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Seventh Annual Report

August 26, 2016
by the gentle author

Today, after publishing more than 2,600 posts and over 31,000 photographs in these pages, we arrive at the end of the seventh year of Spitalfields Life. Customarily I produce a celebratory annual report reflecting upon the anniversary of my starting to write in August 2009, but this year the moment is coloured with sadness by the unexpected death of my good friend and long-term contributing photographer Colin O’Brien a week ago.

My deepest sympathies are with Jan O’Brien, his widow after thirty-five years of married life. We plan to organise a memorial service for Colin and the date will be announced in the autumn, so that you may join us in paying your respects.

Foolishly, when I set out to write Spitalfields Life every day, it never occurred to me that the people I wrote about and whom I worked with might die, or that the acknowledgement of their passing would become part of the project. I have discovered that my ambition to pursue stories no-one else would write carries a certain responsibility, causing me to recognise that if my account is perhaps the only written record of a person’s life then I have a singular duty to do them justice.

Inevitably, many of the people whose stories you read in these pages become friends and, like others in Spitalfields, I feel the tragic loss of Rodney Archer who was such a popular figure in our community. Equally, I was alarmed to get the call from Viscountess Boudica of Bethnal Green the night her flat was burgled and I found myself wedging a broom handle across her kitchen window, where the thieves had entered, to prevent further criminal ingress. Readers will no doubt all be relieved to hear that the reports from Uttoxeter are good and the Viscountess assures me she is settling in well, up in Staffordshire.

The act of producing a story every day makes me very conscious of time passing, of the transient nature of the world and of the rapidity of change. Yet writing is both a consolation and a bulwark against all these things, a means to preserve, record and cherish the fleeting brilliance of life. Consequently, I have never had cause to regret my promise that I made seven years ago to publish a story every day, because it has filled my life with such richness of experience. Undertaking this work has introduced me to so many people that I should never have met in any other circumstances, while the constant search for subject matter forces me to explore the world more conscientiously, uncovering wonders that would otherwise pass me by.

Publishing books is another means to cherish pictures and stories that deserve permanence, and I am very proud of the three Spitalfields Life Books publications for which I was responsible as publisher in the past year – Baddeley Brothers, Cries of London & John Claridge’s East End. Baddeley Brothers tells the story of London’s oldest-established specialist printers, Cries of London celebrates four centuries of artists’ images of street traders and John Claridge’s East End is a candid insider’s portrait of an entire society observed by a distinctive photographic talent.

This November, Spitalfields Life Books is taking the bold step of publishing its first biography. The Boss of Bethnal Green is Julian Woodford’s shrewd account of the breathtakingly-appalling life of Joseph Merceron, Huguenot, gangster and corrupt magistrate, who ruled Bethnal Green & Spitalfields from his house in Brick Lane through violence and intimidation for half a century.

More recent criminals and political miscreants in the East End pale by comparison with Joseph Merceron’s staggering violence and ruthlessness, and Julian Woodford’s eloquent biography – the first on this subject – makes compelling reading for all those interested in eighteenth century London, anyone fascinated by the capital’s criminal history and everyone who loves an exciting true story well told.

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

I am your loyal servant

The Gentle Author

The Gentle Author’s cat, Mr Pussy, fifteen years old and still thirsty

Published October 2015

Published November 2015

Published June 2016

For the next week, I shall be publishing favourite stories from the past year and I am delighted to announce that the distinguished Novelist & Historian of London, Gillian Tindall will then take over for the week commencing Monday 5th September to celebrate the publication of her new book The Tunnel Through Time, until my return on Monday 12th 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

Fifth Annual Report 2014

Sixth Annual Report 2015

53 Responses leave one →
  1. Janet M permalink
    August 26, 2016

    Congratulations on 7 years. Because of this blog I have met many interesting people, both virtually and in real life. I hope that there are at least 7 more years (I realize this is a tall order). And hugs to Mr. Pussy, he is looking very dapper in his latest portrait.

  2. August 26, 2016

    Congratulations on 7 years, and for bringing so much to our notice in this time. I’m looking forward to the next 7 years! Valerie

  3. Lloyd Adalist permalink
    August 26, 2016

    Thank you so very much for writing for us every single day. For several of us here in Seattle in the US, it is one of the ways we keep tabs on the Capital, your neighborhood and the country we each love so much. Forward!

  4. Penny permalink
    August 26, 2016

    Dear dear Gentle Author, thank you.


  5. August 26, 2016

    Your interviews and photos are marvellous. It is an incredible record of life. Interviewing ought to bring responsibilities -it doesn’t normally – but on SpitalfieldsLife readers know they are reading what your interviewees wanted to share. It inspired me to do similar in Islington. Well done for 7 years . But how sad to learn Colin has died.

  6. Kat permalink
    August 26, 2016

    Congratulations! And thank you for all the wonderful stories.
    It brings a litte piece of London to Germany every day … please carry on!

  7. August 26, 2016

    Bravo, Gentle Author! Your posts are always informative and entertaining: arresting photos and beautiful writing. Here’s to seven more years…

  8. Georgina Briody permalink
    August 26, 2016

    Congratulations on seven years Gentle Author. I look forward to your blog and it was my lucky day when I found Spitalfields Life – bringing news from an area close to my heart – thank you.

  9. Deborah permalink
    August 26, 2016

    I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your friend. I only discovered your blog comparatively recently, but each post is a joy. Thank you for your wonderful stories.

  10. August 26, 2016

    Seven years…what a great achievement. Congratulations from a loyal reader.

  11. August 26, 2016

    Dear GA – your stories never fail to move me. Congratulations on this anniversary and many thanks for all your hard work.

  12. August 26, 2016

    Many thanks for the AGM. The recording of the passings makes this blog a truly human – and humane – work, worthy of an entry into the annals of the city. And the joy of Gillian Tindall! I love her books and have read The House by the Thames so much that it is in pieces now. I am glad you added the photo of Mr Pussy and his damp whiskers: my very similar black cat is another thirsty creature. Perhaps it is to do with the breed? Put the feet up metaphorically if not literally, GA.

  13. Marian Monas permalink
    August 26, 2016

    Thank you, Gentle Author, for your wonderful writing.
    Best wishes
    Marian Monas

  14. August 26, 2016

    Thank you, it is my daily pleasure

  15. Robert permalink
    August 26, 2016

    Thanks GA. I don’t always comment but I’m always fascinated and charmed by your stories. They provide an account for people born long afterwards of life in the early second millennium. Sad to hear of a death but it’s better to celebrate their life.

  16. Ken Powell permalink
    August 26, 2016

    An amazing achievement – please don’t stop!

  17. Annie S permalink
    August 26, 2016

    Many congratulations on your 7 years GA!
    I have been a reader for most of that time and I enjoy your interesting daily posts.
    Living ‘just up the road’ in N16 I have been able to attend some of the events you informed us of – visiting gardens in Spitalfields , a book launch, your talk at the Portrait Gallery and being part of the chain at Save Spitalfields so you have brought things into my life I wouldn’t have otherwise known about.
    Thank you!! Here’s to the next seven years!

  18. August 26, 2016

    Thank you – and congratulations. It is good to record the lives of the faithful ordinary people of our world- as the Good Book says ‘the memory of the just is blessed’

  19. August 26, 2016

    Thank you for all the history you share

  20. Neville Turner permalink
    August 26, 2016

    A task well done.Spltalfields Life a unique and distinctive reflection of London’s east end life and people.Keep up the good work.

  21. lynne ellis permalink
    August 26, 2016

    Dear Gentle Author , Congratulations on the seventh anniversary of Spitafield’s Life . I always start my day reading your emails .Thank you. Here’s to the next seven years . Fond regards Lynne & Jim McBarron .

  22. August 26, 2016

    Dear Gentle Author,

    I promised many years ago, in an e-mail, to tell you the rather convoluted story about how I, being half Greek and half Swedish, came to fall in love with the East End of London, mostly through a strange, heart-warming incident by which I unexpectedly happened upon your brilliant book Spitalfields Life, which quite naturally, when I’d read it, led me to continue by devotedly reading the blog from which the stories in the book were taken.

    I never told you that convoluted story, but one day I will.

    Today, however, I will want to thank you kindly for Spitalfields Life and congratulate you on the seventh anniversary!

    This is the one – I am not making that up – blog on all of the Internet that I read, and you continue to keep us readers as fascinated and entertained and informed as you have always done.

    Thank you, Gentle Author. Thank you.

    All the best,
    Anders Bellis

  23. August 26, 2016

    I have just found you and realize I have seven years to catch up on. All the best for the next seven!

  24. August 26, 2016

    Thanks to the G.A. and please keep on writing!

    Love & Peace

  25. August 26, 2016

    I only recently discovered your wonderful blog and it’s a joy to read. So sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. I look forward to your next year!

  26. August 26, 2016

    Thank you GA. Your blog enlightens your captive audience & reminds “east enders” how it is & how it used to be. Good & Bad. Gawd bless yer

  27. Terry permalink
    August 26, 2016

    Hip Hip Ha rah 7 years well done. Always a joy to spend my morning with coffee and you.
    Looking forward to many more mornings of pleasure.

  28. GM Briggs permalink
    August 26, 2016

    I count my lucky stars that I somehow found your site so many years ago. I end each day reading what you have written. I always look forward to your chronicle of Spitalfields and the people who make it special. Happy Anniversary! Wishing you many, many more years.


  29. Nella Logan permalink
    August 26, 2016

    Congratulations GA and thanks so much for all the interesting, amusing, moving, compassionate stories you have shared with your very appreciative audience.

  30. Adele permalink
    August 26, 2016

    A little bit of the East End in my NW corner of NYC. I faithfully read and enjoy your blog with my morning cuppa – it’s become part of my retirement routine. So thank you GA, and condolences on the loss of your close and talented friend Colin.

  31. August 26, 2016

    Thank you for your labours and love of life.

  32. Orit Friedland permalink
    August 26, 2016

    I feel lucky to have found your blog years ago. It has given me immense joy and a daily chance to pause and reflect on what you so aptly describe as “the fleeting brilliance of life.” Spitalfields Life is certainly a brilliant part of my life, although I live so far away. Thank you GA for sharing all this wealth, from your loyal reader O in Tel Aviv.

  33. Peter Holford permalink
    August 26, 2016

    7 years. I take my hat off to you GA for your assiduousness in keeping to your target. Always a pleasure to receive the daily email from you – I always read it. Thank you and best wishes for the next seven years.

  34. August 26, 2016

    Congratulations on the anniversary, and also on your books. It is so true that one has a responsibility in writing about others and must use it wisely.

  35. pauline taylor permalink
    August 26, 2016

    What can one add to all the previous comments, I agree with them all, your blog is a tremendous achievement GA, well done !! There has been so much that adds to my knowledge of where all my London ancestors lived and what life was like for them, and much much more fascinating history as well, the list is endless.

    It’s great to know that Gillian will be helping again, I too love her House on the Thames book my copy is in within reach as I write.

    My thoughts are very much with Colin’s wife Jan as I lost my own dearly loved husband after 36 years of marriage, and it seems such a cruel and horrible loss and much too soon, please pass on my sympathies to her. Thank you GA.


  36. Susan permalink
    August 26, 2016

    Congratulations on seven years, and thank you for all of the incredible stories and beautiful writing you have so generously shared with your readers. Thank you also for introducing this American reader to parts of London that I would never have discovered on my own.


  37. Paul R permalink
    August 26, 2016

    Hugely excited by the prospect of the Joseph Merceron biography, I seem to remember being shown his fantastically ornate signature many years ago by my grandfather . (He was the executor to two of my ancestors’ wills)

  38. Ros permalink
    August 26, 2016

    yes, what to add to the comments already made, except maybe to say that I love the jug that always features in your annual reports with different flower arrangements, and this year’s photo is as beautiful as any of them. It’s also a particularly moving report, and your celebrations of the joys and sorrows that come your way, especially the celebration of people, is precious.

  39. Ardith permalink
    August 26, 2016

    Congratulations on seven years of consistently providing your readers with quality content, TGA. This achievement is not to be taken lightly. It takes true talent to produce such a prodigious collection of writing, photography, and personal insights. You have shared the heart and soul of Spitalfields.

    This year has proven to be a bittersweet one for you, so thank you for being so open with your true feelings about those you have cared for and lost, or who have needed to move on. We as observers have had the rare privilege of glimpsing into the qualities you came to appreciate. This is an honor not overlooked by readers like me.

    So, happy anniversary and may you continue to be as inspired to share as you are now.

    Cheers, Ardith

  40. Susan Lendroth permalink
    August 26, 2016

    You are my London. On my bus ride to downtown LA or at night in the evening quiet, I’ve explored church crypts and hidden gardens and met everyone from barge men to bagel makers to the wonderful Mr Pussy. I have been a follower for nearly all of your seven years and can only hope you will guide me for at least seven more. Happy Anniversary!

  41. John Campbell permalink
    August 26, 2016

    Gosh, is it that time again! Many thanks for another year of stories which are my window to the world. Reading your words has been my daily pleasure for many years now and i hope you continue with your wonderful work for many years to come.
    Best Wishes,

  42. August 26, 2016

    Spitalfields Life is like a window into a place. It connects me, vicariously, to the city and never fails to remind me of the humanity that binds us wherever we live. Good luck with year 8.

  43. Wendy permalink
    August 26, 2016

    Thank you Gentle Author for your wonderful daily communication and many congratulations on the completion of your 7th year. In the same way the writings have become an integral part of your life, they have also become a much enjoyed and important part of mine. As a southerner living ‘up north’, I visit London as much as possible to enjoy and learn from its many spendours. Thank you for all the interest and teachings your fantastic work provides and for feeding my continual passion for this amazing city.

  44. Leslie permalink
    August 27, 2016

    Congratulations on your 7 year anniversary. I have enjoyed reading your posts – the people, the area, the current events, and the history that you have chronicled. And I’m sorry for the loss of your friend.

  45. Robert permalink
    August 27, 2016

    Congratulations on such a wonderful and moving effort. I read you every day and your writing is so moving and an inspiration to all..

    Best wishes for the next 7+

    a loyal reader..


  46. Susan H permalink
    August 27, 2016

    I suspect many of your readers become quite attached to the people you introduce us to (I would be one of those readers). So it is always very sad when we learn of the death of a Spitalfields friend or colleague, especially untimely ones like the talented Colin O’Brien. Ditto for the many hardships the Viscountess has suffered – that’s so upsetting. But I have no doubt the attachment we feel is due to your ability to bring their stories to life so vividly. It certainly is a testament to the superb quality of your writing. I only wish I didn’t live a continent away – it would be wonderful to attend some of your events!

  47. August 27, 2016

    ‘No medium has yet been devised for the translation of life into language, nor can any words recall the dazzling fluidity of days. Single yet fixed in sequence, they fall like the shaft of a cataract into time and through it’. – Freya Stark – Beyond Euphrates

    But you have made one of the best attempts yet to bring us life as it is and has been lived in this fascinating part of London. Floreat Spitalfields Life.

  48. Jill permalink
    August 27, 2016

    Many congratulations on your seventh anniversary. I cannot imagine breakfast without your wonderful prose so thank you so much for commitment.

  49. Tuppenny permalink
    August 27, 2016

    I hope that we may read many many more anniversary reports from Spitalfields.
    I look forward to the new book. Its on my Christmas list.

  50. Richard permalink
    August 27, 2016

    Congratulations and thanks

  51. August 28, 2016

    I’ve been with you from the start! Here’s to the next seven years.

    All the very best to you.

  52. Mem permalink
    August 29, 2016

    Dear Gentle author, You have enriched my life greatly . I have discovered things about my heritage and that of my children which I would never have found . I have so enjoyed your many articles and the sensitivity with which you write and photograph your subjects . I am so very gload you embarked on this project 7 years ago .

  53. August 29, 2016

    This is my favorite blog. Ever. Happy anniversary and keep up the fantastic work.

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