New exhibition captures the East End

Iconic images of the East End capturing everyday life by Radio 4 broadcaster Alan Dein will be on display at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives.

Alan’s photographs of shopfronts were taken in 1988 when many Tower Hamlets streets were on the verge of dereliction.

Alan, an oral historian and broadcaster, lived in Stepney at the time and decided to capture the diminishing, decaying shops on film, many of them relics of the area’s once flourishing Jewish community.

Selections from this fascinating photographic collection entitled After You've Gone: East End Shopfronts, 1988 will be exhibited from Thursday 17 May – Thursday 12 July at the Local History Library & Archives in Bancroft Road.

The images will be displayed alongside archive material and contemporary images of the buildings today.

Alan said: “Before I discovered the microphone and began recording people’s stories in sound, I enjoyed taking photographs to document the still-surviving relics from the past. Old signs and street furniture, scribbled graffiti and decaying bill posters, ordinary people at dying trades, and my great favourites - old shopfronts.

In 1988 these ex-shops didn’t have long left. Long after the interiors had turned to dust, what you see are pretty much their last appearances on earth.”

The 250 photographs taken by Alan during this period have been digitised over the last year and added to the history library’s collections.

This project has been curated by researcher Emma Hunt, drawing on the borough’s extensive archives and the knowledge and support of library staff.

Paintings, deeds, press cuttings and other sources revealing aspects of the featured shops’ past lives have been selected for display, alongside new images of the sites today taken by photographer Ais Clafferty.

Tamsin Bookey, Heritage Manager at Tower Hamlets Council said: “This collection is an intriguing resource, serving as a record of the changing landscape of Tower Hamlets and the Jewish East End.

It is also simply a beautiful collection of images, ripe for multiple interpretations. We are very pleased to be hosting this exhibition which is a great testament to the hard work and creativity of volunteers bringing Alan’s wonderful, unseen images to the wider public.”

The exhibition launches on Thursday 17 May, with a talk from Alan on Saturday 9 June at 2.30pm. A special free booklet is being produced to accompany the exhibition.

Members of the press and public are invited to attend the exhibition launch on Thursday 17 May, from 6 - 8pm. Please RSVP to to book your place.

May 10, 2012