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Christmas At St Hilda’s, 1975

December 19, 2022
by the gentle author

If you fancy a bracing walk as a respite from the festivities, tickets are available for THE GENTLE AUTHOR’S TOUR OF SPITALFIELDS on Boxing Day


Click here to buy GIFT VOUCHERS for The Gentle Author’s Tours – the ideal present for friends and family – and I will send a handwritten greetings card to the recipients



Contributing Photographer David Hoffman sent me these glorious pictures of a Christmas party he attended at St Hilda’s Community Centre, Club Row, in 1975.

They are just a fraction of a significant body of photography David undertook documenting the East End in the seventies and eighties that I plan to publish as a book next year entitled, A PLACE TO LIVE, Endurance & Joy in Whitechapel, accompanied by a major photographic exhibition at House of Annetta in Spitalfields.

Times have been so volatile recently that I have been tentative to embark on this project but I believe David’s work is so immensely important as a social document, distinguished by its generous humanity and aesthetic flair, that I must do it next year.

If you share my appreciation of David’s photography and might consider supporting this endeavour, please drop me a line at


St Hilda’s East was established in 1889 by former pupils of Cheltenham Ladies College as ‘a community of people bound together in the service of the poor’. I came across it by chance in 1975. I was twenty-nine, just starting out as a photographer and this window into an East End from long ago immediately fascinated me.

I just walked in, asked if it would be OK to take some photos and got an immediate easy invitation to help myself. Quickly followed by offers of a cup of tea, a sandwich, a slice of cake… I think this was early December and I saw posters for the Christmas party so I invited myself along.

I found the spirit and the energy of what seemed to me to be such aged pensioners hard to believe. When one of the dancers flashed her knickers and winked at me, I wondered if my tea had been spiked and it was all a delirium. These photos, some unseen since I took them, not only prove that this was no hallucination but, rather disconcertingly, that those seemingly ancient people I photographed were all younger than I am now.’

David Hoffman


Photographs copyright © David Hoffman

6 Responses leave one →
  1. December 19, 2022

    David’s photographs portray an East End which has vanished forever, but they capture the essence and spirit of those times and places…… so beautifully.

  2. Bridgett Bardwell permalink
    December 19, 2022

    What fantastic photos…hopefully the older generation today have access to the same fun community events

  3. Cherub permalink
    December 19, 2022

    Love the picture of the man in the top hat. The lady flashing her long bloomers reminds me of my granny.

  4. December 19, 2022

    Just like those elderly ladies and gentlemen back then, we should celebrate Christmas in our nutty modern times!

    *** MERRY CHRISTMAS! ***
    *** JOYEUX NOËL! ***

    Love & Peace

  5. Lorraine Whebell permalink
    December 19, 2022

    Wonderful photos of a bygone era.

  6. December 24, 2022

    Great set of pictures, that short feature certainly put a smile on my face, I remember the old east ender’s back in the 50’s and onwards. Many would come hop picking in Kent, where we enjoyed some good Saturday nights out with the girls of the time. I will look forward to buying the book. Regards Martin James MBE

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