I lived in East London from 1980 until 1992, and have written quite a lot about this amazing city. Many of the pieces selected here are connected to A Journey Through Ruins, which was written with the help of the London Review of Books, the New Statesman, the Guardian and the Independent on Sunday, all of which published earlier versions of various chapters.
Hackney Town Guide Cabinet, Dalston Junction, 1991 (Andrew Holmes)
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I think it was in 1992 that I first met Emanuel Litvinoff. I had for some time been aware of his marvellous memoir of Jewish Whitechapel, Journey Through a Small Planet (1972), but I had never found a way of including a discussion of it in the book I was writing about East London at [...]
‘When I was nineteen the whole world flashed around my ears, all my false standards of values crumbled, everything that I had been sure of – the touch and quality of stone, the meaning of eating and sleeping and suffering, the texture of civilisation, all collapsed and left me in darkness. The world no longer existed. I was dead in some nightmarish way. . .’
–Emanuel Litvinoff to his younger brother Barnet, 9 July 1940.
On Siraj Izhar and Strike, a group of art activists based in a redundant public lavatory outside Christ Church, Spitalfields, East London. Published as ‘Two loos, low trek’ in the Guardian, 27 September 1995.
On the Czech artist David Cerny and the ‘Day of Killing’ he introduced to East London’s Brick Lane as part of the art festival Edge 92. Published in the Guardian 26 May 1992.
1992. A time of post-boom tristesse in East London. The uncompleted Canary Wharf went into receivership, and the property market had suddenly collapsed, causing tremors of anxiety at dinner tables where conversation had previously dwelt on the astronomical rise in house prices. It seemed like a good time to review the idea of ‘gentrification’. Published in the Guardian, 6 May 1992.
A report from Hackney Town Hall, describing the eventful night when Councillor Medlin Lewis defected from the ruling Labour group to join the Conservative opposition. Published in the Guardian, 1 November 1991.