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After You've Gone: East End Shopfronts, 1988

Alan Dein's photographs of East End shop fronts were taken in 1988 when many Tower Hamlets streets were on the verge of dereliction. Alan, an oral historian and broadcaster, lived in Stepney at the time. He decided to capture the diminishing, decaying local shops on film, many of them relics of the area’s Jewish community. These oral history clips of former shop owners and customers shed light on life in the borough from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Oral histories

Recorded in spring 2012  

Sheila Butt grew up in Great Eastern Buildings, near to the Truman Brewery, in the early 1950s. She recalls host of East End characters and places including Leon’s shop, Petticoat Lane, and the famous Prince Monolulu.


Life in Great Eastern Buildings [10:02]


Leaving the East End [02:13]


Winkles and shrimps for Sunday tea [2:14]


What your parents sacrificed for you [3:45]


Penny policy and under the table [2:55]


’You’ve brought me home’ [4:09]


Barry Gelkoff and his parents ran Gelkoff’s confectionery shop on Whitechapel High Street from 1956 until soon after Alan’s picture was taken in 1988. Here he shares his memories of the local area, and an East End institution that once even shipped chocolates to the South Pole.

Previous owners and building up the shop [03:21]


Walter and Sylvia Pomper [01:35]


Memorable customers [04:35]


Describing the neighbourhood [02:23]


Describing the neighbourhood 2 [09:02]


A robbery [01:54]


Gelkoff Snr [01:36]


Inside the shop [04:37]


Fay Cattini lived in Wheler House, close to Leon’s shop where she remembers buying sweets as a child. Fay still lives in Spitalfields, and speaks about her childhood, leaving, and returning to the East End.

Leon’s [02:12]


Shopping [01:35]


’I didn’t know there had been a war’ [05:36]


‘It’s cheaper to pull something down and rebuild’ [05:12]