The prolific anonymous blogger The Gentle Author established the Spitalfields Life blog in 2009, and has just published a collection of its daily stories in anthology form. Time Out asked the cult writer for five reason’s to go east…
1. Gardner’s Market Sundriesmen
No-one can really say they have been to Spitalfields until they have shaken the hand of Paul Gardner, fourth-generation paper-bag seller at Spitalfields’ oldest family business, where they have been selling the cheapest paper bags, tags, tape and string in London since 1870. 149 Commercial Street, E1 6BJ (7247 5119).
2. Des & Lorraine’s Junk Shop
This is my top shopping destination – a genuine unreconstructed, unapologetic East End junk shop, where true wonders are still to be found. Ask Des to show you the mermaid brought back from the South Seas by a sailor in the nineteenth century. 14 Bacon St, E1 6LF.
3. The Wax Sellers of Wentworth Street
This street is lined with dazzling shops selling ‘wax’, the richly coloured batik fabric of African design, where a troupe of magnificent women preside, each one a goddess in her own universe. Pay a visit to Franceskka Fabrics (above), the longest established shop, and ask Franceskka to tell you how it all started. 2 Wentworth St, E1 (7377 8886).
4. Spitalfields Antiques Market
London’s preeminent antiques market where hundreds of dealers set their stall out every Thursday in the Old Spitalfields Market Hall. They pile up the entire market with so much charismatic old paraphernalia, this is my idea of heaven. Commercial St, E1 6EW (7247 8556/ www.oldspitalfieldsmarket.com).
5. Shakespeare’s first theatre
Everyone should make a detour to visit the site of Shakespeare’s first theatre at New Inn Yard off Curtain Road, close by the junction with Great Eastern Street. Here Shakespeare worked as an actor and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and an early version of ‘Hamlet’ were first performed. You will find little there but a quiet street, yet, lacking the razzmatazz of Stratford and Bankside, it is a more sympathetic location to contemplate the reality of Shakespeare as a working writer in the midst of life.