East London is truly an extraordinary place. I’ve spent a dozen years living in the area around Hoxton, in that time it has been transformed in a way that is barely credible. Although it retains some of its working class industrial heritage, the area has been consumed by a avalanche of fashionableness, making it the destination of choice for trend-minded twenty- and thirty-somethings.
The area’s development into the uber-fashionable began with the arrival of a new generation of young British artists, drawn to its large and affordable (at the time) warehouse spaces. This was followed by waves of bankers and financiers (it is very close to the financial heart of the city), and, most recently, high-tech and media industries. The remarkably ugly roundabout at Old Street has been given the title The Silicon Roundabout – London’s version of Silicon Valley.
Areas that were once a bit run down have been transformed. Whitecross Street is one of those places. Traditionally a working class area, it has in recent years become painfully fashionable, including a fabulous weekly food market on Thursday and Friday. Observing the crowds at the recent Whitecross Street Party only reinforced that reality. It was a pastiche of a traditional British street party, all a bit retro and tongue-in-cheek, but really good fun, with lots of music and food.
The first thing we came across, wedged into a side street between Local Authority housing estates, was a duo doing a spoof of a local radio station ‘roadshow’. To say their retro hip-hop moves were daring, is an understatement. It was as excruciating as watching your aunt and uncle body-popping at a family gathering. I particularly liked the radio station’s claim of being Radio so local you can smell it. It was all a bit hip-hop panto. Brilliant.
Walking a little further down the street we found ourselves drawn towards a crowd of people. As we joined the throng a troupe of quirky hula hoopers started to hula their way around another side street. You had to be there, it was hilarious – 1920s Hollywood done with a smile and an ironic shimmy.
It seems like this sort of event happens all the time these days, attracting a diverse crowd of Londoners and tourists. For once the weather played along, with temperatures reaching 30 Celcius. Hot work for hula hooping.
Whitecross Street is an area where street art doesn’t just flourish, it is encouraged and patronised. There are some permanent street art ‘displays’ as well as more recent wall art. Not surprising then that there was a street art installation during the street party. I love the giant nodding dog peering over the top of a building.