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The Way Of The Cross In Stepney

April 7, 2023
by the gentle author

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

I believe David’s work is such an important social document, distinguished by its generous humanity and aesthetic flair, that I must publish a collected volume. I have raised around a third of the money and have a growing list of supporters for this project now, so if you share my appreciation of David’s photography and would support this endeavour, please drop me a line at


A costume fitting


In the late seventies, Contributing Photographer David Hoffman documented the religious drama enacted upon the streets of Stepney around Easter time, recording astonishing images of magical realist intensity which feel closer to the medieval world than to our own day.

Gordon Kendall who played Jesus wrote this memory of his experience.

‘On a cold wet and depressing evening in April 1980, well over 100 actors, production crew and 2000 people lived through the experience of Our Lord’s Way Of The Cross enacted in the streets and estates of Stepney.

The excitement and challenge of playing Jesus really began on the Sunday before the event. Some of the actors were trying out their costumes and they looked very impressive.

Half way through the rehearsal, I needed to visit the toilet and so excused myself from the bodyguard of soldiers in costume. I knocked at the door of a flat. A lady came out and I requested the use of her toilet. She looked at me very oddly – she was a elderly lady – and she asked me who I was. I replied I was playing the part of Jesus and she flashed me a look which revealed she did not believe me, but she said ‘Come in.’

As I went through the flat I could see someone sleeping on the sofa in the lounge. When I closed the bathroom door, I could hear the woman waking up her friend and saying, ‘Nell, there’s a man in the toilet who says he’s Jesus.’ Then I heard some rapid movement and I could only wonder at the thoughts of this woman, struggling to her feet.

There was a knocking at the front door as I came out of the toilet  and the two women opened it to be confronted by a fierce Roman Centurion in full regalia, asking if Jesus was in the flat. Fortunately, they relaxed into joyous smiles and it was kisses and handshakes all round as we departed.’


Roman soldiers

Jesus in flares

The arrest of the two thieves

Preparing for the crucifixion

A Roman legion marching

Pilate speaks

Roman soldiers at St Dunstan’s

Jesus consoles Mary

Bespectacled Jesus

Roman Centurion in regalia

Jesus gives himself up

The march to the crucifixion

The soldiers stripping Jesus of his raiments

Crucifixion courtesy of Whitbread

Behold, Jesus is risen in St Dunstan’s Church!

Photographs copyright © David Hoffman

You may also like to take a look at

David Hoffman at Fieldgate Mansions

David Hoffman at St Botolph’s

David Hoffman at Crisis At Christmas

7 Responses leave one →
  1. April 7, 2023

    An extraordinary set of photographs. The connection between the players and their character is etched on their faces. Fascinating.

  2. permalink
    April 7, 2023

    Of days gone by.
    Beautiful collective of photographs

  3. Greg T permalink
    April 7, 2023

    Utterly, totally stark raving mad

  4. Joan permalink
    April 7, 2023

    I can’t tell you how grateful I am to you for publishing these photos. I was at this event as a 16 year old (I lived in the tower block that is in the fifth photo from the bottom). For some reason it is etched on my memory in a very vivid way. I have another memory – also from my teenage years – of seeing Brian Glover in the National Theatre production of the Mystery Plays. Whatever your faith, or none, it is such a compelling story.

  5. April 7, 2023

    A great performance and beautifully photographed. Definitely needs to be in the planned book. — By the way: if only today’s trousers had a bit of the wonderful bell-bottoms of that time…

    Love & Peace

  6. Eric F permalink
    April 8, 2023

    Anyone able to identify where in Stepney this took place?

  7. Claire D permalink
    April 8, 2023

    Wonderful. I was a teenager in the 1970s and wish I’d seen this mystery play, at least with these photographs I can get a flavour of it. It would be good to know what any of the participants still alive now think about that experience.

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