East London Celebrates Its Cultural Heritage With EAST Festival

By Clare Alverson | 27 February 2007
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Photo of three young girls dressed as pearly queens

Pearly kings and queens have long been a part of east London life. © Visit London

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EAST is a new arts festival running from March 1 - 6 2007 that promotes the rich cultural and artistic history of east London.

A variety of locations throughout the east end, from churches to nightclubs, will play host to this six-day celebration of visual arts, music, theatre, dance, fashion and food of the area.

“East London with its rich past and present, has long been a real creative hotbed in London,” said Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, at the launch of EAST. “This collaboration will, I hope, offer Londoners a great opportunity to sample and enjoy an unrivalled mix of cultural experiences and serve as a fantastic introduction to the area.”

EAST opens on the evening of March 1 2007 with bells from 28 churches, including St Paul’s Cathedral, ringing out. For the next 5 days museums and galleries, bars and clubs, markets, shops and restaurants will open their doors to present all that’s best in east London cultural life.

Photo of St Paul's Cathedral

Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Paul's. © Visit London

The multi-ethnicity of the area is at the heart of many artistic events. Here and Now: Young voices from India at the Gray Walk Gallery features 26 contemporary Indian artists, and work by experimental Lithuanian film maker, Jonas Mekas, will be showcased at the Whitechapel Art Gallery.

East London has produced and stimulated many British artists including Tracey Emin and Turner Prize winner, Grayson Perry, and the area as home and inspiration to artists is also a theme of the festival.

Photos illustrating the style of local people are shown in Monarchs of the East End by Gavin Fernandes at Rich Mix and Colin Halliday’s A Breath of London is an exhibition of new photos and paintings of the city at the Start Space Gallery. The richness of the art scene in east London will also be revealed by the East End Art tours run by the Whitechapel Art Gallery.

Many of the exhibitions are free and family-friendly with Happy Birthday Miffy at the V&A Museum of Childhood celebrating the 50th birthday of the children’s character. The East Treasure Hunt run by the Whitechapel Art Gallery will also lead treasure hunters on a jaunt through the back streets of east London, following clues to a secret party venue.

Black and white photo of routemaster London bus with two bus conductors in front

Who knows where the Mystery History bus will take you? © Museum of London

A trip on the Mystery History bus provides passengers with an educational excursion through east London and the city’s only Roman amphitheatre, which now forms part of the Guildhall Art Gallery, will be open for tours guided by an expert from the Museum of London.

Further tours will explore the Jewish and Bengali regions of the east end and many other cultures will feature in music, food and literature events. Taste East, a two-day food festival, will offer visitors a sample of the flavours of the area at stalls from local restaurants. The diversity of east London will also be on display at gigs and performances ranging from the Duke of Uke Ukulele Workshop at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club to a display of flamenco dancing by The Women of Lorca at Sadler’s Wells.

Alternative Arts is running a series of literary discussions and readings demonstrating how politics and art meet in books produced by local writers. Under Cover: The Politics of the Veil is a discussion chaired by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown at Toynbee Hall.

EAST is a collaboration between the Mayor of London's office and many cultural organisations including the Museum of London, The Barbican and the Whitechapel Art Gallery. For full details of times, locations and booking information visit the www.findeast.co.uk website.