Clearly there were more people than we realised dashing around 1970s/80s London with a Kodak swinging round their neck.
Following in the wake of shows like Roy Mehta's Revival and Neil Martinson's Rare Hackney, comes a showcase of photos of the East End's community, taken by teacher Phillip Cunningham during the late 1970s.
Lost East End sees a collection of 40 of Cunningham's photographs on show at Bethnal Green's Oxford House, from 20 April-27 October 2023. These visual reminisces depict an east London that was often gritty, underfunded and underrepresented. Brick Lane appears boarded up and semi-derelict, while local children parade through the streets with banners, demanding that Kingsley Hall — a community centre in Bow — remains open. (It is, thanks to their efforts, still open today.)
In spite of challenging circumstances — including anti-social behaviour and rampant racism — community comes up trumps; in one image, a group of kids club together to help with the foundation of Stepping Stones Farm. Again, their legacy is writ large: today, the place thrives as Stepney City Farm.
Born in the East End in the 1940s, Philip Cunningham studied art at Ravensbourne College in the 1970s, and was a fixture of the East End streets, where he snapped thousands of photos. A teacher in Tower Hamlets and Hackney himself, he was particular drawn to working class lives, community and activism.
Oxford House is a fitting location for Lost East End — founded in 1884 as a 'settlement house' by a group of students, it remains at the heart of the Bethnal Green community, hosting exhibitions, dance classes, live music and the like.
A special programme of events accompanies Lost East End, including a screening of Rubika Shah's award-winning documentary White Riot, charting the rise of the Rock Against Racism movement.
Lost East End, Oxford House, Bethnal Green, 20 April-27 October 2023, free.