There has been a market on Brick Lane since the 17th Century and was then known as ‘The Truman Markets after the old brewery that used to be on situated at number 91. In those days, it was just a Sunday market to cater for the large Jewish community that used to make up the majority of this part off London’s population.
Community and Food
Since that time, the Jewish population has been replaced by the Bangladeshi community who mainly occupy the south end of the Lane with a proliferation of curry houses to tempt the passers-by, earning its local nick name as Banglatown.
The north end of Brick Lane however is very different. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was not a single Bangladeshi eatery on the north side. You can, however, get almost everything else the world has to offer in terms of cuisine. You will find Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese, Jewish, and even the occasional British eatery here.
In fact it is so crammed with differing varieties of food that, in an effort to gain a unique selling point, one place has opened that just sells breakfast cereal. ‘Cereal Killer’ is the second building from the right in my painting. Right next to Bacon Street, which rather amused me!
Because of the constant flux of businesses and cultures, an artist can paint this part of London again and again knowing that each time you return, something will be different. I like to take notice of these changes as they happen.
An example being that the cranes in the background have since been replaced by the large office block they helped to construct. Building sites are, and always have been a permanent backdrop to London’s East end.
On the weekend there is a street market, and here again variety is the name of the game. If you want to buy a bike, 70s boots, an old toaster, a second had parachute (buyer beware), Ukrainian oven cleaner, a six foot painting for your living room, a couple of grams of cocaine, a tee shirt with Che Guevara on it, and those little plastic tags you write on to remind you what seeds you have planted, then Brick Lane market is for you.
The drawing and painting
I produced the initial drawing on Bacon Street looking west towards the city and it is a great place to do street drawing. Shoreditch is (to use that modern term) a creative hub so other artists often stop by for a natter about what I am doing and we can share stories and ideas, this often leads to a swapping work postcards and I even receive the occasional free CD of music.
I worked on most of the painting too on the street, however, once the busy market day got rolling proper, it all got too busy and it all became a lot more tricky.
If you love a buzzy market then do visit Brick Lane, and if you visited Brick Lane a while back then do visit it again because it will all be different.