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The Meeting of the Old & the New East End in Redchurch St

June 4, 2012
by the gentle author

(Click to enlarge and explore this drawing)

In recent years, Redchurch St has become the conduit through which the culture of the New East End has been channelled into the Old East End, as the street that was once part of the infamous Old Nicol slum has been transformed into London’s most fashionable destination. At one end is Shoreditch, lined with new media enterprises and expensive bars, while at the other end is Brick Lane, with its street markets, leather shops and beigel bakeries. And in the middle is Adam Dant, the last artist left on Redchurch St, living and working in the midst of the hullabaloo.

Celebrated as a cartographer extraordinaire, Adam took his satirical pen in hand to create this epic social panorama of The Meeting of the Old & the New East End in Redchurch St populated with hundreds of characters, both real and mythological, that compose the identity of this notorious thoroughfare. At the far end, drunken Foxtons estate agents characterised by their pointy shoes and spiky haircuts collapse in a drunken heap while leaving The White Horse strip pub. Ken Livingston is about the run them over by driving a bendy bus round the corner as Boris Johnston falls off the open platform of a passing Routemaster. All this drama, yet you are merely on the threshold of Redchurch St.

Meanwhile, amongst those representing the Old East End, you may recognise Richard Lee, the bicycle parts seller whose family have been trading on Sclater St since 1880, and the young Charlie Burns, the legendary waste paper merchant who died recently at ninety-six, portrayed here at seven-years-old, put in a halter by his father to pull the waste paper cart round the City. Elsewhere in this extravagant fantasy (eerily not too far from the reality) the iconography of Old and the New East End appear to have become mixed up as members of Shoreditch House have relocated from their rooftop swimming pool to a flooded hole in the road and a pop-up brothel opens for business nearby. Amongst the mayhem unleashed in this tiny street by the surreal culture clash between flashy new money and long-term poverty, spot Terence Conran, Keira Knightley, Bud Flanagan, Pearlies behaving badly, a pack of dogs from Hoxton and urban foxes on the prowl.

“We are presented with a plastic version of the authentic, here at the City fringe,” Adam confided to me in a discreet whisper as we walked together down the street in question, “In Redchurch St, behind this scruffy fascia of poverty, people on laptops are designing apps.”

For local cognoscenti, Adam’s drawing is a chance to test your people-spotting skills while, for the rest of us, it is a welcome opportunity to chuckle at human folly.

Drawing copyright © Adam Dant

You may like to take a look at some of Adam Dant’s other work

The Redchurch St Rake’s Progress

Map of Hoxton Square

Hackney Treasure Map

Map of the History of Shoreditch

Map of Shoreditch in the Year 3000

Map of Shoreditch as New York

Map of Shoreditch as the Globe

Map of Shoreditch in Dreams

Map of the History of Clerkenwell

Map of the Journey to the Heart of the East End

Click here to buy a copy of The Map of Spitalfields Life drawn by Adam Dant with descriptions by The Gentle Author

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