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Voices From Brick Lane’s Jewish Past

April 8, 2021
by the gentle author

I am delighted to announce more in the ongoing series of free webinars presented by the Spitalfields Trust as part of the Save Brick Lane campaign

The meeting at which Tower Hamlets Council decides upon the Truman Brewery’s application to build an ugly shopping mall with four floors of corporate offices on top is likely to be on 27th April.

If you have not lodged a formal objection, there is still time.

Learn how at



7:30pm Tuesday 20th April


NADIA VALMAN and RACHEL LICHTENSTEIN investigate the Jewish history of Brick Lane.

From the late nineteenth century until the Second World War, Brick Lane and the surrounding streets were home to Britain’s largest Jewish population. Originating from towns and villages in Russian and Eastern Europe, Jews came to London in search of freedom and a better life. Crowded into dilapidated eighteenth-century houses, they built a rich and complex subculture over generations.

Professor Nadia Valmam explores the locations around Brick Lane that once housed centres of Jewish social and religious life – where Jews prayed, shopped, debated, worked, learned and played – through the words of journalists, writers and residents.

Rachel Lichtenstein shares voices from the archive of recordings she has gathered over the past thirty years researching the Jewish East End. Some of these appear in her book On Brick Lane  and, more recently, the digital project Memory Map of the Jewish East End. You will hear recordings of some who are no longer with us, such as Professor Bill Fishman, the historian who put the story of the Jewish East End on the map and the Polish tailor Majer Bogdanski, who made Brick Lane his home.

Rachel Lichtenstein is an artist, writer and curator who is internationally known for her books, multi-media projects and artworks examining place, memory and Jewish identity. Her publications include Estuary (Penguin, 2016), Diamond Street: The Hidden World of Hatton Garden, (Penguin, 2012), On Brick Lane (Penguin, 2007), and Rodinsky’s Room co-written with Iain Sinclair (Granta, 1999).

Nadia Valman is Professor of Urban Literature at Queen Mary, University of London. She is a cultural historian of the East End and author/editor of eight books. She has written about several East End authors including Alexander Baron, Margaret Harkness and Israel Zangwill, and is the creator of Zangwill’s Spitalfields, a multimedia tour of nineteenth century Spitalfields through the eyes of Jewish immigrants.


Click here to register for free for VOICES FROM BRICK LANE’S JEWISH PAST




7pm Tuesday 13th April


LOUIS SCHULZ of Turner Prize winning architects ASSEMBLE introduces ANNETTA’S HOUSE, a new centre for campaigning and resistance against exploitative development.

25 Princelet St in Spitalfields was the home of the architect, cybernetician, conservationist, builder, beekeeper, and campaigner ANNETTA PEDRETTI until her death in 2018. An obsessive polymath, her work has been all but forgotten.

Her large home has been given to charity and is now to be used as a social centre for all, and a base for mounting a resistance against proprietarian society, and campaigning for land reform and housing justice for all.

In this talk Louis Shulz, from the Turner Prize winning architecture collective ASSEMBLE, who are leading the project, will discuss what we know of Annetta’s life and work, as well as plans to harness the site – forever removed from the flow of land speculation and inheritance – as a place that can catalyse a resistance against the relentless top-down redevelopment of the city.


Click here to register for free for HOUSE OF ANNETTA, A SITE OF RESISTANCE


Annetta’s House, 25 Princelet St

The ugly big block proposed for the corner of Brick Lane & Woodseer St


* This development will undermine the authentic cultural quality of Brick Lane.

* The generic architecture is too tall and too bulky, ruining the Brick Lane & Fournier St Conservation Area.

* It offers nothing to local residents whose needs are for genuinely affordable homes and workspaces.

* It is an approach that is irrelevant to a post-Covid world, with more people working from home and shopping locally or online.

* Where it meets the terraces of nineteenth century housing, the development is out of scale and causes up to 60% loss of light.

* Instead of this arbitrary scheme, we need a plan for the entire brewery site that reflects the needs and wishes of residents.


You can help us stop this bad proposal by writing a letter of objection to the council as soon as possible.

Please write in your own words and head it OBJECTION.

Quote Planning Application PA/20/00415/A1

Anyone can object wherever they live.

Members of one household can each write separately.

You must include your postal address.

Send your objection by email to

Or by post to Planning Department, Town Hall, Mulberry Place, 5 Clove Crescent, London, E14 2BG

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