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Ninth Annual Report

August 24, 2018
by the gentle author

In late August, upon the anniversary of starting to write Spitalfields Life, it is my custom to make a summary of the year’s activities, prior to taking a short break and recommencing in September.

When I began nine years ago, my ambition was to write celebrating the people of the East End. More than three thousand stories later, this undertaking has proven an education. In learning of the extraordinary resilience of East Enders, equally I have become aware of their struggles.

In 2012, I was involved in the founding of the East End Trades Guild because I believe that independent shops and small businesses here need to collaborate to fight for their survival. The excessive increases in business rates and rents are destroying these small endeavours that have characterised the East End for centuries. You will have read in these pages of the plight of traders operating under railway arches as Network Rail hikes the rents to unrealistic levels prior to selling them off. Thousands of people in London and across the country will lose their livelihoods. Similarly, the redevelopment of workshops is destroying affordable workspaces for small trades. The human cost of this became starkly apparent with the suicide of Kevin Cordery, Clerkenwell jewellery worker, following his eviction from his workshop by a developer this spring.

In Spitalfields, the redevelopment of the London Fruit & Wool Exchange, retaining just the facade of the original building, nears completion. It will be occupied by a single international legal corporation replacing hundreds of small businesses that formerly occupied this publicly-owned building. On a more positive note, the architect for the monstrous development on the Bishopsgate Goodsyard has been fired, and the proposal for monolithic towers of luxury flats aimed at the international market and overshadowing the Boundary Estate abandoned. Meanwhile, British Land’s plans for the demolition of most of Norton Folgate remain in abeyance as the market for offices for financial industries declines in the City of London.

Gratifyingly, at the Geffrye Museum, the restoration is underway of the 1838 Marquis of Lansdowne that we fought to save. In the City of London, the corporation rejected the developer’s appeal to revoke the Asset of Community Value status for the historic Still & Star in Aldgate which we campaigned for.

No decision has yet been made about the future of the historic Bethnal Green Mulberry in the grounds of the former London Chest Hospital next to Victoria Park and I am hopeful it will be saved.

As you know, I support a scheme to save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry proposed by the UK Historic Buildings Preservation Trust and Arte Factum, reopening it as a working foundry marrying old and new technology, and offering apprenticeships and training to local people. Unfortunately the developer who has acquired the foundry wants to redevelop it as a boutique hotel like Shoreditch House. In order to proceed, they need to apply to the council for permission for a change of use from foundry to hotel. When this happens, I hope you will join me in challenging this application which would destroy the possibility of any future for the Whitechapel Bell Foundry forever.

Last autumn, I was proud to publish East End Vernacular, Artists who painted London’s East End streets in the 20th century, reclaiming the work of forgotten artists whose works form a continuum stretching back to the nineteenth century. This summer, I collaborated with Batsford Books to publish Adam Dant’s Maps of London & Beyond, collecting Adam’s celebrated cartography which has graced these pages in recent years.

Already a year has passed since the death of my beloved old cat Mr Pussy and now that Schrodinger, his successor, is established in his new home, I feel the time is right to bring out The Life & Times Of Mr Pussy, A Memoir of a Favourite Cat in September.

Over the next week, I will be publishing favourite posts from the past year until I resume with new stories on Monday 3rd September.

Thus another year passes in the pages of Spitalfields Life.

Click here to pre-order a copy of THE LIFE & TIMES OF MR PUSSY

Click here to order a signed copy of EAST END VERNACULAR

Click here to order a signed copy of MAPS OF LONDON & BEYOND

Schrodinger, formerly Shoreditch church cat, came to live with The Gentle Author this year

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

Seventh Annual Report 2016

Eight Annual Report 2017

46 Responses leave one →
  1. Marie-Anne permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Another year passes and another year of excellent posts from your good self!

    I am looking forward to receiving my copy of The Life & Times Of Mr Pussy (a very fine cat indeed and one never to be forgotten) and I hope that you will start gracing these pages with excellent stories about Schrodinger, who does indeed look like a cat with character!

  2. Jean Clements permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Thank you for another year of informative and enjoyable reports. Hope orders are coming in for the Mr Pussy book, so looking forward to it. Welcome Schrodinger

  3. Dianne permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Thank you GA for your sterling work in bringing Spittlefields back to life and to the minds of many, particularly those overseas. Solely thanks to you we enjoyed two weeks in Spittlefields last year and could happily fill in many more.

    I look forward to continuing to read your charming, warm and informative stories for many years to come.

  4. VANDA HUMAN permalink
    August 24, 2018

    I would love to purchase the book The Life and Times of Mr Pussy, but unfortunately I live on the other side of the world and theft is so rife in this country that I would never receive it. Hoping when my son and daughter emigrate to the UK they will purchase it for me.

  5. Debra Pritchard permalink
    August 24, 2018

    I have only very recently discovered the Gentle Author and now enjoy waking up and reading the blog; always fascinating. Personally I have no connection with the East End however my partner is the descendent of a family of Lithuanian furniture makers who settled in the East End in the early 1900’s. We think they took over a business called Prank & Sons and specialised in bamboo furniture. Now I’m retired from 34 years in teaching this research is on my ‘to do’ list.

  6. Barbara Anglezarke permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Have a lovely and truly well-deserved break GA! Thank you as ever for all your fascinating stories and introducing us to such interesting people and their rich and varied lives. Looking forward very much to a whole Mr Pussy extravaganza next month.

  7. Paul Loften permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Thank you.. The term “blog” has just entered another dimension. Your work over the nine years has brought it all together for the East End. Spitalfields Life is something quite execeptional.

  8. Christopher Glen permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Thank you for your blogs – I always enjoy reading them, and they inspire me for the day ahead. Have a relaxing break!

  9. Greg Tingey permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Schrödinger’s feline sneer is really good, even by cat standards! ( The Birman who lives with me is equally good at disdaining mere humans, I’m afraid )
    Good for The Corpration regarding the Still & Star ….

  10. Jill Napier permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Thank you for celebrating the richer parts of London life. Thank you for the breadth of your interests. Thank you for your everyday and always enlightening blog, your support of important campaigns and your delightful books… East End and London wide Institution, best wishes in your 10th fantastic year…..

  11. Dean Armond permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Excellent stuff, do keep up the good work!

    Never underestimate how many people appreciate your writing and are grateful for all your hard work campaigning to preserve the finer elements of Spitalfields Life and its environs!

  12. August 24, 2018

    Many congratulations on your nine years. I love my breakfast reading of your blog posts.
    Welcome too to a very fine cat, Shrodinger.

  13. Patricia Taylor permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Thank you so much for all your postings – you always inspire and education me.
    Enjoy your break.

  14. August 24, 2018

    Well done, another great year of your diary.

  15. Yvonne Kolessides permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Once again I simply thank you for making my days oh so interesting! Cheers x

  16. Leana Pooley permalink
    August 24, 2018

    I think I’ve written this before but I’ll write it again: WHAT A HERO YOU ARE! I’ve acquired several years’ knowledge of the East End – all enjoyed in the safety of Acton.

  17. August 24, 2018

    Thank you Gentle Author for yet another year of beautifully written and inspirational posts, long may they continue but in the meantime………enjoy a well deserved break.

  18. Jane Jones permalink
    August 24, 2018

    A wonderful body of work. I love my daily posts, even though I no longer live or work in London. Congratulations for all your remarkable endeavours and achievements, and welcome to Schrodinger. Let’s hope he opens our hearts, just as the adorable Mr Pussy did. Every best wish for another fulfilling year.

  19. Nicola J permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Always beautifully written and photographed, it is like walking with you on your journey. I look forward to hearing all about Schrodinger in the days to come; it has been quite an event meeting Mr Pussy. Enjoy your well-earned break.

  20. John Curno permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Thank you for your informative and entertaining blogs of the last nine years. They have helped me understand some of my great aunt Adelaide’s life in Spitalfields.

    Love Schrodinger’s little white gloves, they make him look like a little freemason.

  21. August 24, 2018

    You have done good work these past years. Shrödinger is a very handsome and ecclesiastical looking cat. Valerie

  22. Mari Nicholson permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Congratulations on both the Blog and your fight to preserve the heritage of the old East End. As a former Londoner I knew the area well and if age permitted it, I would still visit, although its current appearance might bring tears to my eyes.
    Please post any notices of dissent about architectural vandalism or suchlike happenings, so that we can sign same.

  23. August 24, 2018

    I have been enjoying your blog since the inception 9 years ago. Always interesting, keep it up!

  24. david whittaker permalink
    August 24, 2018


  25. mlaiuppa permalink
    August 24, 2018

    I congratulate both you and Schrödinger for finding each other companionable. He has certainly made an extended transition from homeless to pampered. I suppose the church was better than the streets and now your home is an improvement on the church. He would never find a sheepskin covered chair by a warm fire in the church, nor did he get to enjoy fresh food every day. Roast chicken once a week? What cat wouldn’t be pleased? May you both enjoy each other’s company for many, many years. I look forward to reading many stories about the life and times of Schrödinger, the cat who is and isn’t there.

  26. August 24, 2018

    Tossing roses your way, and rolling a cat toy across the floor to Schrodinger.
    But, seriously — I so appreciate and value what you have created. Your readers are the grateful
    beneficiaries of your dedication and passion. We thank you.
    Onward and upward, GA!

  27. Helen Breen permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, thank you for reviewing all that has been accomplished, and what you hope to bring to fruition, in the ninth year of SPITALSFIELDS LIFE.

    Like hundreds around the world, I start my day by reading your column in my email every morning. You richly deserve a few days holiday break. Enjoy! And see you in September…

  28. tim permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Spitalfields, like the rest of London, has been destroyed by property developers.

  29. Jill permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Thankyou Gentle Author, it’s been amazing, inspirational and hear-hear and encore to all of the above.

  30. Susan permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Thank you for another year of wonderful writing. I’ve learned so much about London through your posts, and you’ve inspired me to read and explore more about Spitalfields and its history.

  31. Mike Z permalink
    August 24, 2018

    You’ve earned top marks again this year.
    Please, may we have another?

  32. Su C. permalink
    August 24, 2018

    What a remarkable year! Thank you, again, for sharing the east end with me here in Oakland CA. I take advantage of being ‘in the know’ when we visit London to see and do things out of the ordinary – thanks to your observations.

  33. Georgina Briody permalink
    August 24, 2018

    I so look forward to your daily news of London life. As one who has cats and fostered them, I’m looking forward to receiving Mr Pussy’s book and future news of Schrodinger,a fine specimen of a cat.

    Enjoy your break and look forward to another year of news. I would not miss it for the world.

  34. DAVID LAWSON permalink
    August 24, 2018

    We join with many others in thanking you for your efforts both this last year and before.
    It is our hope that you are able and also willing to continue bringing us your views, meetings and experiences for many years to come.

  35. Delia Folkard permalink
    August 24, 2018

    I wish you an enjoyable, relaxing and well deserved break but can’t believe that you will be able to totally switch off. Thanks for another year of varied and interesting blogs. I have learnt so much from them since my retirement. I have also had the honour of meeting you several times, the last time was at the Town House for the book signing of Adam Dant’s wonderful book which now sits proudly on my new bookshelf. It was me who unfortunately knocked over a glass of red wine while you talking to my husband – once again, apologies!!

  36. August 24, 2018

    Congratulations on an excellent 9th year!

  37. stuart goodman permalink
    August 24, 2018

    thanks for a magnificent series of publications which show what a community can achieve. really appreciate your efforts.

  38. Simon Trussler permalink
    August 24, 2018

    I have only once before posted a comment, so perhaps this anniversary is a good moment to say that none less I read and have enjoyed your blog since I first discovered it four years or so ago, turning to it in relief after browsing the online newspapers. A fine celebration of the lives of many who would otherwise pass unregarded, and of course excellent also when campaigning against those who would like to leave the area without such characters and without its soul. And blessings to Shrodinger, too: yes, let us know of him too, looks to be a worthy successor to Mr Pussy.

  39. Jill Wilson permalink
    August 24, 2018

    Yes – thank you for all the fab blogs this year, not only well crafted and informative writing but lots of great photos too of such a variety of London stories. But like many other people, my favourite story has to be the one announcing that Schodinger had found a new home with you and it is brilliant to see him looking so smug and comfortable now!
    My other favourite blog was the one saying that there might be fresh hope for the bell foundry.
    The alternative proposal sounds both imaginative and viable, and I do hope it goes ahead. Please keep us informed of progress, and if we need to help with any protests if that or any other dodgy planning decisions go the wrong way…
    Keep up the good work, and enjoy your well deserved break !

  40. pauline taylor permalink
    August 24, 2018

    I echo all the sentiments expressed above and would award no-one any prizes for guessing who will be the boss in a certain house in Spitalfields now. Welcome Shrodinger.

  41. Ian Silverton permalink
    August 25, 2018

    Well done GA, great work,keep going your very much loved on here,your blog,keep up the good work,and all the best for the future.

  42. August 25, 2018

    Well done! Love Spitalfields Life! You are most certainly a bona fide Spitafields treasure! Thank you for the continued knowledge and pleasure you give to us your admirers. Deborah

  43. August 25, 2018

    I wish you well for anther year of blogging. Spitalfields Life is wonderful project.

  44. Enid permalink
    August 26, 2018

    Thank you for informing us, making us think and reflect, and entertaining us for another wonderful year. Enid and Mr. Enid

  45. August 26, 2018

    A friend of mine sent me your latest “letter” (or is it a blog ?) which I greatly enjoyed reading.

    Like almost all of inner London, Spitalfields has changed enormously since I worked there with the Bangladeshis and others, as a Community Planner in the late 1980’s.

    Though the stage and actors have changed, the drama remains the same ! An age – old drama underwritten by geography and rising land and rental values . . .

    The proposals for the Bell Foundry seem preposterous and must be intelligently resisted . Likewise, inner London needs more, not less, genuinely affordable housing and workspace.

    My very best wishes to you.

    Michael Parkes.

  46. Jill permalink
    August 27, 2018

    Goodness – nine years! Thanks for entertaining us and keeping us abreast of all the issues facing people living in the neighbourhood. And you have a new cat! He looks beautiful. Enjoy your break.

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