The old East End

DSCF4946©Geoff Wilkinson

In the first of two articles, local photographer Geoff Wilkinson discusses his new exhibition – entitled ‘Quick! Before it goes’ – depicting London’s East End, an area which resonates with many residents here

Growing up in London’s East End was a fascinating experience for a young boy. In the 1950s, bomb damage from the war was still very much evident. Living mostly in Stratford, I remember the area just to the right of the old Angel Lane street market which had been completely flattened. No houses or buildings remained; it was just a playground or used for parking vans and cars, such as there were. Perhaps it is the memories of this loss of buildings and architecture that has made me so determined to photograph what is left of the old East End.

When I opened my Whitechapel exhibition last year at the gallery, it was interesting to see the various reactions of the visitors when they saw the photographs. Many of my generation were delighted to see pictures of streets where they had grown up and played or perhaps the buildings where their grandparents had lived. My daughter’s generation, mainly young professionals, reminisced about nights out at bars and restaurants and living in fashionable flats in Whitechapel or Hoxton. For many of these visitors now living in Wanstead, Woodford and the surrounding areas, the common theme, regardless of generation, was the sadness of the familiar places disappearing.

It was the memories shared with me and the emotions the photographs evoked in people that persuaded me to continue on this theme, to capture a wider area of the East End, including Hackney, Bethnal Green (as shown here), Mile End, Bow and much, much more.