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Tenth Annual Report

August 24, 2019
by the gentle author


‘How can I ever describe the exuberant richness and multiplicity of culture in this place? This is both my task and my delight.’


Ten years ago this week I promised to publish a story every day here in the pages of Spitalfields Life. When I began, I had no idea of where it might lead and I certainly did not expect to be here ten years later, typing with a single finger of my left hand after breaking my writing arm by falling from a Mulberry tree.

Yet I have no regret because this whole endeavour has enriched my life immeasurably. The hundreds of interviews I have undertaken and published have been an education for me in the nature of humanity. I have learnt that there is no such thing as an ordinary person. But, more importantly, I like people more. The city has become a more human place for me. The privilege of my work is that it has given me the opportunity to meet so many inspiring individuals. I cannot walk down the street now in Spitalfields without someone greeting me.

People sometimes address communications to the ‘Spitalfields Life team’ yet it is only me that puts the stories together and publishes them. Nevertheless I could not do this without a great many talented and magnanimous collaborators. There are so many I cannot name them all here lest I risk missing someone, but you will find their names everywhere in these pages.

Quite soon after I started, I realised that I needed help with photographs and I have been blessed to work with an astonishing team of distinguished photographers, who in turn have taught me to take my own photographs.

It was never my expectation to publish books, yet the success of virtual publishing has led to publishing nineteen volumes. I shall never forget the launch of my first book, Spitalfields Life, in March 2012 when more than three thousand readers stormed Christ Church and, for the first time, I came face to face with those I write to every day.

In my own career, I have known both success and disappointment. Consequently, it has been a great delight to be able to publish the work of writers, photographers and artists whom I admire, bringing sometimes neglected images and texts to the wider audience that they deserve. This whole process has been uplifted by the involvement of the top book designers working in this country.

I always seek the stories that no-one else is writing, but I never anticipated that by telling these stories I would become part of the story myself.

In these ten years Spitalfields has changed greatly. Through hundreds of interviews with shopkeepers, I learnt how many were struggling and, in 2012, two hundred met in Christ Church to form The East End Trades Guild of which I am proud to be one of the founders, advocating the interests of local small businesses.

The successful campaign led by Spitalfields Life saved the 1838 pub The Marquis of Lansdowne in Dalston from demolition in 2013. Out of this came The East End Preservation Society of which I am again proud to be one of the founders, campaigning to protect heritage and challenge exploitative development in the East End. Currently there are campaigns to Save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and Save the Bethnal Green Mulberry.

When you begin to write a story you never know where it will lead. When I interviewed the master bell founder at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in 201o, I did not expect to become involved in the story of the foundry myself. When I was taken to see the oldest tree in the East End in 2015, the Bethnal Green Mulberry, I did not know that it would lead to me falling out of a Mulberry tree and breaking my arm, years later….

When I started, I was drawn by the freedom of publishing online and having a direct relationship with my readers, without any of the intermediaries that exist in other media. Over the years a significant readership has accumulated and these loyal readers have encouraged and inspired me in my work, sustaining me through the years in this curious quest.

So I conclude my tenth annual report with a thankyou to you, the readers, because without you none of this would have been possible.

Thus another year passes in the pages of Spitalfields Life.

I am your loyal servant

The Gentle Author

Spitalfields, 24th August 2019


Over the next week or so, I will be publishing favourite stories from the last ten years while I enjoy a short holiday.






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

Ninth Annual Report 2018

83 Responses leave one →
  1. Robin permalink
    August 24, 2019

    How is your arm G.A.? Hopefully mending well.Thanks for keeping up the blog. Your’s is the only blog I’ve ever followed. Cheers.

  2. Catherine permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Congratulations! I’m so glad that you have persevered and I’ve enjoyed reading your essays over the years on such a fascinating variety of topics. Have a lovely and well deserved holiday.

  3. Anne Vinden permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Your wonderful descriptions, and encounters with wonderful people – and wonderful photographers – have offered this reader anchorage in a world it would be easy to lose one’s way in.
    Thank you so very much for what you do. And may your arm heal soon.

    My very best wishes
    Anne Vinden

  4. August 24, 2019

    Congrats on 10 successful years. Enjoy your holiday! Valerie

  5. Rachel Walsh permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Congratulations on your 10th anniversary!
    I have been an avid reader of Spitalfields Life for perhaps half that time, across the globe in Australia. This year, I visited London for the very first time and was delighted to see so many of the sights from your pages ‘in real life’. Your thoughtful interviews, gorgeous photography and the bites of history you serve up (so useful to a writer of fiction set in Victorian-era London!) are endlessly fascinating. Keep up the great work, and I wish you a speedy recovery during your break.

  6. August 24, 2019

    Thank you for the the heartening writing that I look forward to every morning! May it continue for years and years to come! Congratulations on your 10th anniversary

  7. Jane Jones permalink
    August 24, 2019

    This is by far my favourite daily news source. A great body of work and a wonderful achievement. Many thanks and every best wish for your continuing endeavours.

  8. Georgina Briody permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Congratulations on your 10th Anniversary……I have followed you daily. You have opened up and kept me in touch with an area my ancestors and father knew and I still visit and love today.

    Thank you GA.

  9. Caroline Bottomley permalink
    August 24, 2019

    So happy to be reaping some of the rewards of your journey. Thanks GA, more power to your elbow, broken or otherwise xx

  10. Jill Wilson permalink
    August 24, 2019

    And thank you again GA for all your wonderful posts!

    I absolutely agree that there is no such thing as an “ordinary” person, and I particularly love the way you uncover such interesting life stories. And champion all the people doing the “ordinary” things which are often overlooked, but play their vital part in the rich tapestry of London life.

    I also really like the way a blog can have so many more photographs than a book or newspaper article, and that the photos on yours are always great whether taken by you or one of your team. Your atmospheric photos of interiors are particularly good, and you definitely have developed a tremendous eye for a telling composition (the blog from Dr Johnson’s house would be in my top five of this year!)

    And thank you for all your brilliant campaign work to help keep the East End out of the hands of the greedy developers. I really hope that the Bell Foundry and mulberry tree will be saved – and if they are it will have a lot to do with your hard work and commitment.

    So keep up the good work, even if it is only typed with one finger of the left hand!

  11. Margaret permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Just thankyou. I start my day with you! Keep writing and good luck with your arm.

  12. Julia harrison permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Thank you Gentle Author for inspiring us every day. I am moved by the way you have become part of the community in Spitalfields. Ten years of Spitalfields Life is an incredible achievement. All my good wishes for a speedy recovery

  13. August 24, 2019

    A great achievement and a daily joy to your readers. So glad you found your life waiting for you in Spitalfields. Enjoy your holiday and I hope your arm recovers soon, such an annoyance. Thanks and all best wishes.0

  14. August 24, 2019

    Dear GA, congratulations on this milestone in your writing life, and best wishes for a speedy recovery – here’s to the next ten years!

  15. Colin permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Dear GA
    Thank you so much for the last ten great years.
    Looking forward with enthusiastic anticipation to the next ten!
    Have a well deserved holiday mate.

  16. Caroline Wilson permalink
    August 24, 2019

    I’ve never left a comment on here before but felt I needed to today. It is a great joy to awake every morning and know that your daily missives are waiting to be read, although I’m not from the Spitlefields area I enjoy reading everything you write about it.
    A friend passed on your site when we had been talking about silk weavers…. family history research is our common interest…. and once I’d read your article about the silk weavers I was hooked.
    You need to be congratulated on ten years of publishing every day, it’s quite a responsibility to keep your readership entertained and informed on a daily basis.
    A very big thankyou and long may you continue.
    Enjoy your well deserved holiday and we can enjoy some past articles in your absence.


  17. Laura Williamson permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Dear GA

    The blog is a perpetual delight and I especially value the chance to “meet” people -remarkable, interesting people- I would otherwise never have heard of. Heartfelt thanks for the last 10 years and a toast to the next 10!

    With all good wishes (and hoping the arm is on the mend)


  18. Robert permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Thanks for all the stories that drops into my inbox everyday. These stories keeps alive, the connection. I have with spitalfields as I was born nearby. Enjoy your holiday.

  19. August 24, 2019

    Rest well and heal up, gentle author. I always start my day with a coffee and your post while the pressing machines heat up. Your stories seem almost always to be relevant to work and life. My favourite of these coincidences was cutting out the fabric pieces for a client’s bridal gown on the morning of a Royal wedding, while reading your post of Queen Victoria’s wedding dress ensemble. I relocated my business from the west end to Spitalfields some 20 years ago, moving into the conversion of flats in the Exchange. I wish now that I would have photographed the changing skyline more, as I watched the cityscape being built floor by floor. Looking out over the Cloisters, I believe I have one of the most energising views of London, and it is a pleasure to live and work in our wonderful community.

  20. Colin Lennon permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Ten years GA! Fantastic; congratulations on creating and maintaining such a wonderful blog, for introducing us to an amazing cast of Spitalfields denizens and for giving visibility to many other talented individuals. Here’s to the next ten (or more if you fancy it) and here’s hopes that you have an enjoyable holiday.
    Very best wishes,

  21. Claire permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Congratulations Gentle Author. For me Spitalfields Life is both a step back in time for an old Londoner who now lives in the country and a window into the London of today. I think the testimonies of the people you talk with are so important, as well as all their activity and work that we get to encounter because of you. Your historical posts and pictures are also fascinating.
    Best wishes, hope you have a good holiday and a well-earned rest.

  22. James Wyburd permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Well done, devoted Gentle Author. We are strangers to you yet your closest friends.

  23. Juliet Wrightson permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Thank you for enriching my breakfasts each morning for the last 10 years. I hope the arm is mending well. Warmest wishes Juliet

  24. August 24, 2019

    What an achievement. You deserve a holiday.
    Hope your arm mends soon.

  25. August 24, 2019

    Thank you dear GA for the ‘enrichment’ that you in turn have shared with your readers through your wonderful daily posts.
    Thank you also for your campaigns to save iconic landmarks in and around the East End.
    Enjoy a much deserved holiday this coming week.

  26. Elaine Graybill permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Well done. Thank you.

  27. Angela Vietzke permalink
    August 24, 2019

    A great Thankyou to you for the last years! Your stories light my morning, every day!
    I hope you feel better soon!
    Thank you so much!

  28. Amanda permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Congrats on your 10th year.

    Such a difference you have made to the lives of your readers, inspiring new interests, and to your neighbourhood and the causes you wholeheartedly uphold.

    l ordered another book to add to my collection of your titles but 3 which l would have liked have sold out.
    Well done selling 10,000 copies.
    l adore the linen covers and gold leaf.

    It was a pleasure to once meet you at a lecture last year and admire the exquisite cuffs of your paisley shirt.
    The title GA is very befitting – exactly that – a kind and gentle soul.

    Wishing for your continued success of a well lived and worthwhile life.

    (Hope a ‘sewing bee’ friend offered to reverse the worn collar of your featured sentimental LIBERTY print shirt and you continue to enjoy it – sew easy to do)

  29. Patricia Taylor permalink
    August 24, 2019

    A special day indeed and so many thanks for your wonderful postings that have
    enriched my understanding of so many people and places.

  30. aubrey permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Congratulations. I read your narratives every day …. (well almost every day). Keep going!!

  31. Annie permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Thank you for your brilliant blog which I have been following for most of the ten years. As a Hackney resident I have learned so much more about the surrounding areas of East London and so many interesting characters.
    Enjoy your well earned break – I hope your arm mends soon! Very best wishes.

  32. Ruth permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Thank you for the interesting posts which have enriched my day. You are a true London landmark.

  33. Sue permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Thank you for you ten years of writing. Have learned a lot and though now only a Londoner by birth I love to read tales of the city.
    Hope that your arm is well on mend.

  34. Julie Shrimpton permalink
    August 24, 2019

    I have only recently found your site and am enjoying it immensely. Long may you continue.

  35. Ian Green permalink
    August 24, 2019

    happy 10th anniversary – it’s been a joy

  36. Enid and Mr Enid permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Dear GA,

    Many congratulations, and many thanks for ensuring that every day has something to inspire, entertain, educate or to provoke thought. You have enriched our lives hugely. Thank you for all that you do to ensure that both the tangible and intangible heritage of Spitalfields is preserved. We look forward to the next ten years of celebration of the richness and diversity of the everyday and campaigns won.

    Enid and Mr Enid.

  37. Ann permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Keep up the good work!

  38. Brenda Allenby permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Great, I hope you continue for another 10 years

  39. Milo Bell permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Exiled in Australia as i am i’d like to say your pieces help assuage the homesickness.
    They don’t but they do bring a sweet wistfulness to my day. Keep on keeping on.

  40. Paul Loften permalink
    August 24, 2019

    If anyone needs a holiday it’s you. Take it easy with the arm . The best and most original blog on the internet and every day something new.

  41. Leana Pooley permalink
    August 24, 2019

    My birthday today – so thank you for the present of ten years’ of glorious blogs. It has been a pleasure to live in the west of London and learn more and more about London’s east side. This day also commemorates the death of St Bartholomew who was flayed alive. I hope, by comparison, that diminishes the pain and inconvenience of falling out of a mulberry tree and breaking an arm!

  42. Paul Loften permalink
    August 24, 2019

    If anyone needs a holiday its you. Take it easy withe arm. The best and most original blog on the internet and every day something new.

  43. Sarah B Guest Perry permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Have a wonderful holiday and congratulations on 10 years

  44. DAVID LAWSON permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Dear GA

    Like many of your followers we first heard of your blog from a friend and we have since passed on this torch as often as we can. We always look forward to the daily post and cannot list the many campaigns, events, exhibitions, book launches and talks which we would not have known about without your work.
    Thanks so much. Heal well and enjoy your break.

  45. August 24, 2019

    And here’s to another ten years.

  46. August 24, 2019

    Bless you and thank you – you have done so much for this community and for so many who without you had no public voice.

  47. Eleanor permalink
    August 24, 2019

    I’ve always enjoyed your blogs & have been hooked from the start. Keep up the good work and long may they continue.

  48. Harry Harrison permalink
    August 24, 2019

    And you have greatly enriched our lives too and long may you continue to do so.

  49. Saba permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Gentle Author and the many Gentle Readers,

    For many of us living here in the United States, the current political and social milieu pulls us deep into the chaotic waters of a whirlpool. To continue the metaphor — Spitalfields Life seems like the rock poking up in the rapids, a place to hold onto.

    Humanity, humility, and good heart.

    Plus lots and lots of talent.

    Thank you, Gentle Author and Gentle Readers, for this gift that arrives steadfastly every day.

  50. Heather (Rev) Fenton permalink
    August 24, 2019

    I always look forward to receiving this – the only blog I ever bother with! I have become very interested in Spitalfields, my only previous connection being that I knew the Church Army couple who were involved in the early life of the Crypt. So it has given me a fascinating insight into the world of Spitalfields and surrounds. Some of my family lived in Rotherhithe at the turn of the 20th century, working on the Thames as Lightermen and I think you have enabled me to understand better something what life may have been like there too.
    So every day I visit London all the way from North Wales and I am back well before lunch! Keep going GA -and remember that looking at trees, encouraging their growth and campaigning for their preservation is one thing; falling out of them is something else entirely!
    Enjoy your break – the holiday one I mean! Heather

  51. Gregg permalink
    August 24, 2019

    You have uncorked some absolute gems over the years. Just love your Georgian & Victorian era postings. If you can participate in saving the Whitechapel Bell Foundry it will be your crowning glory. Thanks.

  52. Adele permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Ten years! Amazing. And always something new and fresh. Enjoy your vacation and hope the arm is healing well. This East Ender across the pond looks forward to her morning cuppa and your blog every day! Thanks for all the fascinating people you bring to us. Adele

  53. Linda Granfield permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Congratulations from Toronto.
    SLife is the only blog I read because of the quality of your historical research, your interviews that capture the essence of those wonderful people, the creative way you present the materials, and the evocative photos (like the jug and flowers above) that accompany every piece.

    Your support of local causes with national impact is also terrific.

    “One Finger Typing” could be the title of yet another book? (didn’t Anthony Burgess write a book called “One Hand Clapping”?)

    Please have a terrific holiday away from work.

  54. Eileen Bates permalink
    August 24, 2019

    And thank you very much for this fabulous trove of stories and priceless photos. I look forward to them so much…

  55. August 24, 2019

    I signed off from commenting on your site a couple of years ago, yet follow it still. Very many congratulations on a good job, persistently done. 1. Carry on. 2. Stay out of Mulberry trees. 3. Well, any trees, probably.

  56. Dianne Cazey permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Dear Gentle Author. How amazing are you, to keep up this daily blog for ten years! Congratulations and well done. I for one hope that you will brighten my day for the next ten years to come. You have opened up so many avenues for your readers, we’ve visited places where I may never have trod, never mind heard of, but in 2016 we stayed in Spittlefields and used your book and travelled in your footsteps.. we observed shopkeepers who had no idea who we were but we knew them through your “pages”. Keep up the great work GA, I’m sure I’m just one of many who love what you do.

  57. Gayle Thorsen permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Thank you for taking us beyond superficial judgements to the true depth and extraordinary contributions of those we pass on the street every day but may fail to notice. Thank you for revealing the richness of talent and beauty in the East End, and for your dogged determination to preserve that talent and beauty. Your blog has become a wonderful platform for advancing humane values, and it’s no surprise that it’s attracted so many followers and birthed so many important causes. I look forward to even more insightful posts!

  58. Linda M permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Congratulations on your great achievement GA. Yours is the only blog I read every day and it never fails to inform and enrich my life. Thank you so much for providing such a nourishing and delightful start to each day. Hope the arm mends soon and enjoy your well-earned holiday!

  59. Clay Hamer (Dave R.) permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Congratulations sir 🙂 Beautiful piece 🙂 And thank you for contributing to keep the area alive for us all. 🙂

  60. Vivian Campbell permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Congratulations GA you bring so many memories of my childhood growing up in Bishopsgate/Spitalfields. I feel like I’m back home reading your stories. Thank you.

  61. August 24, 2019

    I’m sure I cannot live without your blog.

    I adore it and say thank you a million times: Thank You, Gentle Author x 1,000,000,000 +.

  62. Peter Holford permalink
    August 24, 2019

    I always read your blog but seldom comment these days. It’s not a case of indifference; I only write if I have something to add to a debate. But your contribution is always read and always appreciated. As one who writes sporadically for Cockney Ancestor I admire your ability to produce a new item every day that is always well crafted and interesting. And latterly with one hand!

    Congratulations GA – here’s to the next ten years!


  63. August 24, 2019

    I am so proud of your accomplishment. In the midst of so much galloping confusion, discouraging news (real and fake…..), a seeming lack of civility and disregard for tradition and continuity, you are a beacon.

    I look forward to Spitalfields Life every day. And you never fail to bring your readers something
    hopeful, optimistic, and fascinating.

    Onward and upward, and (most of all) THANKS!
    Lynne Perrella (from the Hudson River Valley in New York State)

  64. Mary Clarke permalink
    August 24, 2019

    Well done Gentle Author for keeping our history alive.

  65. Maggie Gresson permalink
    August 25, 2019

    I don’t recall when I first came across Spitalfields Life but I enjoy reading it every day. My late father’s family was from the East End and I enjoy that connection. I live in Auckland, New Zealand. Congratulations on ten years of successful publishing.

  66. Eric Forward permalink
    August 25, 2019

    Happy anniversary GA and do enjoy your holiday, it is well deserved. Hope you also fully recover soon and my best wishes for the next 10 years of stories.

  67. August 25, 2019

    Thank you, thank you. Some how I discovered your blog 9 or so years ago while living in the USVI. I have ever followed you because of your writing and devotion! I also have never followed a blog this long.
    Long live the Gentile Author!

  68. Wendy Cook permalink
    August 25, 2019

    Thank you for your tireless efforts to bring us interesting stories of London life!

  69. Bernice Heilbrunn permalink
    August 25, 2019

    I read your blog in Houston Texas. A year ago, preparing a course on Synagogues of Europe, I found your site. I read it every day, first thing in the morning. You start my day off with a smile! Thank you for your good work. Enjoy a good vacation.

  70. Marcia Howard permalink
    August 25, 2019

    You enriched my life the day a friend introduced your blog site to me. Thank you a million times, for all we’ve learned that we didn’t know before, and for the worthwhile causes you have encouraged us to become involved in. Enjoy your well deserved holiday, and thank you again.

  71. Lesley Thompson permalink
    August 25, 2019

    Thank you for your lovely writing, great stories, painstaking research and above all the commitment to publishing every day. I was one of the 3,000 at Christchurch and remember the streams of people converging on the old streets. May your arm heal beautifully.

  72. Mary permalink
    August 25, 2019

    Please may I also add my congratulations and thanks. Unfortunately I have been rather late to the party, so have only been a regular for the past two years , but have greatly enjoyed trying to catch up. Like Robin (top of the Comments list) yours is the only blog I follow. I sit down with my cup of tea first thing in the morning and read your wonderful daily offering – it is a marvellous start to the day.

  73. Lilyami permalink
    August 25, 2019

    Happy blog birthday, GA, and may there be many happy returns. Spitalfields Life is a beacon of civilisation and gentle kindness in a troubled world, and I am one of thousands who are very grateful to you for that. Enjoy your well-earned holiday, and may your arm heal soon.

  74. Robin permalink
    August 25, 2019

    Dear GA, your blogs are the highlight of the day — full of humanity and warmth. By awakening your readers to the pride, honor, genius, humour, beauty, love, bravery, ingenuity, and community spirit of the East End, you give us all hope and show us how to be better human beings.
    Thank you.

  75. nicholas Tye permalink
    August 25, 2019

    extraordinary achievement, long may you continue

  76. John Campbell permalink
    August 25, 2019

    My daily fix for ten years now. Many thanks to you.
    Enjoy your hols (nearly said break but that would be bad form!)

  77. August 26, 2019

    Hearty congratulations on today’s 10th anniversary!

    Writing about oneself is one thing, but showcasing the lives of others, day in day out, is an astonishing achievement!

  78. Kristine permalink
    August 26, 2019

    Congratulations! I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to you for writing this blog. It has enriched my life. I live in the States and it is my hope to make it back to London one day and visit some of the places you have written about.

  79. Vivienne Cuff permalink
    August 27, 2019

    Dear Gentle Author

    Congratulations on your tenth anniversary!

    I hope you will continue for the next 10 years.

    I love your site; it is the best site on the Web. I love the mix of new and old, and particularly the way that you tell the stories of the people who live and work in the Spitalfields area now and its history.

    Long may you continue!


  80. August 28, 2019

    Many congratulations, and thank you so much for all the wonderful stories.
    I do hope that your arm will soon be healed.

  81. August 29, 2019

    I always look forward to your posts..thank you for introducing us to so many wonderful people.

  82. Sally Hirst permalink
    September 1, 2019

    Thank you, Gentle Author. Just that. Thank you…..oh, and please continue. Your work is much appreciated.

  83. September 2, 2019

    I always look forward to reading your blog, because I have a deep fascination about the East End of London. When I go to Columbia Road flower market, I always make my way back to Cannon Street station via say, Brick Lane, Fournier Street, Princelet Street (I love the houses) and Petticoat Lane.
    Very many thanks for all your hard work!

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