I have just finished an oil painting of Brick Lane Market. Well technically it is Sclater Street although most people will know it as part of the Brick Lane market. It’s just tucked around the corner a wee bit. Blink and you’ll miss it.
It is certainly the poorer cousin of Brick Lane Market proper, I assume because of its isolated location. Many of the items on sale tend to reflect this rather reduced status. The majority of stalls appear to have no particular theme to them. A 70’s food mixer will be placed next to 10 bottles of Polish bathroom cream cleaner, which nudges incongruously up against an office printer displaying a hand written sign that proclaims ‘With 4 cartridges!’ I suppose to sum it all up this is a market of books, burgers and brick-a-brack.
This chaos of commerce however generates its own quite unique sense of itself. It’s a place to get a bargain, you don’t need to be cool to feel welcome and you can potter about for ages without the slightest clue of what maybe for sale. To illustrate this point I bought from a single trestle table, a light bulb, a tie pin from the 1960’s and a can of Coke. What’s there not to like!
It won’t be here for long though because this part of London is in transition. It is as they used to say ‘On the up’: The more modern term being ‘Area Regeneration’. Of course the significant word here is ‘Area’. As with most regeneration projects it is for the ‘area’ and not for the people who already live there or indeed those who want to sell their Polish cream cleaner. They will have to go elsewhere. Unless of course they can pay the 300%+ rent rises. If they can I am sure they will be very welcome. Come on in, but do wipe your feet!
Why regeneration? On the left side of the painting is a railway embankment. This links up rather tidily with two new lines. Crossrail, which links London East to West, and another North South Line built by London Overground. Not to mention it is right on the door step of both of London’s financial districts, 20 minutes from the Channel Tunnel link and so on. In effect, ripe for the picking.
Like any area in transition there are quite distinctive parts. On the south side can be found the Bengali community that replaced the Jewish community in the mid 20th Century, and in the north side you will find the not so young Shoreditch trendies on fixed wheel geared bikes winging from media meeting to media meeting. This little market is jammed in between the two and its only real demography appears to be poverty which can be found in all shapes, ages and sizes.
I drew the main part of the market and some of the locals: A friendly atmosphere. I considered removing the four meter graffiti monkey head malevolently leering over us. In the end however, I felt it was a rather fitting metaphor for the fate of this small community so in he stays, watching and waiting.
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