March 31, 2014

East End of London before the Bankers moved in

You must find something of interest in David Rosenberg's latest mailout:

David Rosenberg’s
 East End Walks Newsletter •24•
April 2014 

In this bulletin:
Next 6 walks • Radical Bookfair • Cable Street – the bigger picture • Weinstein’s War • Mackay’s hell of poverty • 100th anniversary • Phil’s photos • Bread and brotherhood
• Remembering Bob Crow

My next 6 walks

Sunday 6 April, 11am-1pm: THE RADICAL JEWISH EAST END

Sunday 13 April, 11am-1pm: FIGHTERS FOR EQUALITY (Westminster)


Saturday 17 May 10.30-1pm: VISIONARIES, DISSENTERS, REBELS (Islington)


Sunday 29 June, 11am-1.30pm: SPARK OF REBELLION IN BOW AND MILE END

These walks can be booked online at or by emailing:

SPECIAL OFFER TO RETURNEES: If you bring a friend on a walk you have already done, your friend pays the normal rate but you go free!

Radical Bookfair
The Bishopsgate Institute, near Liverpool Street, which borders the East End just near Spitalfields Market, will be hosting this year’s Radical Bookfair on Saturday 10th May from 10am-5pm. It will be taking place on all three floors of the building and will include bookstalls and talks from authors. There is sure to be some literature relating to the radical East End traditions, as Five Leaves Publicatons, who have an excellent East End list and published my book Battle for the East End, are among the principal organisers.

Cable Street: the bigger picture

To coincide with the bookfair, the Bishopsgate Institute asked me to do a special short course relating to the fight against fascism in the East End. My course, Cable Street and fighting fascism in 1930s London will be taking place over three sessions –  two in the classroom (evenings of Thursday 8th May, Friday 9th May) and a third session outdoors – a guided walk from Aldgate to Cable Street on the Saturday morning (10th May). Full details and booking on

Weinstein’s war
This is the title of a book that is based on the letters exchanged between an East End socialist activist Dave Weinstein, a gunner in the 8th army, and his wife Sylvia during the Second World War. David Weinstein had been a street speaker for the Independent Labour Party in the 1930s East End when the ILP together with the Communist Party were the main forces confronting the growth of fascism in East London. Co-author Jeremy Weinstein will be talking about the book at a meeting organised by the Jewish Socialists’ Group at 7.30pm on Sunday 11th May. Venue (central London) to be confirmed.
Email nearer the time for details of the venue.

Mackay’s hell of poverty
“The East End is the hell of poverty. Like an enormous, black, motionless giant kraken, the poverty of London lies there in lurking silence…”.  This oft-quoted piece of prose about the late 19th century East End is taken from The Anarchists, a novel published in 1891, set in London in 1887, and based on the very real struggles of that period, both in the East End and West End. The author was the Scottish-German writer and poet, John Henry Mackay. I tracked down a copy recently – definitely well worth a read!

100th anniversary
One hundred years ago, in March 1914, a new publication hit the streets of East London, often sold from a stall outside a shop at 321 Roman Road. That shop belonged to the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS) and the newspaper was the Women’s Dreadnought edited by a leading figure in the ELFS – Sylvia Pankhurst. The newspaper’s title reflected both their preparedness for battle and that they dreaded/feared nothing and no one. Unlike most of their sisters in the West End, the ELFS stepped up rather than turned off their campaigning during war-time, being especially active in work for equal pay as women temporarily took jobs of men called up for war. They also launched many other local initiatives to support women struggling economically during the war.  The inspiring story of the ELFS and Sylvia Pankhurst’s role as and activist and organiser features in a couple of my walks: in Fighters for Equality on 13th April and in Spark of Rebellion in Bow and Mile End on 29th June. Book now at

Phil’s photos
Looking forward very much to getting to the tail end of the launch of my friend Phil Maxwell’s long-awaited book Brick Lane, which documents the area in and around this iconic street through the stunning photos he has taken over the last 30+ years. Brick Lane is published by Spitalfields Life Books.

Bread and Brotherhood
Solomon Lever was the General Secretary of one of the smallst but longest lasting Jewish trade unions in Britain, the London Jewish Bakers Union. Most of its members were concentrated in the Jewish bakeries of East London. Lever died in tragic circumstances in July 1959, when he was also acting General Secretary of the Workers’ Circle, set up as a Yiddish-speaking immigrant based socialist friendly society in East London. The Workers’ Circle moved to Hackney following the Second World War. Its original premises in Great Alie Street suffered major bomb damage. The details of Solomon’s life and the issues and activities he was part of have now been researched and documented by his great nephew Jason and these can now be accessed on a website that Jason has put up:

Remembering Bob Crow
Early in 2009 I had a phone call from Adrian Scott, a trade unionist, eager to book a walk with me for members working at his union’s central office. I was really pleased to find that he was calling on behalf of Bob Crow, leader of the RMT. Adrian was very insistent about the timing: “It will need to end at 6pm because the men will need a drink”. Around 25 people turned up for the walk. They weren’t all men as it happened, though they did have a drink or three. But the heart and soul of this walking party was their General Secretary, Bob Crow.

This was the start of a friendship formed through these walks and through our common campaigning interests. It was a privilege and pleasure to take Bob and his comrades on walks on three occasions, and on each one of those events Bob contributed a great deal to my narrative from his own experience and his deep knowledge of London and labour movement history. We sat together on a platform close to the Cable Street mural in 2011, on the 75th anniversary of the battle, where we were both addressing a commemorative rally, a stone’s throw form where he grew up. He was very proud of the role that railway workers had played alongside tailors and dockers in fighting fascism in the East End of the 1930s and of those who went to fight fascism in Spain.

I last saw Bob and spoke with him about three weeks before he died suddenly, at just 52 years old. Our last conversation was about football. Bob was a die-hard Millwall fan, and me, West Ham – absolute rivals. I asked Bob if he knew why Millwall were doing so badly this year, and I suggested it might stem from when they appointed an ex-West Ham player (Steve Lomas) as their manager. Bob came back instantly with: “We all know about secret agent Lomas!”

Alongside several hundred others lining the streets by the City of London Crematorium in East London, I attended the emotional farewell to Bob Crow. He was a true representative of the East End’s militant traditions of trade unionism and anti-fascism. And he made sure that these traditions continued under his stewardship of the RMT. Salud comrade!

Hope you have found this newsletter interesting and useful and I would love to see you and your friends on a walk soon…
These walks are looking more attractive the more ordinary Joes are being driven out of the East End by bankers and corporate lawyers pushing property prices and rents beyond their reach. Still the East End's loss is Dagenham's gain.

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