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Thirteenth Annual Report

August 26, 2022
by the gentle author

Tickets are available for my walking tour now




This year, it has been a pleasure to welcome so many readers to Spitalfields in person and enjoy a ramble around the streets in your company.

Although it was never my intention to do walking tours, it has proved an unexpected delight. For years, readers had been coming to visit the locations of my stories and often, when I eavesdropped on tour guides in Spitalfields, I recognised whole sentences lifted from writing. And this was an entirely satisfactory state of affairs, until someone pointed out to me that I had the opportunity to create a better alternative to the exploitative serial killer tours that blight our neighbourhood. Thus The Gentle Author’s Tour of Spitalfields was born.

It was never my intention to get involved in politics either, yet I have found that when you write about things you love then you have no choice but to defend them if they come under threat.

As a consequence of our campaign to Save the Bethnal Green Mulberry and the Judicial Review that confirmed the legal protection for the five hundred year old tree last year, I am pleased to confirm that Crest Nicholson – developer of the former London Chest Hospital – have abandoned their plans and sold the site to Clarion Housing Group which has publicly announced commitments to ‘retaining the mulberry tree in its current location’ and ‘providing more genuinely affordable homes that meet local need.’ This is a result and we shall hold them to it.

Cuttings from Shakespeare’s Mulberry are owed to many campaign supporters. Unfortunately, the cuttings failed in 2021 and this year the owners decided to give the tree a rest from pruning in order to overcome an infection that has afflicted many mulberries recently. We hope to take new cuttings next spring and deliver them to our patient supporters in the autumn of 2023.

We were proud when Grayson Perry’s End of Covid Bell debuted at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition this year, made in support of our ongoing campaign to Save The Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Meanwhile, the developers’ option to buy the land at the rear of the foundry – where they planned to build their tower – has lapsed, which means that the boutique hotel scheme is now dead. Over the coming year, I will be reporting on progress of The London Bell Foundry, which has been set up with the ambition of acquiring and reopening the foundry as a fully working foundry.

Thanks in no small part to the letters written by you – the readers of Spitalfields Life – the City of London Planning Committee rejected proposals to convert the historic Custom House on the Thames bank into a boutique hotel. Despite the approval of Historic England, this plan was also rejected at a Public Inquiry, opening the door to the building and quayside being opened for public access and cultural use in the manner of Somerset House.

Closest to home has been the battle to Save Brick Lane from the proposed Truman Brewery Shopping Mall. Despite seven and a half thousand objections, two councillors out of a committee of just three members voted the decision through in questionable circumstances. One who approved it claimed that they ‘could not disappoint the developer.’ The subsequent local elections in which the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, who supported the development, was voted out of power along with the councillors who approved it revealed the strength of public opinion.

We now await the verdict of the Judicial Review on whether the granting of permission for the Truman Brewery Shopping Mall was lawful. The new Mayor has pledged to develop a community-led master plan for the entire brewery site, which makes the verdict of the High Court a potential watershed for the future of Spitalfields, deciding whether community or corporate interests will prevail.

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


I am your loyal servant

The Gentle Author


Spitalfields, 26th August 2022


The Gentle Author’s cat, Schrodinger

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

Twelfth Annual Report 2021

39 Responses leave one →
  1. Lloyd Adalist permalink
    August 26, 2022

    I’ve been following your site for several years now from Seattle – different and enjoyable each and every day. Onward to another year!

  2. Jane Jones permalink
    August 26, 2022

    An outstanding CV. Congratulations Gentle Author.

  3. Rob Cassels permalink
    August 26, 2022

    Congratulations and thanks for everything you do, GA. A tremendous story of quality, devotion and success.

  4. August 26, 2022

    Wishing you many more years of blogging and good luck with your campaigns.

  5. August 26, 2022

    Nothing unlucky about Annual Report number 13, quite the opposite!
    What positive and great news, thank you and well done GA for your tenacious and unflinching approach when taking on the Corporate Giants and their supporters.
    For your supporters to prevail, we need your leadership and imagination.
    Here’s to another year of inspiring blogs.

  6. Nancy permalink
    August 26, 2022

    A banner year for reversals of ill-conceived, destructive plans, thanks in large part to your hard work and dedication and your ability to spark the imaginations of so many strangers with your stories. Keep on truckin’, GA.

  7. Sofia permalink
    August 26, 2022

    Thank you very much for everything and for standing up for justice. I wonder if you would consider moving to No.10. We need someone like you there. Best wishes.

  8. Marcia Howard permalink
    August 26, 2022

    An admirable record of success, which hopefully ‘the verdict of the Judicial Review on whether the granting of permission for the Truman Brewery Shopping Mall was lawful’, will be included in due course. Well done, and thank you.

  9. August 26, 2022

    Bravo! You are someone who really makes a difference.

  10. Chris Connor permalink
    August 26, 2022

    Thank you for helping to lead the campaigns on so many different aspects of life in Spitalfields and its environs. It is good that there is a much larger groundswell of opinion and interest in the ruination of history of a maligned and somewhat forgotten area of London. That the developers cannot just stroll in and make their money by wiping history away, must be a bonus. It is really through people reading your blog that they learn of the efforts made by developers, councils, corporations and big business to try and bulldoze through their plans. May it long continue to be the case that their nefarious deeds are held up to the light.

  11. David permalink
    August 26, 2022

    Hello Gentle Author

    I am a long time reader of your site from Australia. My ancestors were Huguenot silkweavers who lived in Spitalfields and Bethnal Green for many generations before finally emigrating to Australia in 1912.

    Since I have never had the opportunity to visit England, I am indebted to you for your vivid prose descriptions of my ancestral region. Thank you so much. You are a very talented writer.

    I do have one request/suggestion I’d like to offer as well: I know you write quite a lot about Christmas each year but what I’d like to learn about is if there are any ways in which an East London/Cockney Christmas is distinct from an average English Christmas. In other words, are there any Christmas traditions or customs that are unique to the Cockneys?

    Likewise, I know that, unlike their similarly-Calvinistic cousins, the Puritans, the Huguenots did indeed celebrate Christmas but how did they do so? What would a typical Huguenot Christmas celebration have entailed in the period circa say 1685-1750?

    Just some suggestions!

    Thanks again for all of your hard work and dedication and for sharing your wonderful writing talents with us.

    Kind regards


  12. Josephine Eglin permalink
    August 26, 2022

    Happy Anniversary, GA. And many thanks for the Box of Delights which I open every morning.

  13. Milo permalink
    August 26, 2022

    Job well done sire.

  14. Sarah permalink
    August 26, 2022

    Dear GA, Thank you for your 13 years of support for your community. Without you and the Spitalfields Life Blog most of us would have been unaware of the goings on in your part of London. You and your supporters have helped prevent some of the development destruction in such a historic neighbourhood.

  15. Nicky Webb permalink
    August 26, 2022

    Great news about the mulberry! Congratulations on a campaign well fought. And I’m so pleased about the tours – we came on one of the pilots and thoroughly enjoyed it, and hope to return soon. Best wishes from your local supporter

    Nicky Webb
    Cambridge, UK

  16. Desiree Michael permalink
    August 26, 2022

    Dear Gentle Author, your politics is “real politics” because it is based on an issue. It is not self-destructive and divisive two-party-politics. You allow us to collectively have a voice on an issue. This is more democratic than a vote. Thank you.

  17. August 26, 2022

    What a great report, you’ve accomplished a lot this year. Bravo! Bravissimo! Shrodinger looks great, younger than when he first moved in with you. Wonderful picture. Thank you for a wonderful blog.

  18. Elaine Graybill permalink
    August 26, 2022

    So well done!

  19. Linda Granfield permalink
    August 26, 2022

    Bravo! All considered and reported it’s been a fantastic year for you, the Spitalfields community, and the SLife readers.

    Now if I could just get a published copy of your Christmas story this year…. (wink).
    Perhaps on the GA’s calendar for 2023? That’s the year I hope to take your tour in person.

    Take care and thanks for another year of reading and learning.

  20. David Antscherl permalink
    August 26, 2022

    Another successful year; congratulations, GA. While I watch from afar we seem to be less successful in stopping ruthless development here in Niagara on the Lake than you and your fellow citizens. I had thought that the bell foundry issue was a lost cause, but it seems that there is now hope. Well done, all concerned!

  21. August 26, 2022

    Onward and upward, GA!
    Many thanks for your daily blast of optimism…… essential in these crazy confusing times.
    You are a gem.

  22. Saba permalink
    August 26, 2022

    Thank you for another great year of newsletters and applause for the success that you and your supporters have realized in preservation. And now … on to your end-of-summer vacation …

  23. August 26, 2022

    This is the best annual report I have read in (at least!) three years — heartfelt congratulations!

    Your patience and perseverance, and willingness to expand your influence, are returning the reward of hope for the future of London! (The future of London that we envision, that is, where good quality of life is for everyone and our past informs our future.)

    You will always have my support. Keep running the good race!

  24. Melissa permalink
    August 26, 2022

    great news!

  25. Monica Emerich permalink
    August 26, 2022

    The power of citizen voices! I’m so pleased to read about the saving of the mulberry and other victories. Thank you for your blog and your many efforts to keep us informed and active.

  26. Robin permalink
    August 26, 2022

    Dear GA, what a great list of accomplishments! Especially fantastic news about the Whitechapel Bell Foundry not being turned into a hotel. So, there is still hope that it can be reopened as a foundry in all its glory — wonderful!

    I look forward to supporting you in keeping the East End and London oriented toward true community, not rapacious developers.

  27. Brenda Winter permalink
    August 26, 2022

    Dear Gentle Author,
    ‘Just want to thank you for all the great stories and photos that you send out daily. I have been to London many times and hope to return next year. The east end is my favourite area to visit and now I know so much more about it because of you!
    Brenda, Canada

  28. Lizebeth permalink
    August 26, 2022

    Bravo, indeed, GA! I agree with the person who suggested you would be a much better resident of Number 10 than many of its recent occupants.

    I wonder, with your many contacts throughout London, if you have any thoughts as to someone who could lead similar preservation activities to yours in the area around Covent Garden? As you may know, this is now involved with a quasi-development Corporation. While I have to say that most of their activities are benign and directed towards saving the buildings and atmosphere of this historic place, some fill me (as a local resident) with trepidation…

    Also: may I congratulate your readers for being so proactive in writing and voting to preserve and protect as much as possible of historic London for us, and for future generations.. Thank you all.

  29. Del Rey permalink
    August 26, 2022

    Hail the power of your pen to help protect what you love and to share it with us around the world. Thank you for the inspiration.

  30. Christine Datin permalink
    August 26, 2022

    I am delighted to read your post today that the Whitechapel factory could once again be reopened as a work place! Such good news

  31. Mary, Watford permalink
    August 26, 2022

    Thank you. Yours is the only annual report I read nowadays.
    What you do is – you share, and disseminate, some sense of justice, integrity,fairness, and HOPE, that many people can relate to and want to be a part of, as well as telling the story and the history of Spitalfields and its environs. I hope you will be able to continue for many a long year.

  32. Jill Wilson permalink
    August 27, 2022

    Great stuff GA! Lots of positives to come out of the year, and I’m pleased that your tours have been so successful. And the various campaigns – fingers crossed for the bell foundry and the Truman brewery site.

    Keep up the good work, and thank you for all you have done.

    PS Lovely picture of Schrodinger on the dresser-where-he-is-not-allowed…

  33. Christine Saunders permalink
    August 27, 2022

    Your passion shines through your articles. Is there a Spitalfields calendar produced?

  34. August 27, 2022

    Wonderful news and a salute to Schrodinger!

    Love & Peace

  35. James permalink
    August 27, 2022

    Fabulous! What marvellous progress you report.
    Many congratulations to you and all your collaborators.

  36. Julie Jordan permalink
    August 27, 2022

    I have followed you for many years from the other side of the world, Goolwa South Australia! Where the mighty Murray River, meets the sea. We are different but the same, sadly fighting to preserve what we love! Thank you for your wonderful writing & activism, it heartens me every day!

  37. Catherine permalink
    August 28, 2022

    I’ve been following your blog for some years now and have seen you become a real force for preserving the unique and historical character of the neighborhood. How wonderful to hear about these successes even as so much of London fills up with soulless and bloated developments. Carry on, Gentle Author!

  38. Peter J Washington permalink
    August 30, 2022

    Thank you for the pleasure one gets from touring the pages each new day.

  39. Sue permalink
    September 13, 2022

    That is a great suggestion, @David. I too am an Australian of East End descendant and I would love to know what traditions make a Cockney Christmas distinctive and how the East End also Huguenots celebrated Christmas.

    @Gentke Author, can you please take up this suggestion? I would really appreciate learning more about this aspect of my cultural heritage.

    God bless.

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