Taste of the old Jewish East End returns to Aldgate in June at the Aldgate Square Festival


On Saturday 16th June 2018 at the Aldgate Festival, a taste of the old Jewish East end will be returning to Aldgate for the opening of the new Aldgate Square with Jewish food and music on offer.

It’s going to be a celebration of rich history of this area where the City meets the East End. Local Councillor Jason Pritchard was keen that the opening of the new square should in particular honour its Jewish past and so he suggested to the organisers that they book local Jewish band, Klezmer Klub. “I first saw Klezmer Klub play a few years back at a birthday party in Bethnal Green” he said, “and I really fell in love with their music, particularly as they sang about those parts of the East End where I’m from. At the end of the evening I even went home with their CD!  So when we were looking for a Klezmer band to accompany the launch of the new square I knew where to look.”

Klezmer is, at its heart, dance music, in particular wedding music, both wild and tender. Played by the Klezmorim as they tramped the roads of eastern Europe, it is a music that gets to your heart by way of your feet. Often described as bitter-sweet, it came out of poverty and oppression. Both dances and song contain joy, exhilaration and wit alongside the sadness, anger and defiance.

Klezmer Klub sing in Yiddish, the language of the Jews in Eastern Europe. Vivi Lachs, Klezmer Klub’s lead singer, has collected her own unique repertoire of songs, which cover a wide variety of themes: love songs, political anthems and union songs, music hall comedy, songs from film and theatre, and songs about working class life in the old East End.  A great performer, Vivi animates them all with explanations, costume and character.

Whilst much of the Jewish community has long since moved on from Aldgate there are still many signs of the area’s Jewish past, if you know where to look. Within Aldgate ward, a short distance to the north of the gate, Jews had settled from 1181 and stayed until their expulsion in 1290 by King Edward I. The area became known as Old Jewry. Jews were welcomed back by Oliver Cromwell, and once again settled in the area, founding London’s oldest synagogue at Bevis Marks in 1698. On Creechurch Lane there is a blue plaque on the wall to mark the site of the first synagogue after the resettlement, 1657 – 1701.

Cllr Pritchard lives on the Middlesex Street Estate in the ward of Portsoken and describes how “many of the flats in the square and tower still have mezuzahs at the doors [these are small cases which contain pieces of scroll]. A mezuzah declares: The people who dwell here live Jewish lives. Even though the previous occupants have moved out these traditional pieces of parchment have often remained in the doorways on the estate. It’s this melting pot of history, where different cultures have left their mark, that makes our part of the City so fascinating. My own ancestors were French Huguenots who arrived as refugees in Spitalfields in the 1680s and my family has remained in the East End ever since.”

In addition to the Jewish music, Cllr Pritchard was keen to book a food stall where people could sample some of the types of foods that would have been sold locally when the area was the heart of the Jewish East End: “I approached my neighbour, Ivan, to ask if he knew of anyone who might want to run a Jewish food stall at the festival. That was when Ivan reminded me that Saturday is the Shabbat day, a day of rest, making it difficult to find someone to work that day.”

It was then that he came across Monty’s deli in Spitalfields Market. Monty’s make their own bagels, salt beef, pastrami and mustard and many more Jewish delicacies and are famed for their renowned Rueben Sandwich. Happily Monty’s agreed to run a stall at the festival.

“I am really happy that we will have this chance for people to hear traditional Jewish music and to taste a bit of Jewish food. I have already told our oldest Jewish resident centenarian Manny Blankett who is looking forward to coming along. I do hope that many local people will come along and enjoy the weekend. Alongside the Bangladeshi folk music and even a Latin Fiesta band and many more exciting activities, it looks like it is going to be a fantastic weekend.”

The Aldgate Square Festival will run from Friday 15th to Sunday 17th June 2018 in Aldgate Square just off Aldgate High Street. Klezmer Klub will perform on Saturday 16th June. Monty’s Deli will be serving Jewish-inspired dishes over the weekend. To find out more about the festival please visit the website www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/aldgatesquarefestival


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Labour’s candidate William Campbell-Taylor on why party politics has a place in the City


William Campbell-Taylor believes Labour councillors get unfair treatment from their peers, and says they should instead be praised for their transparency.

“Many of the Independent City councillors are also Conservative Party members – not to mention Freemasons – and at least one of them is a serving Conservative councillor elsewhere,” said Mr Campbell-Taylor.

“It’s completely fine that they should have political affiliations, of course. What isn’t fine is that they should then pretend they have no political interests.”

Labour caused a stir in March’s City-wide elections when the party increased its influence in the Court of Common Council fivefold.

Now the latest man to run with a red rosette is hoping his public-facing campaign will be enough to help him join the fray and become the first Labour Alderman.

“Many residents are pleased to have the opportunity to support a Labour candidate for Alderman, though it’s also true that party politics isn’t the only consideration when choosing whom to vote for.

“Residents and small businesses want to know that you are on their side, that you will fight their corner.”

Mr Campbell-Taylor can point to a history of holding the local authority to account. In 2001 he successfully campaigned to prevent the Cass Foundation selling off the Sir John Cass’s School site before forcing the City to publish a summary of its private cash accounts in 2011.

“If transparency is a priority for me so too is fairness,” he said. “For example, I want the City to cover free school meals for all children in Year 3 and above at Sir John Cass’s.

When it puts £12million into its private schools I think it can also afford to make sure the children at the City’s only state school get a decent meal during the day.”

Housing is also a minefield the candidate is putting at the top of his agenda, but complete with hard hat, he has pledged to scrutinise Corporation policy, especially after the “Bernard Morgan House calamity”.

“I want to make sure the City meets its commitments to housing Londoners… to build 3,700 new homes by 2025. It can begin by looking after those who already live on the two housing estates in Portsoken, one of which is council run.

“I read that Aldgate is now being billed as ‘the hottest property destination in Europe’, set to generate 20,000 jobs. But how many of those jobs will come to local residents? And how will the residents and small businesses benefit from all this money coming into the area?”

And it isn’t just housing that the Labour candidate thinks the Corporation is under-delivering on. He wants reform that he says will allow the Square Mile to start working for everyone, not just those in big business.

“Because different governments have promoted the liberalisation of the financial services sector, the Corporation decided that it wasn’t in its interests to nail its political colours to the mast.

“Only now, after the crash, is this catching up with the City. People are beginning to see that the City of London, rather than being a state of nature, represents a powerful set of interests. And these interests need to be brought into the daylight. That’s what a Labour group can do; it can shine a light on the interests at work.

“Politics is not a freelance activity – about being a ‘Mighty Me’ independent – it’s about solidarity, people working together and demanding change.”

Mr Campbell-Taylor stated that the growing number of Labour members on the council was evidence of a change in attitudes locally.

“Our new Labour councillors Jason Pritchard and Munsur Ali have shown this in their campaigning work, from making sure that all unlicensed massage parlours are closed down to speaking up for the Rohingya Muslims in the council.

“Now we need more councillors like Jason and Munsur that reflect the mix of the City and theconcerns of ordinary people – and hopefully soon the City’s first Labour Alderman too.”

Source: City Matters


Happy 100th Birthday to Labour Portsoken member Mannie Blankett!

Happy birthday to long-standing Labour Portsoken member Mannie Blankett who celebrated his 100th birthday in style this week with well wishes from his sporting and political heroes.

Mannie turned 100 on 18 October, celebrating with parties all over Portsoken, starting with a lavish affair at the Dorsett City Hotel in Aldgate, followed by an afternoon of singing and dancing with his friends at community centre Toynbee Hall.

The youngest of six children to Polish immigrants, Mannie was born and raised in the East End, and trained to be a hairdresser before going into the family’s furrier business in the West End and spending several summers as a lifeguard for lidos around London.

Speaking with Spitalfields Life last year Mannie said that after a stint in the armed forces during World War II and then the Peace Movement in the 1960s, he returned to the East End and has been living in Petticoat Lane for the last 20 years.

The birthday boy was delighted to receive his customary card from the Queen, as well as surprise well wishes from the Tottenham Hotspur first team and a special personal address from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Portsoken councillors Jason Pritchard and Munsur Ali presented Mannie with a signed Labour manifesto and a video message from the Labour leader during a party at Toynbee Hall, which Mannie attends three times a week for activities and social events. It was a packed house for the community centre’s first 100th birthday party, with around 30 regulars turning up to congratulate Mannie on the milestone and indulge in one of the centre’s most popular activities; a group singalong.

Portsoken councillor Jason Pritchard said: “What an amazing man Mannie is! So honoured to be there on this special day and to get a video message from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wishing Mannie a happy birthday was fantastic. Mannie said it made his day. Thanks to all who helped make this day so special.”


Weekly Doorstep Surgery Dates in June and July


Now the summertime is here Portsoken Councillors Jason Pritchard and Munsur Ali will be taking their weekly surgery outdoors in the sunshine and visiting residents at their doors over the coming weeks to talk about local issues. Councillor Jason Pritchard says “This will ensure that we are reaching out to everyone in our community and particularly to those residents who have mobility issues and are unable to make it along to the usual fixed location.”

Our next doorstep surgery sessions will be on the following dates and times:

Tuesday 20th June 2017

Mansell Street Estate 17:45 pm – 18:45 pm

Tuesday 27th June 2017

Middlesex Street Estate 17:45 pm – 18:45 pm

Tuesday 4th July 2017

Mansell Street Estate 17:45 pm – 18:45 pm

Monday 10th July 2017

Mansell Street Estate 19:00 pm – 20:00 pm

To make sure Munsur and Jason know to call at your door, you can call them on 07834 342479 /  07930 600325 or email: labourportsoken@gmail.com

IMPORTANT: Please note there will be no surgeries taking place at Artizan Street Library or Portsoken Community Centre during this period. Please be advised this schedule may be subject to change at short notice. 

Forthcoming Weekly Surgery dates

During our campaign, we promised to make ourselves available to help you with the day to day problems that arise. Below are the forthcoming dates for our weekly advice surgery.

→ Weekly surgery dates

Tuesday 16th May 2017

5.45pm – 6.45pm, The Green Box

Tuesday 23rd May 2017

5.45pm – 6.45pm, Artizan St Library

Tuesday 30th May 2017

5.45pm – 6.45pm, The Green Box

Tuesday 6th June 2017

 5.45pm – 6.45pm, Artizan St Library

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