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Fifth Annual Report

August 22, 2014
by the gentle author

Five years ago, I began to write daily in these pages without any expectation of where it might lead or what the outcome might be, and now the business of seeking a story and getting photographs and putting it all together has become my way of life. I consider myself privileged to pursue an occupation that offers such a constantly renewing source of interest, avoiding any possibility of boredom and providing an ongoing education upon the subject of human life.

Regular readers will be familiar with my recurring preoccupations and ongoing enthusiasms yet, as I go about my primary task of seeking subjects for interview in the East End, I never know what I shall discover. Even after five years, I still do not know what story I am going to write next but I have learnt to trust in the knowledge that, although I rarely have any stories planned beyond a few days ahead, material will always appear – and, as this anniversary confirms, it does.

It is my hope that no-one can predict what they will discover each day in these posts and the spontaneous, ever-shifting circumstances which lead to the creation of these stories mean that commonly I do not decide what I am going to write until the night before. My aim is to publish each new story at one minute past midnight but, as night-birds will have noticed, it often happens much later because I am still writing for a few hours beyond the appointed time. The rule is – I cannot go to sleep until I have finished my story, which concentrates the mind wonderfully.

Increasingly, readers write to send pictures, submit suggestions and offer introductions. Many leads arrive this way, providing the opportunity to do interviews, take pictures and write stories that might not otherwise be possible. A year ago, I did not know about the tube photographs of Bob Mazzer or Horace Warner’s portraits of the Spitalfields Nippers of of 1901, so it fills me with excited anticipation to wonder what else may arrive in future.

A highlight of this year was the launch of the East End Preservation Society last November as a means to bring together all those who care about the East End at this time of crisis, when too many old buildings are being needlessly destroyed. The overruling of the unanimous vote by Tower Hamlets Council to save the Spitalfields Fruit & Wool Exchange by Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, and the demolition of the Queen Elizabeth Children’s Hospital without any significant public consultation, are two recent events that underlined the necessity of collective action. Encouragingly, the saving of the attractive nineteenth century terrace in Valance Rd, which is the last surviving fragment of the Pavilion Theatre complex, was a heartening early victory for the Society as it faces up to challenge the overblown and soulless developments proposed for Norton Folgate and the Bishopsgate Goodsyard.

It never occurred to me that publishing on the internet might lead to publishing printed books but I am very proud that in the last year, alongside the daily posts, four books have appeared under the Spitalfields Life Books imprint – Travellers’ Children in London Fields by Colin O’Brien, The Gentle Author’s London Album, Brick Lane by Phil Maxwell and Underground by Bob Mazzer. These titles were made possible by the generous investment of  the readers of Spitalfields Life.

This November, I look forward to publishing the complete Spitalfields Nippers by Horace Warner from 1901 – including the twenty photographs he gave to the Bedford Institute in 1911 alongside more than a hundred portraits from his personal albums in the possession of his grandson, which have never been seen before outside the immediate family. We are currently undertaking research to discover what became of each of the children in Horace Warner’s pictures and this will be revealed in the book.

As long term readers know, my ambition is to publish ten thousand stories here in these pages which, at the rate of one a day, will take twenty-seven years and four months. It was an undertaking I adopted when I realised both my parents died at the same age and that I had ten thousand days left until I reached that age myself. In the five years since I began, I have produced more than eighteen hundred stories, leaving me twenty-two years and four months to meet my goal. As a writer, this task was the best means I could devise to ensure I made the most of my time.

Thus the path has been laid down and now I plan to continue along it. These first five years have more than exceeded my expectations, brought me a great deal of joy and introduced me to such a multitude of inspiring people. Yet, as I go forward, I am aware that more possibilities become available all the time, so I hope you will stay with me, because I can guarantee it will be an eventful journey we shall have together.

And thus, with all these thoughts in mind, I come to the end of this fifth year of Spitalfields Life.

I am your loyal servant

The Gentle Author

For the next week, I shall be publishing favourite stories from the past year and resuming with new stories on Monday 1st September.

You may like to read my earlier Annual Reports

First Annual Report 2010

Second Annual Report 2011

Third Annual Report 2012

Fourth Annual Report 2013

82 Responses leave one →
  1. Susan P permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Thank you for these wonderful portraits and stories, and happy anniversary.

  2. Kelly permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Thank you for every amazing post. Congratulations on finding your life’s work and celebrating 5 years of adventure. I am so grateful to you.

  3. August 22, 2014

    Congratulations on five years of blogging, and here’s to the next 22 years and four months’ stories. I don’t think my life will be long enough to read them all, but I will try! Valerie

  4. Sarah Lily permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Dear GA, its been a delight to wake up to your stories and sometimes catch up on those that I might have missed, late at night. You remain an inspiration. Thank you. I hope you received the book. Your loyal reader.

  5. Glenn permalink
    August 22, 2014

    We thank you for your 1800 stories. I particularly like the interviews with lifelong East Enders or people who return to see the area after many years. Please continue your great work.

  6. August 22, 2014

    I’ll be with you all the way! I love reading your posts and learning more about East London. And I’ve enjoyed your post today. It’s inspiring to read what has inspired you. Fantastic!

  7. August 22, 2014

    Dear Gentle Author,
    Congratulations on 5 wonderful years – your writings and photos are inspirational, insightful and eye-opening. I never tire of them, and love the way you write.

    Remember to let us know if you have something good for our young London360 reporters to capture on camera – their role is to capture the untold stories of London’s hidden communities, for reporting on Community Channel and LondonLive.

    Keep going!
    caroline x

  8. 'liza Hardy permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Congratulations. Your stories are very enjoyable. I look forward to them each day and shall continue so to do. I hope you continue to enjoy them too. (And all the best to the cat as well)

  9. August 22, 2014

    I love you’re blog. I love the photos, the way you write, the diversity and the wealth of insight into the human past and present. If I don’t get time to read the posts daily, I bulk read, absorbing and pondering in one mug filled session.

    Your posts have galvanised group action and, personally, inspiration. I believe you may be a humble author in addition to being gentle. I believe your parents would be very proud.

    Thank you x

  10. August 22, 2014

    Gentle Author, you are an Angel of Intercession ever challenging the “overblown and the soulless.” We will all, of course, stay with you until ten thousand of your stories have synchronistically appeared to you and unfolded before us. I am so grateful for your presence of light in this sometimes dark world. I look forward to learning something new every day about that special place far across the sea in the east End of London.

  11. Bee [Tingey] permalink
    August 22, 2014

    How refreshing to read something that has a clear purpose. If only politicians laid out theiur goals as clearly.

    It’s a joy to read Spitalfields Life. Each morning I search for items that might lead me to my ancestors who inhabited Spitalfields for so many years. I look for Bell Lane, long demolished, and Thrawl Street among others and all surrounding areas of the East End.

    I wish you well for the next twenty two years and four months, I, probably, will have ‘moved on’ by then but I’ll be looking down and still enjoy reading Spitalfields Life!

  12. August 22, 2014

    Many congratulations on this amazing feat. Spitalfields Life is a constant joy, full of fascinating stories and intriguing people.

  13. August 22, 2014

    I must congratulate you on your fascinating blog. Having just recently started my own blog I know how difficult it is. I read recently that to write a successful blog you have to have so strong an interest in the subject that you cannot believe that other people will not find it as fascinating as you do! Sometimes I wake up in the morning with an idea that is bursting out of my head and I am almost late for work because I have to finish the post. My “New Robot Club” has just 36 posts (and I have not managed one every day!), so I am certainly a novice, but it is very satisfying to see it grow. Good luck with the next 27 years and four months, and may your blog continue beyond that.

  14. Greg Tingey permalink
    August 22, 2014

    And a health to Mr Pussy, too!

  15. August 22, 2014

    Thus is my embassy to the Gentle Author: I am with you more than one year now and your articles are the daily inspiration for me. I think and hope we all can go on with it this way for quite a further while!

    Thanks and best wishes!

    Love & Peace

  16. jeannette permalink
    August 22, 2014

    congratulations. you give me hope for the future of journalism, cities, good people, and the east end. i hope to still be reading 22 years from today, with gratitude and thanks.

  17. August 22, 2014

    Dear Gentle Author,

    It is a joy each morning to see what story you bring to us. Congratulations on the success of your wonderful, original and life affirming venture. I love both the pictures and the writing. I am devotedly your faithful reader and look forward to the many years ahead.


  18. Annie permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Dear GA (and Mr Pussy, naturally) – your blog is the first thing I look at in the morning and it always sets me up for the day. Never dull, frequently fascinating and a daily dose of genuine curiosity, Spitalfields Life has become an indelible marker for me in my northern fastness. Kindest regards to both of you and here’s to the next twenty-odd years! Huzzah, three cheers and bung ho.

  19. sarah Sapper permalink
    August 22, 2014

    I look forward to reading your blog every morning; and I want to wish you every success with it. I am already looking forward to seeing what you will be writing about tomorrow. Well done on 5 years and here to the next 22 years and 4 months !!

  20. August 22, 2014

    I always think that you must be a very Special Person!!

  21. August 22, 2014

    Definitely staying with you…a fascinating, entertaining and always thought-provoking read every day. Thank you for it.

  22. David permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Dear Gentle Author
    On behalf on my wife and myself I merely want to thank you for the endlessly fascinating flow of articles which consistently add to our knowledge and love of East London where we both have our family roots.
    We wish you the health and strength to achieve your target and hope we have the ability to continue to enjoy your efforts for many years

  23. Enid permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Dear GA,

    I can speak only for myself but I suspect that many, many others must feel the same as I do – your promise means that I know that however good or bad any day turns out to be there will always be one life-enhancing oasis of sanity, humanity, interest, reflection, delight, inspiration and even stimulus for action.

    With thanks, and many congratulations,


  24. Lancelot Taylor permalink
    August 22, 2014

    May there be a further 22 years of Annual Reports. LONG LIVE THE GENTLE AUTHOR!
    Hip hip, etc, and another round of punch.

  25. Andrew Sindall permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Thank you Gentle Author, for undertaking this great endeavour with such modesty and humility. Your daily writings bring enormous joy and interest to me and numerous other fellow travellers to this great City. My warmest wishes to you.

  26. Mirela Mardare permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Thank you for all the amazing stories over the last 5 years!
    You have opened up a whole new world for me.

  27. August 22, 2014

    Thus is my message to the Gentle Author: I am with you more than one year now and your articles are the daily inspiration for me. I think and hope we all can go on with it this way for quite a further while!

    Thanks and best wishes!

    Love & Peace

  28. Anne James permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Congratulations to you for your magical writings… I especially enjoyed the recent photos of the buildings around your area. I am especially interested as all my maternal ancestors have origins in Spitalfields and Bethnal Green, indeed some were weavers. I am presently trying to research those weavers who left Spitalfields and went to East Anglia.
    Once again, thank you. Your writings are fast becoming a highlight for me!
    Kind regards

  29. August 22, 2014

    Congratulations on completing another year, Gentle Author! I’m so glad I found out about your blog three years ago, your stories have been a daily delight ever since. Every morning when I open my e-mail, it is with the pleasant anticipation of a new discovery, a new and wonderful surprise. Apart from that, your stories help me stay touch with a very special period in my life, when I came to London to work on my third novel – it’s like I’m still living there a little. Thank you so much for all the work you have done so far and the delight you have brought to your readers. I keep looking forward to the next story, and the next…

  30. Ken Howard permalink
    August 22, 2014

    I’d like to join other well-wishers in appreciation of your daily shot of urban insight that is so refreshing wherever one might be. It is important to realise that our past is so much an integral part of our present. Thank you

  31. August 22, 2014

    Your blog gives us great pleasure every morning. Long may it flourish!

  32. August 22, 2014

    Congratulations and happy anniversary. It is always a pleasure to visit your blog.

  33. August 22, 2014

    Congratulations Gentle Author, glad you’re doing it xx

  34. Gary Arber permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Cogratulations on yet another year of excellence.
    The power of what started as a little blog by one author and a cat has developed into site that has reached out all over the world and the interest that you have generated has powerful effect.
    Your initial interest into my little East End Press has resulted in my case, into the saving of 6 antique printing machines, with a huge battle to try to save the press and with three articles in national papers and my story filling over a page on google and my getting support from hundreds of people.
    More strength to your elbow and thank-you for everything

  35. August 22, 2014

    Your well-written posts give me so much pleasure each day, Gentle Author, as well as lots to think about too. so thank you for all your industriousness. (I will try not to worry about you losing sleep while you write your posts., but do take care!) Congratulations on all your work, and on your five fine years.

  36. Nick permalink
    August 22, 2014

    a good read

  37. August 22, 2014

    I’m still reading after all these years. I’m not sure how I found you but I’m glad I did. It’s been a very pleasant activity watching from so far away – from the beginnings of your blogging workshops, to the books and outings with the locals. But your main gift has been the thread of ordinary life you offer us each day which not only gives us an interesting monologue, it’s also creating an important and significant record of your world.

  38. August 22, 2014

    What a very wise and interesting person you are. I look forward to following you and Mr Pussy for many years to come.

  39. August 22, 2014

    Dear Gentle Author, what a marvellous undertaking this is – and will be for years to come. And even if a London bus gets you tomorrow, you will have enriched all our lives – subjects, readers and residents – immeasurably. Thank you.

  40. William permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Congratulations on another anniversary! An extraordinary blog – always filled with a new wonder every day. Thank you, GA, for bringing these stories and musings to us all.

  41. Terry permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Happy Anniversary
    I am a reader from New York City and so enjoy starting my mornings at my desk with my coffee and you.
    On my visits to London I continually try to visit places you speak about with my London friends who without your blog would never know about some of the magical places you enlighten us too.
    Here’s to reaching all your goals

  42. Jill permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Many happy returns of the day! Thank you for your dedication. You have opened up an area of London that previously was dragon territory for this south of the river girl, now living abroad. I have now made a point of visiting Brick Lane and the bookshop on my trip home this summer.

  43. Susan permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Congratulations on your anniversary, and thank you for five years of wonderful posts!

  44. Rachel permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Congratulations!!! I have only recently discovered your wonderful site and have been enjoying it with my morning coffee here in NYC for the last year. I grew up in NYC and have seen many changes, some good and some very sad. Those sad moments for me occur when beautiful old buildings come tumbling down only go have soul-less glass boxes go up. There are whole neighborhoods that I no longer recognize and I find myself missing the tenement walk-ups that used to line the side streets. They are still here, but fading quickly. Thank you for enriching your readers by showing them the history that could still be saved.

  45. John Daltrey permalink
    August 22, 2014

    I just want to say thanks and please don’t ever stop.

  46. Jeanne Mann permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Over the centuries my family have gradually moved further away from The East End but the area
    around Spitalfields still holds a fascination for me and for many others who have caught my enthusiasm
    for your pages. It’s always a pleasure to receive and read the emails. Thank you.

  47. annie permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Thanks so much for your stories – always so interesting and diverse.
    I hope I’m around to continue reading them for the next 22 years!

  48. Jane permalink
    August 22, 2014


    Every morning I serve my pets breakfast then make two mugs of strong tea and return to bed to drink the tea and enjoy your post – a very fine start to a day. Jane

  49. August 22, 2014

    My father was born in Cannington Town and was brought to Canada by his Mother n 1912,
    I receive the Spitalfield News via a friend in Blackheath. I have your book “Spitalfield News”
    and the book on London, but would like to know about your book on Brick Lane. Details please.

  50. August 22, 2014

    Dearest GA, Congratulations on this milestone. I love to read the stories, and it is amazing of the abundance of these that exist when you take the time to look. (as an aside, I would love to know Mr. P’s Christian name).

  51. August 22, 2014

    Congratulations on your 5th anniversary. I am a devoted fan who reads you daily in Portland, Oregon (half the year) and in Cañar, Ecuador (the other half). As a writer, photographer and archivist, I am inspired by your work and aspire to eventually do something similar in Cañar, an indigenous region in the Andes of South America.

  52. Peter Holford permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Congratulations on reaching the five year landmark. I admire your eclectic range that meets a wide range of tastes and interests. Keep up the good work – here’s to the next five years!

  53. Miss Gherkin permalink
    August 22, 2014

    May the next twenty-two years and four months be as fulfilling to you as the first five years have been.

    Best wishes,

    Miss Gherkin

  54. Pauline Taylor permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Dear Gentle Author,

    Congratulations from me too on your fifth anniversary. There seems very little that I can add to all these comments except that I agree wholeheartedly with them all. Everything that I have read on here has been a delight, and you have added so much to my knowledge and understanding of life past and present in the East End, and south of the river too. I am always late with comments as I always catch up with you, and Mr Pussy, when I get home from work, it is something that I look forward to every day. Thank you.


  55. August 22, 2014

    What an incredible five years – and from a readers perspective, everyday brings a new reveal, a peep behind the veil of the forgotten, bypassed or over-looked London.

    A salute is due and a raise of the glass to your legacy and unwritten future

  56. Chris F permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Because of you I know more people who live (or have lives) in the East End, than I do in my own neighbourhood. I never miss a post… Well done & keep up the good work…

  57. Elizabeth cornwell permalink
    August 22, 2014

    I have enjoyed your posts for the last 2 years since I finally succumbed & went on line!I do enjoy them very much even though I live miles away in Northumberland,I feel I know your little corner of London very well.Keep on writing !& love to Mr Pussy!

  58. August 22, 2014

    Congratulations – and here’s to many more years of wonderful posts!

  59. Christine Carder permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Dear Gentle Author,
    As a relatively new reader I’d like to say thank you for so many informative and enjoyable reads.I have learnt so much about the East End and it’s former and present inhabitants ,I love the stories and photography and look forward each day to see what you have written I am so glad you met my son because I would never have come across Spitalfieldslife and I would have missed so much treasure.

  60. Matt S permalink
    August 22, 2014

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last year’s worth of your posts since following your blog – onwards for the next 22! Thanks for all your hard work.

  61. August 22, 2014

    I have been following you since my daughter Romilly and I moved into Princelet Street. We are now in London Fields but I turn to your stories all the time. I have learned such a lot about East London & the world beyond. Thank you.

  62. Erica W. permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Thank you, Gentle Author, and Happy Anniversary. I look forward to spending the next 22 years reading reading your posts, which would bring me up to right around the age of my own parents’ demise. Let’s hope we both make it!

  63. Caroline permalink
    August 22, 2014

    Thank you. Thank you so much.
    It has been a delight sharing your project, something I look forward to every day, and shall continue to do so for the next twenty two (all going to plan)

  64. Victoria permalink
    August 23, 2014

    Happy anniversary GA to you and Mr Pussy. Your post is the one I read first each morning and I look forward to the next year.

  65. August 23, 2014

    Dear modest gentle author… everything I wanted to say has already been said. You have indeed enriched our lives immeasurably. Be very proud of this stupendous achievement!

  66. August 23, 2014

    I’m late to the party but glad to be along for the next part of your journey. As someone who recently started blogging with the same lack of expectation or outcome, it’s encouraging to think that five years from now I might look back at joy and a multitude of inspiring people. However, I live in a community of only 8 people, so I may have to travel farther afield than you do to find them!

    I’m moved by knowing how you set your goal of a story a day for ten thousand days, and I admire your tenacity in meeting your goal. Thank you for sharing these stories.


  67. Carla permalink
    August 23, 2014

    I live in Canada and may never get to the UK but through your stories and pictures I know I’m seeing and experiencing the real London, England. Thank you so much for the excellent tour.

  68. August 23, 2014

    Gentle Author what you are doing is fantastic but please don’t think too far ahead as it is depressing to think about. Just take one day at a time, enjoy being in the moment, experience is a great teacher. We all live and learn, there is always something new everyday. Enjoy writing and meeting fascinating new people. Your beautiful Mr Pussy is your faithful companion to keep you happy. Good luck with your wonderful writing. I look forward to it everyday. By the way where did you get that gorgeous jug from?

  69. Su C permalink
    August 23, 2014

    Gentle Author:

    I paint abstracted pictures of people in their everyday place. Lately it is from the many travel photos I have of London – many from Spitalfields or Shoreditch. Your perspective on your people (they are vibrant! they are the foundation! they are important!) is infectious and I am inspired in new ways every day by your documentation of this marvelous place! Thank you for sharing ‘your paintings’ with me so I might be motivated – every day!

    Good health to you.

  70. Michael Brown permalink
    August 23, 2014

    A magnificent achievement! I fully echo all the comments made above, and look forward every day to the next instalment of Spitalfields Life

  71. Claire permalink
    August 23, 2014

    After five years, you’re still–or even more so–one of my favourite things out there in the world. Keep going! Your determination and charm are an inspiration. With gratitude, from Canada.

  72. Valerie permalink
    August 23, 2014

    I love your stories and pictures – happy anniversary

  73. Craig permalink
    August 24, 2014

    HUGE congratulations to you …
    A fabulous achievement …

  74. Danny permalink
    August 24, 2014

    Congratulations from a New York City resident who has always loved London, and knows so much more about it now, thanks to your wondrous work.

  75. Jill permalink
    August 25, 2014

    Wow – five years! Many congratulations and we look forward to being introduced to many more interesting people.

  76. Patricia permalink
    August 26, 2014

    Congratulations TGA & Mr Pussy!
    Such an incredible accomplishment.
    Looking forward to taking photos with you for another 22 years & 4 months!

  77. Sheryl Marmo permalink
    August 27, 2014

    Dear Gentle Author:

    Thank you and Happy Anniversary. I wonder if you have any idea how far reaching is the effect of your stories and pictures . My sister is a writer in Los Angeles and I am a painter living temporarily in Florida. We receive, enjoy and discuss your blog and have been inspired and enjoyed it immensely.

    The book of the Travelers Children is going to be her Christmas present this year. The stories of various painters past and present inspired me to begin in earnest after a dry spell and I now have a one person show hanging nearby.

    As the animal lover of our family all the pictures of dogs and cats are wonderful and I own a cat, Inky, by name, who looks exactly like yours.

    Lastly, both of us are involved in historic preservation on our respective coasts, and have been only too happy to participate in your efforts to save precious evidence of the East Ends. history. I never imagined myself writing a letter to the Hackney Council.

    Thank you so much for everything.


  78. August 28, 2014

    Dear Gentle Author

    congratulations on your fifth!
    i am thrilled that we (at the mannequin factory) appear to be one of your favorites of the year – it was a great honour to have you visit, sadly the mannequin factory will be no more after May next year since the site is being redeveloped. We are however moving to a new factory and do hope you will come and visit us there.
    Heres to the next five years….and beyond
    best wishes from all at proportion>london

  79. Michèle permalink
    August 29, 2014

    Our black cat, Chakra, is very fond of Mr Pussy. We have been following you since the beginning and thank you for the good reading.

  80. Janice Humpage permalink
    September 1, 2014

    Thank you Gentle Author for your wonderful stories and Congratulations on your Fifth

    I have made many visits to the East end since I have been reading your posts, it has opened
    my eyes to a part of London I new little about,
    I have enjoyed exploring where you have trod and it has been a wonderful experience,

    Thank you,

    Janice , [ 72 yrs young ]

  81. Barbara permalink
    September 26, 2014

    Spitalfields Life has become an important part of each day for me. I am addicted and have spent hours reading through the archives ! Thanks a million for such wonderful posts and an even bigger thank you for your contributions towards the preservation of the East End . Congratulations on five incredible years , looking forward to all that follows. x

  82. Shawdian permalink
    December 14, 2015

    Five years your emails have fallen into my box and I hope that I too will still be around when you complete your 27th year, it will not be for the want of trying . It will be intruiging to note the changes in our own age comparing from the first year of your blog. Will we even have ‘blogs’ or will these cyber writings be something completely different…. I will still be with you in your journey and once again my BIG THANK YOU and my HUG for Mr Pussy 🙂

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