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At The Launch Of My Album

October 20, 2013
by the gentle author

The crowds pour into Christ Church

In Spitalfields, the October dusk was gathering as the bells rang out through the narrow streets to summon the crowds and, when the great wooden doors swung open, the excited throng poured in to fill the magnificent baroque church.

But Crudgie, London’s most famous motorbicycle courier, celebrated for his great height and astonishing facial hair, was already inside. Ever ingenious at finding ways in, “Don’t people realise there is a side door? “ he queried with more than a hint of swagger. I showed him his portrait in my Album. “Oh! Couldn’t you have airbrushed my nose?” he gasped, exclaiming in surprise at seeing himself. “It’s a very fine nose, Crudgie,” I reassured him, as he took consolation in a glass of Truman’s beer.

Just that morning, I had collected the huge screen sewn together by the tailor in Hanbury St from fabric supplied by Crescent Trading in Quaker St, and now favourite images from the Album appeared shining like apparitions in the gloom of the old church. After all the months that designer David Pearson and I worked through the night to make the most beautiful Album that we could for you, it was a joy to see people taking up the treasured copies and leafing through them with eager curiosity now.

With newly-purchased copies under their arm, guests were enjoying Justin Gellatly’s spicy buns and slices of his enormous ‘Cathedral Loaf ‘served by the team from Leila’s Shop. One by one, people from the Album appeared as if they had stepped from its pages to join the party.

There were Punch & Judy Professors meeting Wax Ladies from Wentworth St meeting Boxers photographed by John Claridge. There was Gary Arber the printer, Henrietta Keeper the ballad singer, Sandra Esqulant the Queen of Spitalfields, Clive Murphy the Oral Historian, Viscountess Boudica the Trendsetter from Bethnal Green, Mister Mondo representing the Pellicci regulars, among many others – and Aaron Biber, London’s Oldest Barber at ninety-one years old, was guest of honour. Meanwhile in a corner, Barn the Spoon produced an unfeasibly large pile of wood chips as he took the opportunity to show off his bravura spoon-making abilities by knocking up a few examples for guests.

Then it was time to sit at a table and inscribe copies of my Album and enjoy the rare opportunity of this special occasion to meet you, the readers. It was an extraordinary moment, as I sat signing books – after writing more than fifteen hundred stories over the last four years and two months – to realise how far we have come together. And it fills me with excited anticipation to continue in my chosen path through the years that lie ahead and discover where it will all lead…

Event photographs by Simon Mooney & paparazzi shots by Jeremy Freedman

On bookshop duty, Charlie De Wet and friend enjoy a bracing drink before the doors open

Leila McAlister serves Justin Gellatly’s spicy buns with slices of caerphilly to Punch & Judy Professors

Glasses of Truman’s Swift & Swallow to quench our literary thirst

Stefan Dickers, Archivist at the Bishopsgate Institute, makes the speech of welcome

Admiring Adam Dant’s ‘The Map of Spitalfields Life’

Actor Harry Landis settles down to look at the Album

Paul Gardner regales Ros Niblett and Jo Waterhouse

Tate & Lyle Concert Party Veteran, Henrietta Keeper, sings

Roger Mills and Mavis Bullwinkle spotted in the crowd

Carrom Paul was teaching the rudiments of Carrom

At 91 years old, Aaron Biber London’s Oldest Barber, was guest of honour

Pearly Queens enjoy a chinwag

London’s most famous motorcycle courier, Crudgie, flirts with Joan Rose

Barn the Spoon quickly produced a pile of wood chips

King Sour performed his poems

Henrietta Keeper signed autographs for fans

Staff of Bishopsgate Institute performed as ‘The Costermongers’

Remembering Philip Christou of Gina’s Restaurant

Photographer, Jeremy Freedman, got out his ring flash and turned paparazzi, as you see below

Pictures above copyright © Simon Mooney

Pearly King grapples with Tayo & Abby Abimbola

Delwar Hussain and Julie Begum

Landlady of The Golden Heart & Queen of Spitalfields, Sandra Esqulant, & Rodney Archer, Aesthete

Photographers Bob Mazzer & Patricia Niven with Paul Bommer, Artist.

The glamorous Abimbola sisters of Franceskka Fabrics in Wentworth St

Henry Freedman with Philip Pittack of Crescent Trading

Angling Writer, John Andrews, & the Duchess

Cheers to the Spitalfields bell ringers!

The Truman’s van arrives at Christ Church

Paparazzi shots copyright © Jeremy Freedman

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On Publication Day For My Album

36 Responses leave one →
  1. October 20, 2013

    Hundreds of congratulations to you ‘the gentle author’ and all involved. What an achievement from start to finish, best wishes from a relatively recent reader, who always looks forward to her daily dose of Spitalfields life, as I start my day in my shed in the Med.

  2. Léo de Hurlepète permalink
    October 20, 2013

    What an evening ! Whish I had been there and can’t wait to get a copy of your album. I l♥ve your blog, Gentle Author.

  3. Alex robertson permalink
    October 20, 2013

    As a fan of around one year, it is fascinating to see how the fan club has grown. Wish I could have been there.
    Good luck for the future.

  4. Jeannette permalink
    October 20, 2013

    it looks like a paradise of conviviality and communitarianism. i am so proud to be an early reader, and so proud to think of where you came from and where you’re going. thank you, and congratulations.

  5. stephanie permalink
    October 20, 2013

    What a huge turnout. Would have loved to have been there amongst the gathering of tales and have chewed a bun/sup the beer. Great to see the church buzzing and may the Album set you/us upon fresh adventures.

  6. denise merrill permalink
    October 20, 2013

    How wonderful for the Album,s characters to ‘come to life’ for the launch – Congratulations on your future classic. Out of small beginnings a huge, rich tapestry has flown enfolding you like the winter bedcover!

  7. October 20, 2013

    What a fantastic event and a success you truly deserve! …I wish I could have made it.To create a sense of community where there was not one in this day and age is a towering achievement !

  8. Annie permalink
    October 20, 2013

    What a wonderful evening! If I wasn’t at the top of the M1 I would have loved to come along and join in the merriment. All best wishes for the book’s success.
    PS hope Mr Pussy enjoyed the peace of a cosy evening at home alone.

  9. October 20, 2013


  10. Linda Gumbleton permalink
    October 20, 2013

    What a wonderful evening! So pleased for a successful book launch and the joyfulness generated. A testament to community spirit.

    Love Linda

  11. October 20, 2013

    Wow, it looks so fantastic, sorry I couldn’t be there! Valerie

  12. October 20, 2013

    My wife & I had a wonderful evening Enhaced when I bumped into Phil maxwell & partner. Thank you gentle author. Terry P

  13. Elli (Elizabeth) permalink
    October 20, 2013

    Am new to the site, but feel right at home as an eastender brought up in Morpeth Street, Bethnal Green and having spent most Sunday mornings down the Lane. I was enticed to view the Gentle Author by my dear friend Tanya Nye. I first looked through and discovered a Billingsgate Fish Market article which was interesting for me as my Dad worked as a porter all his life, apart from the time he served in the 2nd World War. He also served briefly in the 1st World War, joining at the age of 16 after lying about his age. He finally retired from Billingsgate Market at the age of 81 to look after my Mum. I still have his stamped market documents, unfortunately not his badge.
    Was good to see the evening at Christ Church went off so well, lots of interesting people turning up. Was lovely to see the Pearly Queens chatting, haven’t seen them in a long long time. I remember our Morpeth Street Pearly Queen giving me some exotic feathers my Mum stitched to my hat for my role as Prince Charming in an Ivy Travers Christmas Special of Cinderella performed in the Hackney Empire.
    Just want to ask if Crudgie is related to friends of mine called Crudgington. Would be a co incidence but they do happen occassionally.
    Nice to see photos and looking forward to reading more.

  14. Mr Jones permalink
    October 20, 2013

    A great shame I missed this, it looks like a very warm event with a superb mix of characters.

  15. Pamela Smith permalink
    October 20, 2013

    The Pearly Kings, the Pearly Queens, the cheese, the Truman beer, the church, the night. Thank you for a great time and wonderful book. Then to walk around unplanned, looking at the ever changing place and people. Buildings with faces and faces like buildings. Well worth the trip from Winchester.

  16. samantha permalink
    October 20, 2013

    Congratulations on the book, looks wonderful!

    Seeing the Adam Dant map reminded me to tell you that I purchased one when I first saw it on Spitalfields Life. I framed it and gave it to my partner as a present with the addition of a little sticker with a picture of an tangerine on it, stuck on the corner of Hanbury St and Brick Lane – which is where I was first introduced to him and he was having difficulty peeling an orange. I showed him the best way to peel it was to squeeze it a bit first… 10 years later and living in the wilds of northern England, we have Adam’s map (with our little addition) to remind us of one of our favourite places in the world!

  17. Sally Baldwin permalink
    October 20, 2013

    Congratulations, Spitalfields, for having a living treasure in your midst in the form of the Gentle Author!

  18. Peter permalink
    October 20, 2013

    What a brilliantly happy gathering,I wish I’d been there. So pleased to see Boudica’s name mentioned and also good to see that dogs weren’t excluded.You must have had a wonderful evening,congratulations on the Album,I hope it’s a huge success.
    Best regards,Peter.

  19. Lana Douglas permalink
    October 20, 2013

    Dear Gentle Author,

    As a fan of your blog for a few years, I have delighted in learning about this special part of London, past and present. Your posts have made Spitalsfield come alive, and I especially enjoyed this post, seeing all the subjects of your writing interacting. Not only are you a superb chronicler of a time and place, you give life to its people and have, unwittingly (or perhaps not), created a new community of people who would probably never otherwise have known each other. We, on the other side of the pond, comment you. I wish you nothing but the wildest success with your newest publication and will certainly purchase it the next time I’m in London.

    Lana Douglas
    Dallas, Texas USA

  20. Valerie Paynter permalink
    October 20, 2013

    What a gem of a church. Reminds me (the feel) of St. Andrews in Waterloo Street in Hove (much smaller, more modest than this one). Congratulations on what was obviously a very successful book launch in an area showing how Community is done. Lead in no small part by your good self with this blog, it must surely be credited.

    It isn’t easy to pull off these days.

  21. Mlle paradis permalink
    October 20, 2013

    wonderful crowd! Everyone looks so happy to be together in the room and in the album. Congratulations.

  22. Sally permalink
    October 20, 2013

    Many congratulations on the Album. Loved the pictures of the Launch evening.

  23. aubrey permalink
    October 20, 2013

    Wishing you all success with this new publication.

  24. Nan Holcomb permalink
    October 20, 2013

    Eagerly awaiting the arrival if my copy here in Seattle, WA, USA! Wish I could have been there for the launch party, but very much enjoyed the photos!

  25. Jonathan Rickard permalink
    October 20, 2013

    If my lower limbs still worked, I’d quite literally have flown across the Atlantic to be there. You’ve made so many of the people you’ve profiled so appealing, I’d have enjoyed meeting some of them. Huzzahs on your publication!

  26. Marla permalink
    October 20, 2013

    Gentle Author,

    I have no recollection of how I stumbled upon you and Spitalsfield but I am an avid fan.

    So wonderful to see your characters intertwine in such a lovely celebration!

    Best Regards,

    Marla Mazar Carr
    Pine Island, Florida

  27. October 21, 2013

    Sorry that I couldn’t make it but had to congratulate you on bringing this splendid work to fruition.

    Always a pleasure to meet you at the C&BG Reunions


  28. Christine Carder permalink
    October 21, 2013

    That really looked like a great party.I am looking forward to seeing the book.
    Hope my son cleared up his wood shavings!
    So enjoy reading your daily stories of life in the East End .
    thank you.

  29. Erica America permalink
    October 21, 2013

    Congratulations! What a lovely turnout and fun atmosphere!

  30. terry permalink
    October 21, 2013

    It is wonderful to see such a great turnout well deserved.
    From a fan who could not be there to share in your moment

    T from NYC…USA

  31. Ron Pummell. permalink
    October 21, 2013

    Congratulations Mr. GA, I enjoyed the evening. One small point, call me old fashioned if you wish, but should not all gentlemen remove their headdress inside a church?

  32. William Sovie permalink
    October 21, 2013

    Congratulations! Looks like it was a wonderful night.

  33. Alice permalink
    October 21, 2013

    Congratulations! I really enjoyed the evening and loved all the local collaborations you’d orchestrated for your launch, including the ‘Spitalfields Life’ brown paper bags for your Albums.
    (Glad to have been among the Spitalfields Music volunteers minding the fire doors)

  34. Barbara permalink
    October 27, 2013

    What a wonderful evening it was ! When the bells started ringing out over Spitalfields ,I felt it was such a magnificent way to announce the arrival of the London Album. Congratulations GA , the book is a masterpiece!

  35. Eddie Johnson permalink
    November 1, 2013

    I live in Suffolk now but if I’d known about the launch I would have loved to have been there…Good Luck, Eddie Johnson once a pub landlord.

  36. saeed malik permalink
    November 3, 2013

    great launch many congrats for such a hard working gentle author

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