Archdeacon of West Ham Elwin Cockett recognises that ‘Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’ Be’ but says it isn’t all bad

Elwin-Cockett-2014

- Credit: Archant

So Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’ Be is coming back to Newham. Lionel Bart’s musical about east London life, starring Barbara Windsor and Miriam Karlin, was one of the hits of 1959.

Now it’s being revived with a new production at the theatre where it all began, our very own Theatre Royal, Stratford East, and I can’t wait to see it.

Of course, Stratford certainly isn’t what it used to be even in the early 1960s, when I first came here as a small child.

There was no shopping centre, let alone Westfield, but Boardman’s and the street market outside provided plenty of entertainment for me.

I remember watching the fishmongers in Angel Lane and admiring the faded Theatre Royal posters, even then.


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Newham was different in many ways. The docks were still docks in those days, with no sign of an airport, and our football club was the West Ham United of Moore, Hurst and Peters, managed by the great Ron Greenwood.

And for music, there was the likes of the Small Faces playing locally, or, a few years later,Iron Maiden.

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Like so much else, music, football and employment have all changed. But if ­Lionel Bart’s musical was an affectionate look back at what East London used to be like, I want to say that in many ways things are just as good as they ever used to be, and in some ways better.

I’m not just talking about the Olympic Park, and I’m certainly not talking about the gentrification of some parts of east London which led The Guardian to describe Forest Gate recently as ‘‘the best-kept secret of up-and-coming east London’’. I’m talking about that age-old sense of community which is alive and well in Newham.

It’s seen in people’s ability to get along with each other, whatever their differences, to share a sense of humour that’s quite different to that of other parts of the capital, and to enjoy life, whatever it throws at us.

As the Bible says: “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Thank God for Newham and its people, I say.

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