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Twelfth Annual Report

August 27, 2021
by the gentle author

We are celebrating the joys of the season with a HARVEST SALE, selling all our books at half price so you can treat yourself and your friends and family. Simply add code ‘HARVEST’ at checkout to claim your discount.




We live in such curious and volatile times that – as I reach the end of my twelfth year of writing The Gentle Author – I have become inordinately grateful for my self-appointed task of publishing a story in these pages every day, as a constant in my life and a consolation against disruption.

In the midst of the pandemic, this has been a year of ceaseless fighting to Save The Whitechapel Bell Foundry, Save The Bethnal Green Mulberry and Save Brick Lane.

After five years of campaigning to Save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry it was a profound disappointment when the Secretary of State endorsed Tower Hamlets Council’s decision for it to be converted into a boutique hotel with just a toy foundry in the lobby, making souvenir hand bells. It came as no surprise when I heard an unconfirmed leak that a major private members’ club had granted a lifetime’s membership to a supporter in Whitehall as a gesture of thanks for expediting this. Thus ends more than five hundred years of bell-making tradition in Whitechapel.

After such a catastrophe, it was an enormous relief when we won our Judicial Review at the High Court to Save the Bethnal Green Mulberry. Yet, although we understand Crest Nicholson have applied for an appeal, we do not expect it to be granted. I will keep you informed of the outcome of this.

I am delighted to report that our cuttings of Shakespeare’s Mulberry Tree have taken, thanks to the capable hands of Nurseryman Lyndon Osborne. We will be distributing these to the donors of our legal fund in the autumn when it is best for planting trees. We had originally intended to do this in the summer, but we decided to wait for more root growth, giving these saplings a better chance of survival. We thank our donors for their patience.

As I write to you, the outcome of the Battle for Brick Lane is undecided, despite an unprecedented level of protest and objection. We were pleased when Mayor John Biggs declared his willingness to entertain a community-led master plan for the entire Truman Brewery site which reflects the needs of local people. And it was gratifying when Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green & Bow, endorsed this approach.

But this notion now seems to have been dismissed as the council again appears to be seeking to approve the Truman Brewery’s planning application for a shopping mall with four floors of corporate offices on top. A council officer is claiming they have no choice but to approve the scheme since the developer would likely win on appeal, even though there are solid legitimate reasons for rejection in planning law. Such a defeatist attitude is a betrayal of the more than 7000 people who wrote letters of objection and most crucially of the Bangladeshi community who will suffer most from this development.

I would dearly like to return to publishing books and we have been working with David Hoffman on a collection of his superlative photography entitled A PLACE TO LIVE, Endurance & Joy in the East End, 1971 – 1987. David came to live in Whitechapel in 1971 and photographed homelessness, racism, the incursion of developers and the rise of protest. In the process, he discovered his vocation as a photographer and his bold, humane pictures record a lost decade, speaking vividly to our own times.

One of the joys of the past year was a commission from the Spitalfields Trust to reinvent the tours that Dennis Severs gave when he first opened his eighteenth century house to visitors. The discovery of fragmentary recordings and unpublished writings gave a flavour of what they were like, yet also granted me licence to rewrite and reimagine the tours for a new audience. Working with a talented actor, Joel Saxon, brought another level of creativity. Joel seized the opportunity to show off his theatre skills in playing the roles of multiple different residents through time and delivers a bravura performance.

I have been delighted and surprised to receive the greatest demand yet for my writing courses and I look forward to spending autumn weekends meeting many of my readers and hearing your stories.

The lockdowns restricted my ability to undertake interviews and write individual profiles which have always been the heart of my work, but I hope to make up for lost time with a lot more in the next year.

Thus, with these thoughts in mind, ends the twelfth year in the pages of Spitalfields Life.


I am your loyal servant

The Gentle Author

Spitalfields, 27th August 2021


A handful of places are available on my course HOW TO WRITE A BLOG THAT PEOPLE WILL WANT TO READ on the weekend of 30th & 31st October. Email to book.


Cover design by Friederike Huber for our first new book, post-pandemic


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

Tenth Annual Report 2019

Eleventh Annual Report 2020


I am taking my annual holiday now and will resume with new stories on September 13th

33 Responses leave one →
  1. August 27, 2021

    CONGRATULATIONS. And thank you for giving me a daily dose of common sense, appreciation, home town values, and lovely photography. Your posts were grounding during a year and a half … so far … of upset and uncertainty. Sterling work.

  2. August 27, 2021

    All good wishes for your holiday Gentle Author: with respect and gratitude for all you have shared with us during this past, difficult year.

  3. August 27, 2021

    Best wishes and looking forward to another year of reading your blog. Enjoy your holiday.

  4. JONATHAN PRYCE permalink
    August 27, 2021

    Many many thanks for your invaluable posts throughout the year. Jonathan.

  5. Peter Hart permalink
    August 27, 2021

    Thank you GA for all your work. Enjoy your holidays.

  6. August 27, 2021

    Thank you for what you do. You enrich many lives.

  7. August 27, 2021

    Your pieces give so much pleasure to me and to others. Enjoy your well deserved holiday.

  8. August 27, 2021

    Dear Gentle Author,
    For all the worthwhile causes you champion on behalf of Londoners, for all the joy and enrichment your daily blog gives to people all over the world……THANK YOU and enjoy your holiday.

  9. Jill Wilson permalink
    August 27, 2021

    Yes – have a good well deserved break!

    Thank you for all your brilliant daily blogs, and for all the hard work and inspiration you have put into the various protest campaigns.

  10. Annie Green permalink
    August 27, 2021

    Yours is the first blog I turn to every single morning and have done for about ten years now. Some of the re-blogged posts are like old friends, lovely to meet again. Every day is a little jewel. Thank you for all your work, dedication and ability to winkle out new tales and new lives. Enjoy your rest and see you again in the new term (haircut and new shoes optional).

  11. Ann V permalink
    August 27, 2021

    Thank you so much for your wonderful posts which come with love, respect and wisdom. Enjoy your holiday.

  12. Pauline Taylor permalink
    August 27, 2021

    Enjoy your break Gentle Author although my guess is that you will still be as busy as ever. Like another reader yours is always my first read every morning and I have learnt so much from you about history in London and especially the rivers Thames and Lea which feature so much in my family history. Thank you.

    I am so pleased about the mulberry and the cuttings. Well done to all concerned.

    If I was a betting person(which I am not) I would bet that the private members club that may have influenced the Whitechapel Bell foundry decision was the Garrick? Or, if not the Garrick, the Beefsteak Club.

  13. Sue permalink
    August 27, 2021

    Thank your for your continuing daily posts. Have a good break.

  14. August 27, 2021

    Shrodinger looking his best. I’m afraid you no longer own the house, you just happen to live at Shrodinger’s. Have a great vacation. See you in October.

  15. Jane Williamson permalink
    August 27, 2021

    I too turn to The Gentle Author’s post as I open up my i-pad each morning, sharing breakfast with the cats. I have learnt so much about the East End and the people living there. Having grown up in a London superb which was barely40 years old when I was a child in the late 1940’s/early 50’s it is so interesting to learn about an area with such a long history where my son now lives and where we bought a flat in the late 1990’s. I shall really miss finding the post each morning for the next few weeks and am looking forward to September 13th.
    Have a well deserved break Gentle Author .

  16. Linda Granfield permalink
    August 27, 2021

    Please have a wonderful break from the daily routine of informing and entertaining your readers all over the world.

    During this last year of Covid shots/lockdowns/more lockdowns, I knew every morning (Canada) there would be something refreshing to read first thing thanks to you, GA.

    New books! Hooray!
    Your Christmas story, perhaps, is in the ‘forthcoming’ list?

    Thank you for another year of your time and friendship. After this many years, you are indeed our Friend.

  17. David Antscherl permalink
    August 27, 2021

    Thank you, GA, for the daily parade of interesting people and subjects that you have presented and that I’ve enjoyed each morning over the past year. This blog is a true gem. Enjoy a well-earned break. I await your return with eager anticipation.

  18. Adele Lester permalink
    August 27, 2021

    Thanks for all the interesting pieces you have given us over the years. Long may they continue.

  19. Gooding permalink
    August 27, 2021

    Congratulations to the Gentle Author on 12 years of Spitalfields Life.

    What a significant contribution, not only to the local Spitafields community, but to anyone with an interest in historical conservation and restoration, and in recording the human interest stories about those that lived in the area that would otherwise have been lost to posterity.

    Let’s hope the local council finally decide that there must be a more historically sympathetic and equally suitable economic alternative to developing the Truman Brewery than the current proposal.

  20. August 27, 2021

    Thank you. I look forward to your post every day.

  21. Susan permalink
    August 27, 2021

    Congratulations, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday break! Thank you for another year of posts, which remind me daily of how much I can’t wait to return to beautiful London.

  22. Simon Walker permalink
    August 27, 2021

    Just to express my gratitude for your daily emails which provide me with a contemplative and informative beginning to each day. Enjoy your break.

  23. Mary permalink
    August 27, 2021

    Congratulations G.A. on reaching such a milestone and hope you have a refreshing break. You certainly deserve it after championing some huge causes in the last few years.
    Reading your blog is like receiving an exquisite little gift each day. Mostly I feel the better for it, but at times I feel enraged at the injustices you highlight, today’s blog being one of those. I felt furious when I read about the “supporter in Whitehall” that has allegedly accepted a bribe to expedite the demise of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.
    If that person is a member of the House Of Lords or the Commons then this “gift” should be registered in their Members Interests. This story should be in the public domain, so hope that now it might be picked up by a national newspaper for further investigation and publication.
    Am I surprised by this? No, as it is just a further example of the venality of those who are supposed to serve the electorate, but merely attain a position of power to serve their own ends.

  24. Josephine Eglin permalink
    August 27, 2021

    Thank you for your blog – more welcome than ever during Covid-times.

    Thanks also for all your hard work and campaigns to maintain the treasures and atmosphere of the East End.

    Enjoy your holiday.

    Much nicer belonging amongst the Gentle Author’s followers than belonging to any private members club!

  25. August 27, 2021

    Thanks for another wonderful year GA, ups and downs but at least the BG mulberry looks safer.

    I’ve worked out I think which private members club is referred to…follow the money….

    Have a great holiday and best regards


  26. Cherub permalink
    August 28, 2021

    I cannot believe I have been reading Spitalfields Life for 12 years now, how time flies!

  27. boudica Fawkes permalink
    August 28, 2021

    A very interesting story and it’s always great to see what everyone has been up to in London cats are a great deal of comfort when tymes get hard we hope at thee house of Fawkes you have a great vacation and we look forward to seeing and reading you’re stories again

  28. Claire Elizabeth Weiss permalink
    August 28, 2021

    Congratulations on the 12th Annual Report and all your effort in creating its contents. The daily blog is a highlight to anticipate. Many thanks for this unique contribution to people’s enjoyment, sanity and culture. Long may you continue to do this!

  29. Saba permalink
    August 28, 2021

    Thank you for another year of good prose, masterful photographs, and warm-hearted interest in the East End and its people. And, boy do I want to visit London!

  30. Robin permalink
    August 29, 2021

    Such a joy to read your posts, dear GA (even if I have to agree with Mary about being absolutely furious to read of the flat-out bribery involved in the Whitechapel Bell Foundry scandal).

    Enjoy your holiday!

  31. Gary Croft permalink
    August 29, 2021

    Your writings and elaborations have opened up a hidden world for me, of both the East End and London in general

    Mr Pussy’s antics and his subsequent demise, struck a chord when my furry master passed on at 18. So naturally enough his replacement was to be named Mr Pussy in memory of your best friend!

  32. Nancy F. permalink
    August 29, 2021

    Thanks for 12 years of trenchant, moving pieces. I’ve learned so much from them. They’ve truly enriched my life and expanded my world.

  33. Jill permalink
    August 29, 2021

    Happy Birthday (kind of)! I love your stories, please keep them coming. Very best wishes ….

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