Walking through the streets of the inner East End around Wentworth Street and Petticoat Lane, the looming towers of the City of London are ever present in the background. There’s no escaping them. It’s feels like they’re stalking their next prey. In fact they are… That prey is what remains of the multi-ethnic, inner East End. It’s under threat as never before from the eastwards expansion of the City, high rise apartment blocks going up all over the place, hotels and high rise student accommodation.
In the foreground is an inter-war working class estate that’s managing to cling on to its existence. In the background is a high rise block of student accommodation. A massive money spinner and as many towns and cities around the country have discovered, a neighbourhood wrecker. Decent social housing for the many thousands languishing on the Tower Hamlets housing waiting list is not a money spinner and therefore not a priority FFS!
Brick Lane… It’s seen a few waves of migrants – Huguenots, Irish, Jews and Bengalis. Apsrt from the southern end, it’s now hipsters and tourists. The hipsters have done what they’ve done in countless other former working class areas – made the area ‘trendy’. The area is now considered ‘trendy’ and ‘happening’ enough for the developers to move in with plans to turn the site of the former Truman brewery into a complex of offices, shops and gyms. It’s going to be destroyed in the same way that Spitalfields Market was. The hipsters have, yet again, unwittingly done their job and now it’s their turn to be turfed out to make way for yet another souless corporate development.
The southern end of Brick Lane where it’s still real and raw. As soon as you go east of Brick Lane, it’s into the estates where poverty and deprivation are the depressing reality. It stands in sharp and shocking contrast to the hipsterfication further up Brick Lane. But, as you can see from the above image, the kids from the estates are making their mark with tagging that goes all the way up ‘the Lane’ and into the gentified, hipsterfied areas. There’s a tension in the air…