Go Further than the Flowers

Every single Sunday, to serve London’s interest and increasing demand for foliage and flowers, traders set up shop on Columbia Road. From as early as 8am, you can go along to find the small street transformed; the pavements flooded with overflowing stalls.

Slowly stroll along the blossom lined, narrowed street to find flowers from every corner of the world. Blooms rustle in the breeze as the crowds quietly build. There is an impressive range of flowers from pretty peonies to amazing agapanthus. By 11am the whole area comes alive. The scent from the sea of flowers and the hum of the bustling crowd fill the atmospheric air. The street bursts into the surroundings as people amble along with armfuls of fresh flowers, securely wrapped in brown paper.

Over time, this Sunday market has evolved since it first began in the 1980’s; the official Columbia Road Flower Market Website claims that it has grown into one of ‘international repute’. Many of the traders follow proudly in their family’s footsteps as the third or fourth generation to take over the businesses; George Gladwell stated that his stall first started trading in 1949. These sellers loudly shout out their wares, drawing you in to hear their offerings. They are full of friendly advice and flowering facts; “you want buds which are firm, and not too open”.

It is no secret that the distinctive colours and sounds of this market now attract a considerable crowd every weekend, rain or shine. Yet many of the crowds are locals, who claim that you will never get tired of the market, one commented ‘every time you come, you will see something new.’ The different seasons shape the market as they bring specific stock.



Most will advise you to head over to the flowers as early as possible, Gladwell stated; ‘the best time to come is definitely before 10.30’ and Carl Grover agreed; ‘come to the market! And come early, before the crowds’. But, if you aren’t feeling fresh enough to arrive before brunch, you may want to risk taking a trip to the market as it draws to a close. Armed with a strong coffee, you may find the best bargains. Colin Smith, who has traded that the market for 22 years even commented that ‘the market seems to be beginning to stay open for longer, to accommodate for the hangovers’. So, if your budget is tight and your hangover heavy, then hold off until the afternoon.

Once you have browsed the wide variety of flowers on offer and have chosen your own bunch, you can slowly disperse from the crowds and disappear into another shopping experience. Behind the flower stalls are sixty independent shops. The small yet unique shops that line the road compliment the flower market by only opening for business on the weekends, highlighting the pure popularity of the market. The official Columbia Road website explains how these local businesses pride themselves on the fact that the street has ‘a refusal to be dictated to by a retail world where the sense of fun has all but gone’…‘You won’t find a Costa or a Tesco Metro on Columbia Road’.

Take the time to venture further away from Columbia Road, where you can find a collection of art galleries, stalls selling vintage homeware, second hand books shops and local street musicians that all provide further Sunday entertainment. The smaller streets often host pop up stores, for instance the Secret Garden Market, appears occasionally on one of the street corners selling vintage clothing.

If you have built up an appetite by this point, you can also chose from a selection of food delis, cafes and pubs. For example, hidden in The Courtyard on Ezra Street is Lily Vanilli. Named as one of the best bakeries in London by Vogue for 2017, it also opens as a café solely on Sundays until 4pm. The perfect place to enjoy freshly baked bread and creative cakes from the weekly changing, seasonal menu that is linked to the market through its floral themed food. Lily advises you ‘Look out for the blood orange frangipane and currant cakes’ that will be on the menus soon.

The timeless flower market and the surrounding area of Bethnal Green have many hidden aspects that combine to create the perfect excuse to get up and out on a Sunday.



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Is Bethnal Green the Affordable Shoreditch for Students?

Whether student accommodation or buying your first home Bethnal Green might just be the East End paradise a student can actually afford.


Students are flocking to the East End as they have been doing for the past ten years. All the appeal is still there, the bars, the art, and the food, but the prices have been skyrocketing, as the East End is becoming more and more considered to be Central. So can a student really afford it without running completely out of their student loan?

The truth is maybe you can, but what is advertised as quaint could really mean shit hole.

If you and your hopeful flat mates are willing to move just a smidge more East though you might be able to find a home and still be able to go out on a Friday night.

“You can get a much bigger space on Miles End Rd. (one of the main streets in Bethnal Green) for less a week than anywhere in the Shoreditch area” says Daisy Powles, an Estate Agent at Marsh and Parsons, at her office on Bethnal Green Rd.

“There’s not much available in Shoreditch for under £200 a week, but if you’re willing to go more East you have a lot more options as a student.”

Bethnal Green Student Living, located just off Cambridge Rd, offers single and double rooms for anywhere between 4 and 40 weeks. As well as, advertising to have large spaces to socialize and study.

If you go further down Cambridge Heath Rd. you can find other student accommodations with the same “a place for fun – a place for knowledge” concept.

“This area has been up and coming for the past 10 years, introducing a massive influx of university students,” said James, a sales representative at Bethnal Green Student Living, “it can be called a student hub.”

Why has this one road in this specific area become the boulevard for Uni students? To start, there’s the simple geography. It lies exactly between Queen Mary University and unattainable Shoreditch.

You can go from Uni, to home to change outfits, to the club, and vice-versa in the morning.

Next there’s the price. A single room at Bethnal Green Student Living will cost you £210 a week, compared to ‘Scape’ student accommodation located in the centre of Shoreditch where the smallest room will cost you £277 a week. Coming in at a massive £3,080 more for the 40-week stay.

Students in Bethnal Green are clearly saving rent money but are the living the same extravagant and Instagramable life as their art student comrades on Brick Lane.

If you look out the window of Bethnal Green Student Living onto Cambridge Heath Rd. you can see an outdoor self-proclaimed “Beach Bar” with sand on the ground, striped beach chairs to sit on, and a rail-line overhead – can you get any more East End than that?


Not enough? Next to said “beach bar” is a concept store that sells coffee, food, furniture as well as being able to colour and blow-dry your hair and do your make up.

Feel you need to look further? To finish it off next to THAT is a vintage clothing store.

If gentrification isn’t your thing then Bethnal Green could still be your East London style. Sure the Columbia Rd. Flower Market is one of the most insta-famous girl place you’ll come to in London, right after to Farm Girl in Notting Hill and Sketch in Mayfair, but not all of Bethnal Green fits into the pristine aesthetic. You can still find a classic English breakfast for the morning after and a good Charity shop that doesn’t label itself as ‘reworked vintage’.

You shouldn’t be worried you’re not getting the same student amenities either because if an Off-Licence is an Off-Licence and a Chicken Shop is a Chicken Shop (which they both are) then you really have everything a 20 something student needs.

However, if you still long for a postcode that starts with an N instead of an E, a twenty-minute walk down Bethnal Green Rd. takes you straight to Box Park. So, if you say you live in “Shored’ish” (as so many people do) no one could call you a lair.



NEW vs OLD: Do you know how history crossing modern?

There are loads of things happened in several centuries. It began as a small and quiet area, but now it becomes a modern cool place.

The Green has historically been the pivot of the area. The main house on the Green, known locally as Kirby’s Castle, was once visited by the famous London diarist, Samuel Pepys. In the early 1700s, the house was converted into a lunatic asylum, and it housed many inmates for the next two centuries.

In 1943, Bethnal Green saw the worst domestic disaster in the Second World War. The tube station was part of the Central Line build. The line was not running as yet, but locals used the station as a shelter during bomb raids. An accident on the stairs leading down to the station caused a pile up of people during an alert, killing over 170 and injuring nearly a hundred people. You can see a plaque commemorating the disaster outside of the station and a permanent memorial is also being built outside.

Like many areas of the East End, Bethnal Green suffered badly from German bombing raids during the war. It is thought that the area had 80 tons of bombs dropped on it and it lost thousands of homes, which were destroyed completely or badly damaged. It is still relatively common to find unexploded bombs in the area.

Bethnal Green gained some fame in Tudor times due to a popular ballad, The Beggar of Bethnal Green. This ballad told the story of a poor local beggar who somehow managed to give his daughter a handsome dowry for her wedding. Some say that the beggar was the son of Simon de Montfort, a rich Norman knight, however this is not likely to be true. Locals also say that the local Blind Beggar pub which lies close to Bethnal Green in Whitechapel was the site where the beggar asked for money and was named for him.

Before Peabody took over the Bethnal Green site it was occupied by 42 terraced houses, a two floor factory building, and a public house.

The Bethnal Green estate was built in 1910. The original estate consisted of blocks A–G designed by W E Wallis and built by William Cubitt & Co. The flats shared a central laundry and bathhouse but, unlike earlier Peabody estates, each had its own WC. Block H was added to the site in 1916 and the external design is visibly different from the earlier blocks. Other features of the estate included a coal store, which held 25 tons of coal, and 14 pram sheds. The average size of the living rooms was 156 square feet, and of the bedrooms 117 square feet.

Between the 1950s and 1970s blocks A-G were modernized. More recently block H was modernized to provide self-contained accommodation, although the basement of this block still contains the old workshops and a drying room for tenants’ laundry.This pub is now better known as the place where William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, gave his first public speech in the area, or more infamously, as the location where Ronnie Kray murdered George Cornell.

A sundial in Vallance Road recreation gardens marks the spot where William Booth began his outdoor preaching, before going on to found the Salvation Army in 1878. The work of eradicating the slums was taken up in 1900 by the newly created metropolitan borough of Bethnal Green, which also built libraries and wash houses.

The park in which the house was built, Bethnal Park, is still called “Barmy Park” by locals to this day. The original house has now been demolished, but some of its other buildings are still standing. One of the newer builds around the asylum that dates from the late 1800s is now the home to Bethnal Green library.

Opposite to this park, few interesting shop appeared. One of them is Mc queen’s flower shop. “We sell fresh flowers just next to the tube station. This is really a perfect location for our costumer.” says Jane, a senior assistant of this stylish shop.

Instead of full of Bangladeshi, there are lots of more younger group moving in. Some hall of resident make this area more fresh and active.

The biggest tourist attraction in Bethnal Green is the V&A Museum of Childhood. The museum was originally opened as a local attraction, the Bethnal Green museum, in the 1870s. It is now part of the Victoria & Albert Museum and is home to the UK’s largest collection of toys, games and childhood objects. One even dates back to 1300 BC, although there are more than enough contemporary toys and games there to remind anybody of their own childhood.

For now, this museum often holds many events and workshops to let local children participate. And just on their way from living area to the museum, lots of shops and restaurants having been standing there for decades. When the old time stuffs meet new generation, the fantasy effect of history crossing modern just boom.



Mixed Community in E2

The settlement was recorded as Blithehale in the 13th century, when a hamlet began to grow around the site of the present tube station. In an early reference to the locality, the medieval ballad of the Blind Beggar of Bednall Green tells of a poor man whose daughter marries a knight for a dowry of £3,000 in gold. The ballad may have been written in the reign of Elizabeth I, though it was subsequently much revised.

By the 16th century merchants and noblemen were building large houses in the fields and Bethnal Green remained a pleasant country retreat on the outskirts of London until about 1700. Thereafter, houses began to line Dog Row (now Cambridge Heath Road) and Bethnal Green soon developed into one of the first manufacturing districts in the East End, becoming a separate parish in 1743.

The parish gained fame for chair-making and silk-weaving, though market gardens clung on in the eastern part. During the following century Bethnal Green became one of London’s poorest quarters, described by Karl Marx as a “notorious district” because of its child labour.

From the 1860s philanthropists like Angela Burdett-Coutts and George Peabody built solid, if disheartening, tenement housing for the poor. Baroness Burdett-Coutts also sponsored the construction of a spectacular market hall in Columbia Road, which was never a success and has not survived. However, the street’s open-air market has evolved into London’s busiest botanical bazaar.

A sundial in Vallance Road recreation gardens marks the spot where William Booth began his outdoor preaching, before going on to found the Salvation Army in 1878. The work of eradicating the slums was taken up in 1900 by the newly created metropolitan borough of Bethnal Green, which also built libraries and wash houses.

1930-1960 the population of bethnal green halted

Bethnal Green tube station was the scene of the worst civilian disaster of the Second World War when 173 people, 62 of them children, were killed in a stampede to shelter here during an air raid in March 1943.

The post-war clearance of slums and bomb sites broke up long-established neighbourhoods and – in a creative but doomed response to the problem – the council turned to building clusters of high-rise blocks in the hope that old communities could be re-established vertically.

Bethnal Green is now a chequerboard of council and housing association projects dating from every decade since the late 19th century.

Some of the few surviving Victorian terraces have undergone gentrification in recent years, with an artistic community forming on the Shoreditch border.

To the east of Bethnal Green lies the neighbourhood of Globe Town, established from 1800 to provide for the expanding population of weavers around Bethnal Green attracted by improving prospects in silk weaving. The population of Bethnal Green trebled between 1801 and 1831, operating 20,000 looms in their own homes. By 1824, with restrictions on importation of French silks relaxed, up to half these looms became idle and prices were driven down. With many importing warehouses already established in the district, the abundance of cheap labour was turned to boot, furniture and clothing manufacture. Globe Town continued its expansion into the 1860s, long after the decline of the silk industry.

Globe Town has three globe sculptures situated in three corners of the area. The main shopping area is known as Globe Town Market, and is located on the northern border with Bethnal Green next to the Cranbrook Estate. The area is home to a large Bangladeshi community.

It is to be observed, that the baptisms very much exceed the burials, which is a very unusual circumstance in the villages near London. Upon inquiry I find this is to be attributed to some private burial grounds in the neighbourhood, where the fees are somewhat lower than in that belonging to the church. One of this description has been lately made in the parish near the free-school. When the hamlet of Bethnal-Green was separated from Stepney, it was supposed to contain about 1800 houses; their number is now computed at 3500: the principal increase has been within the last three years: the increase of baptisms during those years bears nearly the same proportion.

Bethnal Green had a total population of 27,849 at the 2011 census, based on the north and south wards of Bethnal Green. The largest single ethnic group is people of Bangladeshi descent, which constitute 38 percent of the area’s population. Every year since 1999 the Baishakhi Mela is celebrated in Weaver’s Field, Bethnal Green which celebrates the Bengali New Year. The second largest are the White British, constituting 30 percent of the area’s population. Other ethnic groups include Black Africans and Black Caribbeans. Like Spitalfields to the west, Bethnal Green has long been a first home for new waves of immigrants, from Huguenot weavers in the 16th and 17th centuries to the South Asian community of today. Over a third of Bethnal Green’s residents are now Bangladeshis.

The two main faiths of the people are Islam and Christianity, with 50 percent Muslim and 34 percent Christians.



Meeting Leonardo Dal Bo (@marameo.art)


Street artist talks Instagram, starting out and pyramids

Even though there are a number of free exhibitions going on this summer in Bethnal Green, you can just walk around on a summers day and appreciate the art everywhere. A couple of pieces you may see are created by 20-year-old street artist, Leonardo Dal Bo. Originally from Bolaga, Italy, Leo moved to the UK in January and now gets commissioned to paint murals around East London. I sat down to chat with Leo at the Misty Moon Pub, where he had been doing some painting earlier in the day.

 When did you get into street art?

So, I started in 2009, seven/eight years ago. I was back in Italy and then I moved here in January. London is a big venue for street art. Bethnal Green, Shoreditch, all those places. If you look around and ask people you can find many commissions. For example, for the Misty Moon I came in one day and asked about the sidewall and they said they were interested and after the first wall they wanted me to the second wall and the shutters. Other times you may see shops that may be cool to paint. You ask them. Sometimes they say yes and sometimes they say no, it’s just a matter of asking around.

A lot of your work features pyramids, is there any meaning behind them?

When I’ve been asked about the meaning. I’ve always said, “it’s up to you. Whatever you think it is. Whatever you want it to be.” When I draw, I don’t think, “I want to convey this.” That idea came up and I decided to do it on the wall. I couldn’t actually say what it means to me. It can be interpreted in different ways. Some people think it looks like a pyramid, whilst others say it looks like a giant gold house in the sky. Others said that in another piece, it looks like someone is trapped in the pyramid, yelling for someone else outside. My work isn’t like the political pieces around. It’s more of a subconscious thing. More surreal. You collect images subconsciously in places like museums and then when you draw they come out and you re-elaborate them following your instinct.

When you started street art, was it commissioned?

No. The first time was in Italy in a church. I’m not kidding, we were doing a summer camp next to my house. One night, together with my best friend we were inspired by something we saw and thought we should go at night time and do something on the walls by the football field. So, we went there with some sprays and did some tags. After that first time, they caught us a few days later because everyone knew each other. We kept doing it and then I decided to go to art school in Italy and it became a thing for me.

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How do you think social media has affected street art?

Street art has changed so much over the last years. Before your portfolio was the street. Now of course there is still the street, but Instagram and Tumblr have changed everything because you post a picture of your work and that’s the main channel for people to see your work. In a way, this killed the street lifestyle that graffiti and street art had. However, a positive thing is before you couldn’t see let’s say someone’s work from Miami, but now you can see it on Instagram.

Had you been to London before you moved here?

Yes, many times. I remember when I was 15, I came here with my father for three days, as he had to work here. While he was working, I explored the city. That is when I discovered the street art in Shoreditch. After that trip, I always remembered all the exchange of styles and ideas I saw. I think that trip inspired me.

How would you describe your style?

I try to always change. I get bored of a style easily. I try to always change things. There is this thing about street artists that many of them do something they like and people like. Then they stick to that idea for their whole life. In my opinion, I like to change and have new ideas.

How do you think street art can benefit an area like Bethnal Green?

I think adding murals to streets makes everything look more bright and colourful. Let’s say you take a sketchy neighbourhood and tell 100 artists to paint it, it would make everything look new and well kept. Better and more appealing.

Head over to Leo’s Instagram to check out some more of his work @marameo.art .Link – https://www.instagram.com/marameo.art/



Getting to know ShayShay

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Drag queen talks finding happiness in drag, giving other performers a platform, Rupaul’s Drag Race and Trump.

If you’re involved in the London queer scene, you may know ShayShay as ‘Miss Sink The Pink 2015’. Since then, the California born drag queen has been entertaining around London. Most recently, they took part in a discussion on defining the word ‘queer’ in an episode of BBC Three’s ‘Queer Britain’, which will be available to watch online on June 11th. I got a chance to watch ShayShay host her monthly show ‘The ShayShay Show’ at Bethnal Green’s safe space, ‘LimeWharf’. The venue is a sanctuary for members of marginalised groups such as queers, people of colour, trans and geeks to grow, explore and learn. ShayShay’s show gives new performers a platform to showcase their art, as it is hard for performance artists to get booked when starting out.

 I sat down to chat with Shane in the same space I saw them perform a few weeks prior. Bare faced and dressed comfortably in knitwear, they sit on the sofa eager to answer my questions.

 ShayShay? From your regular name, Shane?

 Yeah, so way back in university when I started radio DJing for my college radio, I somehow adopted the name ShayShay and It became my go to name for whenever I was being a host or in a leadership position or just something more fun. My Drag is not a separate character or entity, so it made sense to still be me, but with a slightly funkier name. It’s an extension of myself, it’s not my every day, but it’s a part of my every day.

How would you describe your drag in three words?

Other people assign this for me. It’s not even my drag it’s just me in general. Seventies, Vegan Lesbian. I do love kind of frumpier style that tends to be a bit more comfortable, a bit older, I don’t often dress very young and sexy. I look like your mum picking you up from school. That for me works.

Do you dance?

I love to dance. I dance all the time. One of my favourite things to do is dance in my kitchen whilst cooking. I danced when I was younger and I kind of gave up on it because I thought, “I’m not trained enough and I haven’t done ballet or any of these things that you have to become a dancer.” So, I decided “oh well I’ll just dance for fun,” which I still do, but I get paid to dance a lot. It amazing to me, I think a misconception that I was given growing up about the performing arts is that there is only one route into doing it. Really there are so many more ways to be a professional in performing arts, so I was really happy when I discovered drag. I was blown away that It was all the things I wanted to do, but I just never knew it existed.

Why did you move to the UK?

I’m half Irish. My mom is from Ireland, so we visited Ireland and England a lot growing up and a little bit of me was like, “I’d really love to live in London one day, it would be really cool.” And I think I said it enough times and I didn’t really have any plans after university in California. I was so confused about everything, so I decided after uni was probably the best time to give it a go and if it doesn’t go well I could always move back. I really moved with no plan. I just came and got a real job, being a project manager and that didn’t last a year. I had discovered drag in that time and the queer scene. I realised that one club night that I would look forward to and dress up for would bring me more joy and happiness that I would get from my job for a month and a half. Since I was so into throwing parties big dress up parties at university, I wanted to do that on a larger scale, like a real event. Once again, with no real plan I quit my job to see if I could make it work. I came here to hopefully to find myself, my hopes and dreams and I managed to do it. Just managed.

How did you come about being a resident queen and starting The ShayShay show at LimeWharf?

Oh my god, I love that that’s what you think I am. I mean yes that’s my self-given title. So, I first came into contact with LimeWharf and its sister company down the road because Sink The Pink, the club night originally were working from the building right next to us. My first venture into getting involved in the queer club scene was helping Sink The Pink with things. I came here a few times and met Tam, who runs the space. Luckily, I thought she was really cool and she thought I was pretty interesting. Coincidentally, not long after I started coming here, LimeWharf posted on their Facebook that they needed casual event staff with perks. I just thought like “I’ve just quit my job I could use some casual work with perks,” and so I sent an email in and got the nicest reply back. They thought my name was Shelley which I absolutely loved. If I didn’t have a drag name at that point I probably would have been Shelley something. I worked behind the bar and I was like, “I’d love to do an event of my own here sometime and I don’t know what I’d be or anything like that.” I began thinking about it more and luckily Tam let me do it for free. We put on an event in mid 2015 called ‘Maybe’ and it was an interactive performance event and we used this whole building. Luckily it went pretty well for being on a Wednesday night, so I did a few more with a few friends. It had a nice vibe and people were happy to do it and wanting to show their new work. Now I get about 5 to 6 people who I’ve never even met messaging me to ask if they can perform. That’s perfect because I love seeing new performers that I wouldn’t get to see in other places. Besides a performance platform for local performers, I’m trying to turn it into a slight development program. I’m very happy with the way it’s going now and I’ve gotten to a point where I can kind of just remain calm and trust it’s all going to work. It makes me really happy that it’s become what I wanted it to be.

What do you think your strong suits are?

The thing that I’m best at is hosting, once I get rolling I just ramble, but it tends it work. I have so much fun lip-syncing. I remember thinking when I had a job job, “how can I turn lip-syncing into a career?” and somehow I kind of have. Well it’s a part of my career.

Who are your favourite queens from Drag race?

My favourite ones are always going to be the weirdest ones. My favourite who everyone loves is Katya because she’s just wacko. I think I would have a really good time being a freak with Katya. I love Raja, to me raja is number one winner of all time. So weird, love love love her. I love that her drag is often very very simple, like a lot of the time she doesn’t wear a wig which I really relate to. She wears sometimes weird ugly things and they look fabulous on her. She’s a total stoner and she’s amazing. I thought milk was really interesting and I wish she had gone on a later season and think she would have gone further. I think it was early and people weren’t ready for something so out there

Being from America, what are your thoughts on Trump and your country right now?

I think unfortunately the whole world was going in the right direction and things were advancing and places were passing progressing laws, but t hen the older generation, the conservatives and the backward people who are usually from more rural areas and not in touch with how everyone’s becoming, freaked out and there was a big reactionary. I’m just hoping for the best. My main tactic is to empower all the people I know and spread as much love as I can to the people I have contact with. Challenge and question people when it is safe to do so.

What are your thoughts on disappearing gay bars In London?

It’s really sad, so many good places are closing because of rent going up. I think it’s especially sad that when these gay bars and clubs close a lot of these safe spaces are gone. Then the ones that are left are under so much pressure to do well and make money.

What was it like to win Miss Sink The Pink 2015?

Very exciting, very validating, I’d only been doing drag for about six months. I just went in thinking, “I’m going to do everything. I’m going to do ten million costume changes, a dance break, a wig reveal. Hopefully If I put everything on the table then at least I would have done my best.”

What did you be when you were younger?

I wanted to be an artist, not on stage but behind the scenes. I don’t know why I’m obviously an attention whore.

What advice would you offer queens that are just getting started performing?

Do what you want to do, do what makes you happiest, dress the way you want to dress, drag doesn’t have to be big boobs, big hair. It can be whatever you want it to be. Dress frumpy if that’s what makes you feel fabulous. I love someone who’s in an ill-fitting mum dress they found at a charity shop who is having the time of their life. Don’t even dress up, just roll around on stage if that’s what you want to do.

Catch ShayShay’s appearance on the final episode of BBC Three’s Queer Britain on BBC IPlayer and YouTube on June 11th.