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David Hoffman In Cheshire St

November 4, 2022
by the gentle author

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Spitalfields Life Contributing Photographer David Hoffman is giving a rare free lecture, showing his superlative images of East End markets 1972-77 and talking about his experiences, this Saturday 5th November at 4pm at Bethnal Green Library as part of the Write Idea Festival.


Click here to reserve your ticket


“I was born in the East End, but my upwardly-mobile parents moved away to the green fields of Berkshire and then back to the safe suburbs of South London. By the time I drifted back to Whitechapel as a young man in 1970, I found myself in a world I had never imagined.

I encountered bomb sites still rubble-strewn from the war, smashed windows, empty shops, rubbish-scattered streets and many lost, desperate people wandering aimlessly, often clutching a bottle of cheap cider or meths. Then I was broke, unemployed and clueless, and it was scary to imagine a future amidst this dereliction.

I found a room in a damp, rickety slum in Chicksand St and began to explore, soon discovering the Sunday market in Cheshire St where I picked up a warm coat and a blanket for next to nothing. The market was surreal, with people sitting on the kerb hoping to sell a couple of old shoes and a broken razor. Other stalls were stacked with the debris of house clearance – carpets, furniture, pictures, kitchenware and books – whole lives condensed and piled up for sale.

Yet I found the market inspiring. Unregulated and chaotic, the unifying emotion was of hope bubbling through desperation. Even at the very lowest end of poverty, these people thronging the streets had got up early, pulled together a carrier bag of junk and headed off, sustained by the possibility of seeking a few pounds to get them through the next day or two. No matter how badly things had turned out, they were not giving up. It was this hope-filled resilience that buoyed me up and showed me a way forward.”

David Hoffman


Photographs copyright © David Hoffman

11 Responses leave one →
  1. Paul Brownlee permalink
    November 4, 2022

    I’ve been following you since day one of your blog and although I have left London now and retired from the smoke to Devon I still look forward to your daily posts. They have become a constant comfort in the flux. Yet, more than ever, I find your words, and the beauty you write them, to be outstanding. I am constantly amazed at your prose – and it’s true – it’s gentle – but very powerful.
    I wish you continuing success and especially with the causes you support, and the fight against the shocking destruction of history before our very eyes.
    I know what it’s like – I have seen Brentford where I lived for 40 years destroyed in the name of progress. I sometimes think that nostalgia is a curse – with only memories left to dwell on.
    Keep up the great work. You are loved and appreciated far greater than you may ever imagine.

  2. Andy permalink
    November 4, 2022

    Who would have thought all this would fade away to nothing?.
    It became as addictive as coming down checking yoyr phone messages today.
    I miss it.. Thousands do too.

    Food stalls replaced it all.


  3. November 4, 2022

    Howdy David,

    I wish I could be there to listen to your talk tomorrow but alas I am on the other side of the world.
    Wonderful photographs.

    Keep on keeping on.

  4. Paul Loften permalink
    November 4, 2022

    Great photos of a certain area .. Thank you GA and David Hoffman for bringing them to us.
    However I would like to point out whilst the photos do show what life was like in the marketplace it does not fully reflect life in the east End of London . Certainly not the East End that I grew upon in the 50s, 60s and 70s and still live in its outer edge. There was another side to life of smart people driving nice little Ford escorts or whatever . Yes , mainly working class living on council estates as I did but there was another story to be told . There were Dustman’s strikes with garbage overflowing and rats on Stokey common . Rent strikes on the council estates with people threatened with eviction by the council . The people that lived on the estates were workers , taxi drivers, bus drivers , clerks , nurses families . All classes of people . The photos are great but don’t let it lead you to believe the whole of the East End was like this

  5. Cherub permalink
    November 4, 2022

    I suspect there would have been som good finds here, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure as they say.
    I’m also intrigued by the New Hotdog Cookbook – I wonder how many things you can do with one?

  6. November 4, 2022

    I’m very envious of the opportunity to further explore these images and hear directly from the photographer. (tomorrow) Each of these photos contain endless stories and revelations, and the library presentation will be a rare chance to hear the stories-behind-the-photos. The brief words above provide insights of a chronicler who is dedicated to showing us the humanity of the market, both man and beast.

    That amazing owl!

    I was so glad to discover these dramatic, narrative photos today. Thank you, GA, for shining a light.

  7. Caroline Gilfillan permalink
    November 4, 2022

    Vivid, luminous photographs of the markets. I lived in London at this time, and remember them well. And, yes, the area was full of bomb sites and decrepit housing. But there was a strong community spirit and a sense of humour amidst the tatty, scruffy surroundings. Brilliant. I hope your Write Idea event goes well.

  8. November 4, 2022

    Recycling is so important, and was apparently easy to do. Yet I have got thousands of books, pots, pans, jumpers and shoes and can’t find a way of handling the stuff. Hoffman’s photos are wonderful.

  9. John Campbell permalink
    November 4, 2022

    Great photos. Love the teddy boys, one has bought a cassette recorder, I wonder what he recorded on to it?

  10. Richard permalink
    November 6, 2022

    Very evocative shots. I got some old binoculars there in those days, marked Jockey Club, Paris.
    I found it astonishing what people were selling

  11. November 8, 2022

    He is a technically superb photographer. With crisp blacks and whites and great depth of field in all of his shots. He did a fabulous job of documenting street life around him.

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