Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Layer 526 . . . Welcome to the East End - the Lea Valley and the Olympic Park

I was talking to a friend of a friend last week who told me he's feeling very excited about moving to the East End. It turns out he was born in Bethnal Green and lived there till the age of five, at which point he and his family moved back 'home' to southern Nigeria. Having gone through school and university in Nigeria he eventually found his way back to London, via several other countries, and then found work and a place to live in the suburbs - somewhere near the bottom of the M1. Brent Cross?

By chance last autumn he was invited to a party in Bethnal Green - the very first time he'd been back there since the age of five. He described emerging from the tube station, walking down Bethnal Green Road, feeling the 'buzz' on the street - the strollers, the pubs, cafes and bars - and thinking "Wow! - this place feels like home! I need to live here!"

He's right - there's so much to appreciate about the East End in 2012 - so much diversity, energy, creativity - the whole vibe. It's not heaven on earth, but it sure as hell beats living in the suburbs. One small example - two brilliant little live bands playing on different street corners at Columbia Road market a couple of weekends ago. It was worth getting an open air coffee and hanging out in the cold air just to enjoy the music. The same thing also happens at Broadway Market on Saturdays.

Another friend recalled driving through ShoreDitch (!) last weekend - well gone midnight and the streets and bars still crowded to overflowing, traffic slowing down to avoid the throng, including, inevitably, various people staggering around drunk, behaving pretty badly.

Apparently the different tribes tend to descend on Shoreditch, Hoxton and Hackney at weekends - the West London crew, the Essex mob, the Kent crowd, etc. Apparently experienced spotters can differentiate them by their clothes and their taste in footwear. East End folk do NOT go elsewhere at weekends. How time's changed the old manor.

And now, of course, the Olympic thing is coming to its climax. Today the Guardian website features this excellent page:
Olympic Park: an alternative tour around the London 2012 games site
The Olympic Games are just around the corner, and thousands of curious visitors are coming to the site to see where all the London 2012 action will take place. Join Alexandra Topping on an alternative walking tour with Simon Cole, of Hackney Tours, to discover the area's greenest spaces and most interesting historical facts, as well as the top views and the best hot chocolate
Click below to go on the virtual video tour:


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