The East End Now and Then
Bernard Kops remembers the East End of his childhood, desperately poor and teeming with Jewish immigrants, full of hopes and ambition. His Hamlet of Stepney Green brought the vernacular East End voice to the stage and made him famous overnight. Monica Ali’s novel Brick Lane, explores the difficulties its Bengali residents experience today, receiving huge acclaim and success but a mixed reception within the community itself. In Oona King's new memoir,House Music, she admits she loved representing the East End in Parliament because, like her, “it’s multi-ethnic”. All three told stories of their experience, discussed how immigrants’ lives have changed and whether the East End is a successful microcosm of multicultural Britain.
Monica Ali is the daughter of English and Bangladeshi parents. Brick Lane was shortlisted for the 2003 Man Booker Prize and Monica was named as one of twenty 'Best of Young British Novelists' by Granta magazine. Her second novel, Alentejo Blue is set in Portugal.
Oona King’s father is African-American, her mother Jewish from Newcastle. She was for 8 years the Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green & Bow. She wrote of her experiences in her wonderfully honest memoir, House Music.
Bernard Kops was born in the East End in 1926, the child of Dutch-Jewish immigrants. He left school at 13. His hugely successful first play was followed by a spectacular fall, years of depression and addiction, culminating in a failed suicide. He resumed his career, writing more than forty plays and is still writing. His memoir, The World is a Wedding has just been republished by Five Leaves.
Claire Armitstead is the The Guardian literary editor.
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