Skip to content

Happy Birthday, Dan Jones!

October 27, 2020
by the gentle author

Today we celebrate the eightieth birthday of our hero, Dan Jones.

Click to enlarge Dan Jones’ painting of Brick Lane 1978

In Dan Jones’ exuberant and playful painting, Brick Lane is a stage upon which an epic political drama is enacted. From this vantage point at the corner of the Truman Brewery, we see an Anti-Racist demonstration advancing up Brick Lane, while a bunch of skinheads stand at the junction with Hanbury St outside the fortuitously named “Skin Corner.” Meanwhile, a policeman stops a black boy on the opposite corner in front of a partially visible sign reading as “Sus,” in reference to the “Sus” law that permitted police to stop and search anyone on suspicion, a law repealed in 1981. And in the foreground of all this action, life goes on – two senior Bengali men embrace, as Dan and his family arrive to join the march, while bystanders of different creeds and colours chat together.

Dan Jones’ mother was the artist Pearl Binder, who came to live in Whitechapel in the nineteen twenties, and since 1967, Dan has lived down in Cable St where he brought up his family in an old terraced house next to the Crown & Dolphin. A prolific painter, Dan has creating many panoramic works – often of political scenes, such as you see here, as well as smaller pictures produced to illustrate two books of Nursery Rhymes, “Inky, Pinky, Ponky” and “Mother Goose comes to Cable St,” both published in the eighties. In recent years, he has undertaken a series of large playground murals portraying school children and the infinite variety of their games and rhymes.

Employed at first in youth work in the Cable St area, and subsequently involved in social work with immigrant families, Dan has been a popular figure in the East End for many years, and his canvases are crammed with affectionate portraits of hundreds of the people that he has come to know through his work and political campaigning. Today Dan works for Amnesty International, and continues to paint and to pursue his lifelong passion for collecting rhymes.

There is a highly personal vision of the East End manifest in Dan Jones’ paintings, which captivate me with the quality of their intricate detail and tender observation. When Dan showed me his work, he pointed out the names of all the people portrayed and told me the story behind every picture. Like the Pipe & Drum Band in Wapping painted by Dan in 1974 – to give but one example – which had been going since the eighteen eighties using the same sheet music. Their performances were a living fossil of the music of those days, until a row closed them down in 1980. “They were good – good flute players and renowned as boxers,” Dan informed me respectfully.

The End of Club Row, 1983. Club Row was closed after the government banned animal markets

Last Supper at St Botolph’s, Aldgate. Rev Malcolm Johnson preaches to the homeless at Easter 1982.

Pipe and Drum Band in Tent St, Wapping, 1974.

The Poplar Rates Rebellion of 1921

Parade on the the sixtieth anniversary of the Battle of Cable St, 1996

Live poultry sold in Hessel St.

Fishing at Shadwell Basin.

Tubby Isaacs in Goulston St, Petticoat Lane.

Palaseum Cinema in Commercial Rd

A Teddy Bear rampages outside the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

Funeral of a pig in Cable St, Dan Jones and his family come out of their house to watch.

Christ Church School, Brick Lane

Liverpool St Station

Watney Market

Paintings copyright © Dan Jones

Click here to order a copy of EAST END VERNACULAR for £25

15 Responses leave one →
  1. October 27, 2020

    Wow, love the detail. Has Dan written a book on his life experiences in the East End which has his paintings included? I love his political eye. What inspired the Teddy on a rampage near the Foundry?

  2. Suresh Singh permalink
    October 27, 2020

    Happy Birthday Dan we bow down with humble admiration Suresh Singh and Jagir Kaur

  3. Jill Wilson permalink
    October 27, 2020

    I echo Stephanie’s comments – what incredible detail in Dan’s paintings which capture the fantastic variety of East End life, and the political concerns of the times.

    I also wonder what the story is behind the rampaging Teddy Bear. Perhaps he should make a return appearance to celebrate if the bell foundry is saved…

  4. October 27, 2020

    What brilliantly life-affirming pictures! Thank you, GA, and a very happy birthday to Mr Jones! Lovely to see this display after that of his mother yesterday.

  5. Robin Ellams permalink
    October 27, 2020

    Happy Birthday Dan. ?
    Moving and inspirational portrayal of real London.
    Rapidly catching you up… you 80, me “going on” the same.
    Fond memories of Imperial IRC all those years ago.
    Stay safe old friend ?

  6. Ros permalink
    October 27, 2020

    Happy Birthday Dan! So good to see such a great selection of your paintings to enjoy all over again, and to know you’re still alive and kicking. May you never lose your lifelong campaigning edge!

  7. October 27, 2020

    Happy Birthday Dan.

    Love all these paintings – time for a retrospective at the Whitechapel or elsewhere and I would love a book of all your paintings – I have not seen some of those above.
    Hope you revel in all the good wishes, no doubt from those you have supported, campaigned alongside, made laugh and friends with over the years.

    Lots of love and hugs,

  8. October 27, 2020

    Now He is Eighty
    because He is

    When I was one,
    I had just begun.
    When I was two,
    I was nearly new.
    When I was three,
    I was hardly me.
    When I was four,
    I was not much more.
    When I was five,
    I was just alive.
    But now I am six,
    I’m as clever as clever.
    So I think I’ll be six now
    for ever and ever.

    Author: A.A. Milne (1927)

    Love & Peace

  9. October 27, 2020

    Wonderfully excessive (in the best possible way) paintings! Whether he is depicting a mighty crowd, or a lone fisherman on the wharf; he lifts our spirits and makes us want to know the
    STORY behind every face. One could potentially study these for hours, and feast on endless details. It is such a gift to be able to concoct such an excessive brew, yet know how to keep balance and visual harmony — this work vibrates with the Joy of Making.

    Thank you for this radiant post on a gloomy day in the Hudson Valley.
    Off to the studio!

  10. Eric Forward permalink
    October 27, 2020

    A very happy 80th birthday Dan Jones! Adore the Brick Lane painting and would love to get a good quality print. Anyone know if these are available or obtainable?

  11. the gentle author permalink*
    October 27, 2020

    It is published as a full double page spread in East End Vernacular, Eric

  12. October 27, 2020

    Happy Birthday Dan.
    Such vibrant and joyful paintings which truly capture the spirit of the East End.

  13. Derek Cox permalink
    October 27, 2020

    Happy Birthday Dan.

    You made an enormous contribution to youth work in the Shadwell area particularly in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s which, in my opinion rivaled in quality your considerable artistic talents.

    I have also valued your friendship over the years………as we do “go back” a long way!!


  14. David Clifford permalink
    October 27, 2020

    Happy birthday, Dan.

    How lovely to hear the wonderful news that you’re celebrating your eightieth birthday. You had a big influence on me when I was young. Do you remember that huge paper lampshade in your flat in The Old Stein. When your Dad visited you there he looked at the lampshade and said, “It looks like you’ve captured the moon”. I’m looking at one exactly the same, though smaller, above my bed as a write these words. I hope Den is keeping well. I wonder how Davey is. He must be pushing fifty now. Take care beautiful man.

    Dave x

  15. Pamela Traves permalink
    October 27, 2020

    What Gorgeous Paintings!! I Love Them All!! Thank You!!?????????

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS