Sunday, 18 February 2007

Spitalfields gutted

I had the opportunity to visit Spitalfields again last week.

When I lived in London I used to love the old market building, and the Sunday morning market that thrived in its innards. There was an organic farm from Suffolk that would sell you a side of meat, or a small steak; old vinyl and 1930s Penguin books overflowed from shops on to the pavement, and there were stalls selling crystals, bread, junk (or antiques, depending on your view), old bikes, Thai spices.

The shell of the building is still there. And some of the places I remember are still there, like the Spitz - great cafe, great venue for acoustic music. But almost all the innards of the market have been ripped out and replaced with smooth-skinned modern blocks.

Lots of trendy shops. Lots of apartments for City boys. And no life at all.

Look at Brick Lane - just a couple of hundred metres away but completely different.  Buildings of all ages from the early eighteenth century onwards sit cheek by jowl; the huge bulk of the old Truman brewery, the narrow, thin Georgian houses, odd juts of Victorian neo-Gothic and 1960s brick.

But above all Brick Lane still has life; the Indian restaurants, small shops, the two Beigel shops. It's teeming, busy. That, I'm afraid, is what Spitalfields has lost.

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