Late last week I found myself in the cosy surroundings of the Railway Tavern on Stratford’s Angel Lane for the launch of Neil Fraser’s new book, ‘Over The Border: The Other East End‘.
Born in the North of England, Neil has spent the last twenty or so years living to the east of London’s Riover Lea, and his experiences have inspired a book that looks at an area of London that is largely ignored – the areas of Stratford, East Ham, Silvertown, Plaistow and their neighbours.
‘Over The Border: The Other East End’s dense 394 pages combines contemporary accounts with historical fact – a critique of Westfield’s ‘no camera’ policy with reflections on the Stratford High St of the 1920s, and a condensed history of the area now known as Plaistow from its origins as a little village under the rule of Lord Of The Manor, Hugh De Plaiz to the Black Lion pub, favoured by the West Ham United team of the 1970s which had been formed around the corner back in 1900. The book goes into great detail on the past of Stratford’s cultural centre for over 120 years, the Theatre Royal Stratford East, and its rescue from demolition in the 1940s and subsequent reign as the jewel of London’s alternative theatre scene as Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop made it their home. You’ll also discover the defining moments that have put Silvertown, near the river, on the map – now only marked by a desultory monument under the DLR this was the site of the most horrendous event to befall the East End before the arrival of the Blitz, and also the site of the Ronan Point disaster, which marked the beginning of the end for the modern tower block.
Meticulously researched and written in a very accessible and conversational style, this is an eye-opening book on an area which is about to come to the world’s attention with the arrival of the London 2012 Olympic Games. If you’re interested in the area’s past and its possible future, then ‘Over The Border@ The Other East End’ is the one volume that you should have on your shelf. If there is a criticism to be made, the proof reader might have been a little more exacting but this is publishing house Function Books’ first outing, so perhaps they deserve a little leeway.
‘Over The Border: The Other East End’ can be found in all the usual bookstores and is available online at Amazon for a very reasonable £9.99.