Cockney Heritage Festival in Tower Hamlets aims to prove culture is not brown bread

By Culture24 Reporter | 19 July 2013

Festival preview: Cockney Heritage Festival, various venues, Tower Hamlets, until July 27 2013

A black and white photo of people taking part in a street procession
The inaugural Cockney Heritage Festival will recreate the Pearlies processions such as this one during the 1920s© Courtesy Tower Hamlets Council
Sub-titled Dead or Re-incarnated?, the debate on the rumoured demise of the Cockney, held as part of this inaugural festival of the East End, features a performance by Stepney-born musician Jah Wobble and a reading by Eddie Johnson, the landlord-turned-writer once responsible for the Two Puddings pub in Stratford.

The motion they might discuss – that Cockney idiom and culture is dying out – was the chief reason why the programme was conceived, as Tower Hamlets Council and the Cockney Heritage Trust joined forces in response to media reports sounding precisely that knell.

There is an old-fashioned “knees-up” at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, where traditional music and dancing will break out until the wee hours. But the sort of reminiscing the festival hopes to spark might be most keenly provoked at the Local History Library and Archives.

Jeff and Mick Geggus, of Cockney Rejects notoriety, are introducing their film, East End Babylon. And a traditional Pearly memento by children at the Museum of Childhood will be accompanied by borough-wide tea dances and sing-alongs.

“Cockney culture has been pronounced ‘brown bread’,” says Ray Sparra Everingham, of the Trust, finding a touch of slang irresistible.

“But our festival sees it alive and well.

“This collective effort from across the borough represents the biggest celebration of Cockney heritage the East End has seen in a generation.”

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