Regenerated East End on camera

‘The East End has risen’ according to a photographer who captured the area 50 years ago at the height of its post-war poverty and deprivation.

Former Newham Recorder cameraman Steve Lewis has revisited some of the places he went to in the 1960s and rephotographed them in colour.

And it is his opinion that the regeneration clearly visible in some parts of the borough means that the East End has moved on.

He said: “Generally speaking, its clear to me that the East End has risen. It’s now on the map and the people that have done it should be proud.”

Steve’s new book, London’s East End Then & Now, features black and white photos, most of which were in his first book London’s East End: A 1960s Album, and contrasts them with colour shots of the same locations. Its publication will coincide with an exhibition of photos at Stratford Circus in Theatre Square from May 4 to July 4.


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Steve told the Recorder: “I suppose it seemed the obvious thing to do, to go back to the same venues and locations. I was genuinely interested in going back just to see how the place had in fact changed.

“The infrastructure was what surprised me in most cases. I found that my sat-nav was taking me down roads where there was new estate of houses.

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“I think one of the things that most surprised me was that Leyes Road was still there.”

Steve took photos of people working on their allotments in Leyes Road, Custom House, in the 1960s in the shadows of looming dockside cranes. Much to his surprise, they still exist, though they are now dwarfed by ExCeL and a new housing estate.

Steve even found one stallholder, Bill Lightly, still plying his trade in a market some 50 years after the photographer had first captured him on film.

The stark contrast between the Newham of the 1960s and the borough of 2012 is nowhere more obvious than the photos of the area north of Stratford High Street and Stratford station as it is now.

The modern photographs depicting the DLR in all its crisp colour resemble an illustration of a plastic toytown on a miniature playset.

Although to some it may be a slightly less positive development, the images of police officers in riot gear engaged in crowd control during last summer’s riots contrast with a much more genteel era of policing at a time when they did not need to don such protective clothing.

Like the first volume, this one serves as a snapshot at a frozen time, giving us a glimpse of people’s daily lives circa 2010-11, while illustrating just how much things have changed in the last 50 years.

n The book is published by the History Press and is �12.99. It will be available in most bookshops, including Foyles at Westfield Stratford City, from mid-May.

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