Street Art in East London

One of the main aesthetics of East London’s quirky and bizarre culture is the street art that has fled through many streets. Here I have chosen examples from Shoreditch, Brick Lane and Hackney as they all have different themes and meanings which give East London this unusual representation.

Although graffiti is a crime, many of these fascinating art pieces have not been removed as we know longer see them as crime rather than an actual part of the East London area. The significant designs have become a popular tourist attraction that has intrigued other artists to present their work here.



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Photo by: Sweet Toof

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Photo by: the Canals Project


Photo by: the Canals Porject/ Ekta Ekta

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Post by: Abi Groves

Street Art in East London

Fashionable thrift shops vs. Dingy corners and drugs

Challenging the hegemonic views.

The most popular hegemonic view (Gramsci) of East London has arguably been that East London is poor and deprived. A lot of media representations of East London historically, has framed the area as destitute and underprivileged and a majority of people see this as common sense. I remember for example, when I told my mum that I had been accepted into the University of East London her immediate response was: “you don’t want to go there, its filthy and there’s a lot of crime”.

This idea of cultural hegemony previously constructed by the higher class may have been to encourage more tourism in the western and central areas of London, which are more connotated with wealth and consumerism. Whatever the reasoning, with the capitalist culture of canary wharf and plenty of gentrification schemes like Stratford, hegemonic views seem to be changing. In this post I will discuss the three main representations of east London that I have discovered since researching the area.

Having investigated the way in which East London is being  represented by contemporary media forms, it is apparent that there are many competing representations.

On one end, you have the dirty, gritty, poverty ridden areas of Eastlondon. This is where you get connotations of teenage ‘hoodrats’ and asbo’s who listen to grime/hip hop/rap music and commit crime and deal/smoke drugs. “Teenage street gangs have been a part of East End culture for generations, but in recent years the old-fashioned punch-up has mutated into lethal violence” (The independent, 1998).

This YouTube video follows Danny Dyer’s interview with Vic Dark, a notorious East London gangster. The interview discusses Vic’s nightclub job that led to his arrest in 1988. This, along with knowledge about the Kray twins is evidence of gang culture that did exist in the East End. However, this ideological view is still present due to the underlying historical discourse of the area. I’m not disputing that there is gang culture and violence in the present day, especially in poorer areas, however stereotyping the whole of East London as a ‘ghetto’ is unfair.

Then you have the hipsters, the so called bearded, skinny jean wearing eco warriors. The lovers of café culture and vintage shops, the new innovators of the area. A prime example would be the cool, stylish owners of the Cereal Killer Café, Gary and Allan. They are most connotated to areas such as Shoreditch/ brick lane and as mentioned in a previous post by Bonney, have moved to this area due to cheaper living prices but still being able to access central London easily. With the influx of young, ‘stylish’ residents in the East End its hard to label it as just the poorer end of London.

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The hipsters however, aren’t the only ones circulating more money into the East End. If you take the DLR it is evident that gentrification is happening plentifully around the area. Corporate companies and businesses are beginning to invest in the ‘cool and upcoming area’.

Take London’s ExCel centre for example, “ExCel London, the exhibition and international convention centre, is the host venue for a variety of events from award winning exhibitions and conferences to international association meetings, product launches… etc… Situated in a stunning waterfront location, ExCel London is located in the heart o London’s royal docks, within easy reach of central London” (ExCel exhibition centre website).

The DLR has opened up easy accessibility further into London’s East End, allowing for businesses to buy cheaper land to build on knowing that people can easily visit and Invest into their business/ building projects.

This YouTube video captures East London in a more positive and up beat light looking at the transformation of London in recent years. This view of East London being a beautifully diverse and artistic area is encouraging more and more people to visit, invest and reside in East London. It also challenges the hegemonic view that East London is poor and gang ridden, demonstrating the complexity and layering of postmodern (Harvey) life in the city.

Uploaded by: Sheldon

Fashionable thrift shops vs. Dingy corners and drugs

Has ‘Multicultural London English’ replaced ‘traditional Cockney’ as East London’s dialect?

There are plenty of examples of language being linked to social class in England. It may even be suggested that working class accents are subject to a certain stigma (not from others with the same accent) but from outsiders and this may include potential employers.

East London has strong historical roots as a working class area and its inhabitants have traditionally been known to speak ‘cockney’, a working class accent. The increasingly diasporic nature of East London seems to have contributed to a new dialect that replaces East London’s ‘traditional cockney’ accent.

Paul Kerswill points out that the new dialect that is forming is becoming separate and distinguishable from the more traditional and recognisable ‘cockney’ accent which has long been integral to East London culture. For example, ‘Multicultural London English’ speakers do not drop their ‘h’ when speaking (a hallmark of ‘Eastender cockney)’. Certain slang terms that have originated from Jamaica have also apparently become a part of a typical East Londoner’s vocabulary, for example, ‘bare’, ‘blood’, ‘yout’ and ‘mandem’.

While the physical changes to East London’s landscape are visible and plain to see, increased ethnic diversity  in the area has brought about certain linguistic changes which are contributing to East London’s evolving identity. (TED, 2011)

Posted by: Dianne Bonney


TED, (2011). TEDxEastEnd – Paul Kerswill – Who’s an Eastender now?.Available at: [Accessed 8 Mar. 2015].

Has ‘Multicultural London English’ replaced ‘traditional Cockney’ as East London’s dialect?

Positive up rise in the East end driven by Hipsters.

The Guardian (Ed Cumming) recently published an article titled; Can hipsters save the world?

Super bowls: Irish twins Gary and Alan Keely, founders of the Cereal Killer café  in Brick Lane.

The article challenges critics of the new hipster trend and particularly Channel 4’s interview with Cereal Killer Cafe’s owners, Gary and Alan Keely (discussed in a previous post by Bonney). Cumming’s argues that despite recent criticisms of Twenty-first century ‘hipsterism’, “economist Douglas McWilliams, The Flat White Economy, suggests that hipsters, and the ecosystem surrounding them, represent the future of British prosperity. Not only are they greener and more ethical than the rest of us, but the industries in which they work are driving our economy. We mock them at our peril.”

“To walk from Old Street roundabout to Shoreditch High Street is to see an extraordinary mix of open-plan offices and galleries, Asian restaurants with fat queues outside and cafés that will mend your bicycle, sprinkled with shark-eyed estate agents and a few resilient kebab shops.”

East London and hipster culture are a demonstration that the 21st century (postmodernist) has moved away from mass production, where during the height of fordism in the early 20th century you would of seen mass trade and production near the docks of the East End, you now see a more intimate, more personal feel. With creative, artistic independent gallery spaces, vintage shops and coffee shops. Although Harvey theorises that postmodernist and capitalism creates this idea of the stranger in the city, East London encourages a more individualistic ideology and hipster consumerism is all about defying capitalism and celebrating independent projects and spaces, this is why East London has such a diverse and magical culture

“It can be tempting to see the world that has been created in this part of east London over the past five years as a model for modern cities. A highly skilled, creative international workforce, commuting by bicycle, thinking hard about where their meat comes from, buying second-hand clothes and selling complicated things to buyers around the world. If you close your eyes and try hard to put aside any prejudices about men with waxed moustaches riding penny-farthings, Shoreditch can appear like a kind of idealised cross between Stockholm and Silicon Valley. Plenty of people hate hipsters, but if more of us lived like them, the world could be greener, more left-wing and less preoccupied by greed”.

Douglas McWilliams believes that the new generation of earners (the hipster generation) is less focused on the economy and how much they’re earning/ spending but they’re more focused on what experiences they can gain and be involved in. He argues that the flat white economy is more driven by leisurely activities then investments and marketing.

Posted by: Sheldon

Positive up rise in the East end driven by Hipsters.

Gangsters in East London

Despise the figures presented on an earlier post that showed the decline of crime in East London boroughs, this area has a particularly bad reputation for being dangerous, no matter what police reports prove. Thus, it is easy to realise that this is only one of the various representations society have of East London. However this specific representation may be traced down throughout history and linked with the figures of serial killer Jack the Ripper, and more recently, gangster twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray.


The Kray twins were the foremost perpetrators of organised crime in the East End of London during the 50s and 60s. The Guardian (2001) wrote after the last twin’s death that they ‘were the undisputed rulers of London’s East End’.

Some notorious places in the history of the Krays remain still ‘alive’ today, such as The Blind Beggar pub, where Ronnie Kray shot and killed rival gangster George Cornell, situated in Whitechapel Rd.


And this is why the Kray’s legend has never left the East End , infamous for protection rackets, turf wars and the murders of George Cornell and Jack ‘the Hat’ McVitie. By some, they are remembered for their criminal activities but others especially in this area of London remember them for generosity and friendship.

The existence of historical figures like these ones, and their story, have a real impact in the way we perceive our surroundings, and thus, the way society portraits the area and its inhabitants.

Brooke, M. (2015). Krays, Lucan, Ruth Ellis and Jack the Ripper on murder list linked to pubs. [online] East London Advertiser. Available at: [Accessed 2 Mar. 2015].

Hill, A. (2001). Kray’s deathbed secrets revealed. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 3 Mar. 2015].

Post by: Marta Santillana

Gangsters in East London

The transformation of East London: Canary Wharf.

article-0-19CEE1EA000005DC-452_964x640 article-0-19CEE1DD000005DC-646_964x763(now and then, Canary Wharf)

Canary Wharf was once the biggest port in the world, but today is a major business district, a giant trade centre, a hub of the global economy. The Canary Wharf that we know today began its construction in 1988, and after recovering from a financial crisis on its first years, it raised stronger than before. It is now one of the 20 largest concentration of employment in the country, resulting in more than 100,000 people working over the same area every day.


It has been said that the creation of Canary Wharf mainly brought positive aspects to the city; a cheaper area than ‘The City’ for businesses to move into, many job opportunities, the necessary investment to enhance the Jubilee Line and to bring to life the project of the DLR (Docklands Light Railway), plus cheaper residential areas which would make of East London a more popular, active, connected, and dynamic area.

But is this actually true?

From those 100,000 employees, Canary Wharf employs 44,500 bankers from the 16 biggest banks in the UK (FT research), and has been said to be the solution for corrupt bankers to solve their problems, such as american financial services Lehman Brothers. Thus it was referred by the political essayist Peter Gowan as ‘Wall Street’s Guantánamo’. In the words of journalist Owen Hatherly: ‘Canary Wharf has been for the last 20 years the most spectacular expression of London’s transformation into a city with levels of inequality that previous generations liked to think they’d fought a war to eliminate’.

After a bit of research it is easy to realise how contradictory opinions about this area are. Some believe the raise in job opportunities brought to the area a huge diversity, refurbished East London, and shed a new light. Others just see it as an inconvenience, a way of attracting more people to an already overcrowded city, where the provided services don’t match the the rhythm of this fast paced ‘Second City’, becoming an annoyance for the local commutes, and the local residential area.

Is Canary Wharf a success after all? Or will it become the city’s biggest myth?

Allen, K. (2015). Canary Wharf workforce quadruples in a decade – [online] Financial Times. Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2015]., (2015). Local news, sport, leisure, jobs, homes, cars in Epping Forest, Waltham Forest, Wanstead &. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2015].

Hatherley, O. (2012). The myth that Canary Wharf did east London any good | Owen Hatherley. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 27 Feb. 2015].

Post by: Marta Santillana

The transformation of East London: Canary Wharf.

Architecture in East London

Across East London many historical and modern buildings are well known for their architecture and purpose of use.

Tower Of London | Tower Hill

towerl of london
The Tower of London was built in 1066 for the Norman conquest of England. It was used as a prison from 1100 as well as home to many royal residents. The castle is made up of three wards which has undergone severals expansions however the main layout has more or less stayed the same.


The Gherkin | 30 St Mary Axe 

The modern design is for the global company, Swiss Re, for it’s UK head office. The gaps within each floor creates six shafts which act as a natural ventilation system and creates a double glazing effect causing insulation in the office space inside, as the air is compressed between the two floors. This is an energy saving methods which means the building uses half the power a similar tower would use. The cost of the building was £138 million plus £90.6 million for the land cost. The postmodern building has 41 floors.

Jamme Masjid|Brick Lane

The building was built in 1743 as Protestant chapel. In 1819 it was used as a Methodist chapel and by the 19th century it became the Machzike Adass, Great Synagogue. In 1976 it re-opened as mosque after it closed  the population of Jews decreased over the years. The building has stayed the same throughout the years.

Lloyds of London|Lime Street

lloyds of london
The Lloyds of London buildings has three main towers and three service towers that surround a rectangular space. it has 14 floors with 12 glass lifts.  The construction started in 1978 and was completed in 1986 having £75 million spent on it. ‘It is said by English heritage to be “universally recognised as one of the key buildings of the modern epoch’ (, 2015)

Guildhall|Gresham Street

Guildhall was built in 1411 and was finished by 1440. Behind the hall are many things such as a library, print room and large medieval crypts. In the Roman era it was used as an amphitheatre, however now many of the rooms are just used as function rooms. Events are held here such as banquets, awards evenings, law firms and so on. In the 1990s there was an added complex for Guildhall Art Gallery

Canary Wharf

canary whardCanary Wharf has many of the tallest buildings in the UK including the second tallest building which is One Canada Square. This was completed in 1991 and has 50 floors. It is the 15th tallest building in Europe and is the second tallest building in the Uk, after The Shard. Before Canary Wharf turned into what it is today, in 1802 it was one of the busiest docks in the world. However, when the port industry started to decline in the 1960s it officially closed in 1981. A proposal for a new business district was sold and the construction started in 1988.

Post by: Abi Groves

Architecture in East London