Sunday, November 19, 2006


Here are two books I'll wager you'll not find in any New Zealand bookstore, you'll also probably have trouble finding them in your local library.
I bought them while in staying in London's East End recently and found them both so compelling and utterly fascinating,especially when read in comjunction with each other, that I felt I must share them even though they will be difficult to locate in New Zealand..
I should add that the second title is a book of photographs whereas the first title has no illustrations at all.

SALAAM BRICK LANE By Tarquin Hall - John Murray UK7.99


SPITALFIELDS 25 - Photographs by Phil Maxwell - Spitalfields Housing Association UK 10.00

Tarquin Hall's book tells of his return to Britain after several years working overseas and the year he spent living in Brick Lane, of the huge range of people he met and got to know, his experiences - good and bad,funny and sad, tender and harrowing - and in the course of his gritty but quite understated story we learn a great deal about what it must mean to be English.

This is a story about immigration,(there are 50,000 Bangladeshis living in this part of the East End), and its impact on an area, of the hardships and racism experienced by new immigrants, and of their adaptation to their new home.
Hall does it so well often by allowing those he meets to tell their own stories.

It is also about his own adjustment to living in a working class area and about the adjustment of his Indian fiancee, recently arrived from India, to a hugely different lifestyle to that to which she is accustomed.

The second book, featuring Phil Maxwell's brilliant photographs, colour and black and white,was commissioned by the Spitalfields Housing Association. This Asociation was set up 25 years ago by members of the Bengali community in response to poor housing and overcrowding in the Spitalfields area of East London. Brick Lane is part of this area.

These days Spitalfields is a vibrant multi-cultural area well-known and much visited for its market;

Phil Maxwell has been recording the inhabitants of Spitalfields and the changes that have been taking place for over 25 years and in his book he "uncovers the richness of it's recent history and the story beneath the spin and the areas "re-branding" through the tide of regeneration".

This book represents an important recording of recent social history which has witnessed the area become a trendy and chic place in which to be seen. It also, and quite unwittingly, superbly illustrates the people and places portrayed in Tarquin Hall's Salaam Brick Lane.

For more on Phil Maxwell, his exhibitions and this book go to:

1 comment:

Beattie's Book Blog said...

It has been pointed out to me in an e-mail from London that the photographs on the cover of SALAAM BRICK LANE were taken by Phil Maxwell whose photos make up the content of the other title SPITALFIELDS 25.
Sorry abou this omission from my review.