Look east along the Thames today and you see corporate glass stretching into the night sky, part of the new financial colonialism that has seen the Docklands redreamt as a privatized Shangri-la. It continues to radiate waves of gentrification through what were once the slums of East London: kebab shops swallowed by upmarket cafes, Brick Lane made safe for DJ bars and indie record stores, loft apartments seeding themselves in former sweatshops. Myths brawl for space here. Jack the Ripper and Cable Street, the young Lenin and the embryo of Communism, Old Nichol, Dickens’s London. This is Tower Hamlets, famous and infamous, a borough tangled together in 1963 from the crumbling backlots of Bethnal Green, Poplar and Stepney, its clumsy name – that jarring collision of rural yeomanry and the inner-city – somehow perfect for a heartland of pie-and-eels cockerney transformed into multicultural Kebabylon: minicabs jostling with microbars and art galleries, third-gen Hindus and Sikhs touting curries to thriftstore hipsters.
Transition and permanence in the city of eternal change, by Dale Lately.