by the gentle author

As I left the house at quarter to seven and made my way through the dark foggy streets towards Christ Church, the bells began to ring. Turning the corner from Princelet St into Wilkes St, I met Stanley Rondeau the Huguenot – whose ancestor Jean Rondeau came to Spitalfields in 1685. Stanley was lingering outside number four where his forbears’ house once stood. “The bells are ringing for us,” I said to him and he gave me a sympathetic nod of recognition as we shook hands, before walking onwards to the church together.

Coming round into Commercial St, I had the biggest surprise of my life to witness hundreds of excited people gathering to be admitted into the church. With the clamour of bells echoing in my head, I climbed the steps quickly and made my way through the crowd to the door. “They’re not opening it until seven,” I was told by an authoritative bystander, causing me to break into a sweat, and so I hammered on the door. Thankfully, speaking the magic words, “I am the author,” assured my admission.

Once inside, I was greeted by my oldest friend from college days, now a teacher in Somerset, who had let her class go home early in order to get a train from Taunton and be in Spitalfields by seven o’clock. She brought me a bunch of primroses picked in a lane near Wiveliscombe that morning and we sat quietly in a corner, immediately absorbed in exchanging news.

Then the doors opened and great surge of people led by a contingent of magnificently attired Pearly Kings & Queens came into the church filling the nave and side aisles – a wonderful vision to see so many of those I have written about, all together in one place consuming Eccles cakes and beer. At once, readers were recognising those they knew from my stories and I saw many spontaneous introductions which ignited the party, firing up the social event at the core of the evening, as hundreds of people who had never met before entered into lively conversations with each other. It was the party of the year in Spitalfields. A night that will be discussed in The Golden Heart for months to come. I could have stood and watched the spectacle of it all evening. I could have spent all evening talking to all the friends that I made through my interviews – but it was not to be.

I sat down at a table and, even without announcing myself, I was handed a book to sign and then another and another. In fact, I signed three hundred in an hour and a half, concentrating my mind upon the practical task of maintaining the quality of my handwriting and spelling everyone’s name correctly. Yet most touching were the moments of connection as I shook hands or made eye contact with readers who had so graciously come to meet me. What an extraordinary, unforgettable moment of mutual recognition it was when we got to see each other at last, meeting in the temporal world. Now I know who I am writing to.

Rodney Archer, the Aesthete, escorts Sandra Esqulant, the Queen of Spitalfields.

Leila’s Cafe served the Eccles Cakes from St John with slices of Lancashire Cheese.

Truman’s Beer served Truman’s Runner Ale.

Elizabeth Hallet, Editor of Saltyard Books, introduced the book.

Andy Rider, Rector of Christ Church Spitalfields, made a blessing upon the book.

Mark Hearld, Artist, Elizabeth Hallet, Publisher & Angie Lewin, Artist.

Gary Arber, Printer & Flying Ace, with two admirers.

Stephen & Clive Phythian, Tailors from Alexander Boyd.

Nevio Pellici & Fiancée.

Matthew Reynolds of the Duke of Uke introduces the Ukelele Orchestra.

The Ukelele Orchestra played “Troubles are like bubbles.”

King Sour, Rapper of Bethnal Green.

Pearly Kings & Queens.

Captain Shiv Banerjee, Justice of the Peace.

Paul Gardner, Paper Bag Seller, autographs books for fans.

Jason Hart, WordPress Wizard, & Rob Ryan, Artist & Papercut Supremo.

Novelist Sarah Winman & stylish friend.

Mavis Bullwinkle & photographer friend.

Jodie Krestin & Pamela Freedman, formerly of The Princess Alice in Commercial St.

Paul Gardner, Market Sundriesman & Jo Waterhouse, Antiques Market Trader.

Nick Appleton, Animator & Paul Bommer, Artist.

Boudicca & admirers.

King Sour & his crew.

Paul Bommer, Artist, Kitty Valentine, Artist & Leo, Artist.

Carrom Paul, Proprietor of the Carrom Shop, supplied Carrom Boards.

Nikki Cleovoulou, Pamela Freedman & Renee Cleovoulou.

At one point the line stretched round to St John in Commercial St.

[youtube u2ej3o_ET2I nolink]

Photographs by Sarah Ainslie & Jeremy Freedman,

additional images by Alex Pink & Amy Smith

Film by Sebastian Sharples

53 Responses leave one →
  1. Kelly permalink
    March 5, 2012

    Ah such a wonderful event! how I wish I could have attended. Many congratulations on a most beautiful launch. I love seeing such friendly faces all joined in celebration. Well done!

  2. March 5, 2012

    the photos make me want to cry with joy- and gnash my teeth in frustration that I was a world away and couldn’t be there
    I’d kill for an eccles cake and a mug of tea right now.

  3. Jaki permalink
    March 5, 2012

    It was a splendid night indeed. Thank you so much for indulging me and signing my book for my cat 🙂

  4. melbournegirl permalink
    March 5, 2012

    Oh it looks like so much fun! I wish I could have been there. So happy you had such a lovely evening.

  5. March 5, 2012

    How marvellous. I hope your hand has recovered from all that autographing.

  6. John Kim permalink
    March 5, 2012

    I happened to be in London visiting a very close friend the day the first Spitalfields Life post was published. I remember meeting the gentle author and learning about their vision and hope for Spitalfields Life, which was then just a dream of words to come.

    At the time I wondered how the story of Spitalfields Life would unfold and how the gentle author would maintain their commitment to post an entry a day for 10,000 days to come.

    I have been inspired by the journey and scope of Spitalfields Life. Not only have I come to know a lovely part of the world and the people who inhabit it, I have also followed the journey of a magnificent person of letters who writes with true love.

    Thank you for Spitalfields Life. I could not be happier to read about the launch party’s brilliant success. I wish I could have witnessed it first hand.

  7. March 5, 2012

    I wish I had been there! Greetings from Spain.xxxx

  8. Lizzie permalink
    March 5, 2012

    I ordered my book on the day of the launch, and really wished I could have been at the launch party…it looked fabulous and truly mirrored the amazing diversity in Spitalfields, that appeals to so many!
    Greetings to the Gentle Author from Frankfurt.

  9. Annie permalink
    March 5, 2012

    This is how I imagine it would be to enter heaven.
    A well-deserved triumph, conducted in the spirit of this blog.

  10. Rowena Macdonald permalink
    March 5, 2012

    Dear Gentle Author, thank you very much for a lovely party. I arrived just as the bells were ringing, which was quite magical. I have to congratulate St Paul’s on the cheese – it was possibly the best cheese I’ve ever tasted. Truly a revelation in cheese-making. The Eccles cakes went with it surprisingly well, and the beer, also delicious, washed it all down very nicely. Being given a blood orange as we left was very stylish. Congratulations on your publication – it was great to see the face behind the words. Best wishes, Rowena

  11. March 5, 2012

    Hurray! Sounds fantastic! Wish I could have been there… and wish you could have lifted your head up from the signing a bit more. Perhaps another party is in order? 🙂

  12. March 5, 2012

    What a delight to read this post and to see how Spitalfields Life has united all these people for the party to commemorate the launch of your book (which I have ordered and await eagerly)

  13. March 5, 2012

    Wish I could’ve made it but am up to my neck in mud down here in Somerset 🙁 There is compensation though as I have my Spitalfields Life book to cheer me up. Congratulations on the birth of your book once you’ve forgotten the pain of this one will you have another? What if its twins?

  14. Vicky permalink
    March 5, 2012

    Walking up Brushfield St towards Christ Church with the church bells ringing out over Spitalfields I knew it was going to be a night to remember, and it was.

    The familiar faces and the colourful characters I have come to know through the blog were all there, I wanted to greet them as special friends. The food and drink were glorious (oh that cheese, to die for!) and the musicians put on a great show rounded off with us singing ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’ accompanied by children blowing bubbles. I would love to see the words of the second rap, perhaps King Sour could post a link.

    I did feel for you, GA, seeing such a long queue of people holding books and noticing how carefully you signed each one, giving each person your undivided attention.

    It was a fabulous success, I had a wonderful time, thank you so much Gentle Author.

  15. March 5, 2012

    Thank you for the invitation. My mother and I had a wonderful time.

    What struck me was that although we were all different on the surface, we all connected. (I’m not saying that very well, am I?)

    I regret having to leave before I could have my book signed. I will have to buy you a curry at the Herb and Spice and bring my book along. Just say when. It will be my pleasure to say Thank You for entertaining and moving me every morning when your email arrives.

  16. CLAIRE permalink
    March 5, 2012

    Well done ‘Gentle Author’ looks like a fantabulous night that was well deserved and attended, blessing to you and the new stories to be told x

  17. Sarah Colclough permalink
    March 5, 2012

    I drove from the far West to East for the wonderful launch. It was so very exciting to be amongst everyone and soak up the atmosphere. The highlight has to be meeting you the Gentle Author. I will treasure my signed copy with the words Sarah I am your loyal servant. Thank you so much!

  18. March 5, 2012

    How utterly glorious it looks. I felt so drawn in by the photographs. AND it’s wonderful to find — at last — someone in the South East of the country who understands the perfect combination of cheese and cake.

  19. March 5, 2012

    Now that’s what I call a party, unlike any book launches I’ve ever come across, the uke orchestra and mustaches with curling finials. Hope your book becomes a best seller.

  20. March 5, 2012

    It looks like a splendid time was had by all. I wish I could have been there too!

  21. Annie permalink
    March 5, 2012

    What a lovely book launch, thank you so much for the invitation. I was so pleased to be there.
    Wishing you every sucess for the sales of the book – it’s beautiful!

  22. John and Sue Satchell permalink
    March 5, 2012

    What a grand evening friday turned out to be! We met up with our friends Irene and Ivan from Petticoat Lane who had had the same premonition of meeting us as we had of meeting them! Stunning setting, fascinating people to see and wonderful, warm hospitality. Thank you for a great book, great food and a night to remember!

  23. March 5, 2012

    Such joy! My book has just arrived in the post … can’t stop … off to sample its delights.

    Thank you.

  24. March 5, 2012

    What a spendid evening you must have had! Congratulations!

  25. Peter Biernis permalink
    March 5, 2012

    Hi I really enjoyed the evening and so many friendly and engaging people. I travelled up from Bedfordshire. There was so many people I think that shows the depth of interest and love for the Gentle Author and long may it continue.

    I met a wonderful lady called Maria; unfortunately we lost each other later in the evening.

    It does show there are some wonderful and friendly people around, I think I had a feel good factor all weekend.

    Many many congratulation and I will treasure my copy.

  26. zuberino permalink
    March 5, 2012

    The turnout was astonishing! What a lovely evening it was, starting with the pealing bells of Christ Church which I could hear from a hundred yards away as I made my way in from the City. Fine speeches by the publisher and the vicar, very fine cake and cheese! Best of all was the handshake with TGA and his autograph in my copy of the book. Can we have one of these evenings again soon?!

  27. March 5, 2012

    I have a lump in my throat ,so emotional the whole event , how you have brought al these lovely people together ,am so pleased for you that the night will be remembered for all times. I hope you never tire of signing your book as I have to get mine online (I was there in spirit)
    again from the start of this beautiful blog , this magical space you have created where all are together , thank you gentle author for every single word,image and sense of hope …….x

  28. Sally Baldwin permalink
    March 5, 2012

    I think you’ve raised the bar in the publishing world for a book launch! But then you’ve raised the bar for bringing a neighborhood together. It’s the kind of thing that puts a real glow into the hearts of people a half a world away. Warmest wishes to you all!

  29. Jill permalink
    March 5, 2012

    Dear GA, I so wish I could have been at your special evening. I began reading your blog while researching my Rondeau/Huguenot family history, and reading it has become a part of my day. My husband knows not to interrupt my enjoyment of your words, so breakfast has become a silent affair!

    I congratulate you on having the dedication to create your daily postings and how fantastic there is now a book (I am awaiting the thump through the letterbox!)

    Thank you for introducing us to the many wonderful people who live in your neighbourhood. What a tonic in these depressing times.

    With best wishes, Jill

  30. March 5, 2012

    Congratulations on a wildly successful evening.
    Testimony to the remarkable thing you’ve woven and created and accomplished with Spitalfields Life.
    Best Wishes.

  31. Candice permalink
    March 5, 2012

    Dear Gentle Author,

    Congratulations! What a wonderful turn out. As a reader from the States, I would like to thank you for your blog which is so full of wonderful information and a lot of fun! Also, you were kind enough to me a couple of years ago when I e-mailed you about Spitafields Market to suggest my husband, nephew, and I go to St. John’s Bread & Wine for lunch. I will be forever grateful to you for that suggestion. We got back there again this past February.

    Anyway, congratulations on the book and the great turn out for its launch.

    Your friend in D.C., Candice

  32. Ruth permalink
    March 5, 2012

    “This is how I imagine it would be to enter heaven.” – that’s exactly what my 8 year old son did when he tasted that Eccles cake! It was wonderfully atmospheric to walk up Brushfield St to the church with the pealing of the bells. And what a turnout! Perhaps there should be an annual event…

  33. March 5, 2012

    A fittingly splendid evening to launch the Book. So many great and colourful characters, some I knew personally, and some, until the Launch, I did not. A huge congratulations, Dear GA, for a superb night! I wish you every success.

  34. PPMarra permalink
    March 5, 2012


  35. March 5, 2012

    I’m enjoying this from afar, not even a Londoner, but I’m all caught up in the stories.

  36. March 5, 2012

    Oh dear, I come to you late in the day if one considers that two years have already passed (I have some reading to catch up on) and early in the day considering there is another quarter century to come. I am delighted to have found you, your view of your world is a wonderful insight into both the past and future of our wonderful land. I believe I must be your newest Welsh follower, brought to my attention by an American visitor. What a small world it is!

  37. Rob C permalink
    March 5, 2012

    My wife and I were both there to share this moment with all the other fans of this fantastic blog.

    We had a wonderful time and a few wods from TGA made my wife’s night.

    Thank you

    Rob & Nat C

  38. jeannette permalink
    March 5, 2012

    mavis! king sour! surely this is what paradise must be like.

  39. andrea permalink
    March 5, 2012

    I thoroughly enjoyed this glimpse of what looks to have been a wonderful evening!

  40. Joyce permalink
    March 5, 2012

    Congratulations . . . and THANK YOU not only for a lovely evening . . . but also for reminding us everyday how special it is to be living here in Spitalfields . . .

  41. Gary permalink
    March 5, 2012

    Everything that I would say has been said in the preceding comments !
    Heres to the next two year cycle. Congratulations and Thanks.

  42. March 5, 2012

    So sorry to have missed it- such a good party.

    It took longer to get there than we expected so we only arrived at 7.30. Seeing the queue stretching round the block we thought we would never get in before the end of play so did a u-turn and headed back to Oxfordshire!

    For the next book I’ll leave more time …

  43. Chris F permalink
    March 5, 2012

    What a shame I had to be somewhere else on Friday night. What a turn out… Your words brought all of those people together and think how many more will be with you for volume two!
    Well done & congratulations.

  44. March 5, 2012

    I know I sent you a message before you posted this piece – I just had to thank you right away for a wonderful evening. It was lovely to read hear of your experience of the event. Like you, we found ourselves approaching the church just as the bells started ringing. It was such a nice touch. Although I bought your book on the night, I’m looking out for it in bookshops and if they haven’t got it I’m suggesting they should!

    Thank you again for a memorable evening and best wishes for the next 25 years of Spitalfields Life.

    Evie & Nigel

  45. March 6, 2012

    This was a magical evening; unique in book publishing terms and probably the largest gathering of notable locals and far-flung well-wishers ever assembled in Spitalfields for any purpose. We were bound for an unforgettable evening by the power of the Gentle Author’s vision through which he has illuminated the stories of a place and its people in the most sensitive and yet enlivening way, and one which, through the power of the internet, has instantly reached diverse people across the world. The book itself is a triumph of design and deserves to be the godfather of many other collections of blog pieces that one hopes could sometimes be opened on one’s knee.

    A few more photos of the evening can be found here

  46. Wendy permalink
    March 6, 2012

    So much love & friendship! Truly a testament to the work you have done. I’m so sorry I could not have been in London for the party. I am also jealous of those who got to catch a glimpse of you. Maybe one day! Wonderful that in this internet age, people have responded to your request for secrecy – hard to believe in a way.

  47. March 7, 2012

    Heartfelt thanks for making my move to this area and community so rewarding. And what a great party in the church. Your generosity of spirit is changing our lives … the cakes and ale went down well too.

  48. CHC permalink
    March 7, 2012

    I am finally catching up on my Spitalfields reading — business trips cut into the more important things in life. I wasn’t able to be in London for the party — but like all the commenters here, I send you thanks (again) for all the wonderful stories and people you have given us in the last two years. Long may you write, long may you share, so that no matter where in the world we are, we can share your beautiful city and your most particular, real world, the neighborhood of the East End. And I just ordered my copy of the book and I can hardly wait for it to be here!!! All the best, always, CHC

  49. March 8, 2012

    Hi there…just a reminder if you want to bring a few copies of yr excellent book down to Freedom Bookshop sometime…

  50. Anne Forster permalink
    March 8, 2012

    It looks to have been a wonderful evening. I so wished i could have been there but distance and work made this impossible. Perhaps you could consider a small tour around the UK !

    My copy of the book arrived today and I know I’ll have a great time reading again all the stories from the past two years. I have been a follower since nearly the beginning and it will be lovely to revisit the people and places you have written about .

    More power to your writing/typing hand. Well done GA

  51. jon medley permalink
    March 9, 2012

    Thank you so much for the invitation, and apologies to have missed such a wonderful occasion; congratulations on the success of the book.

  52. Alison Odell permalink
    March 20, 2012

    Thank you for signing Mavis Bullwinkle’s book without her having to queue, she had been poorly and did not want to stand out in the cold! I see she’s here again on the book launch photos!

    Great website – Mavis has her own copy of the book but I’m going to get one too!

    Your work has created much interest in Alderton Northamptonshire (where we live) as all the villagers here know Mavis well. We are holding her 80th birthday party here in May.

    Alison Odell

    Niece to Mavis Bullwinkle

  53. May 4, 2012

    I wish I lived in London. So much going on. Congratulations on the book, I will get a copy.

    Good Books

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