Tuesday, 18 June 2013

When conservationists fought battles

'The Gentle Author' writes a blog that sounds so parochial one would hardly expect any one to read it and yet he has, quite rightly, built up a huge following. He posts daily from Spitalfields, a characterful area of east London, looking at his local area and beyond.
I say 'he' for convenience but, although the creator has been interviewed by several newspapers, he/she insists on maintaining anonymity, including of gender.
Anyway, like many people, I subscribe to the daily updates from the blog and, also like many, I often don't find the time to read the posts. But I read the latest one where the author (sorry, gentle author) interviews the renowned architectural historian Mark Girouard. Girouard talks, not about his writing career but about his time as an activist, fighting to save houses in Spitalfields that were threatened with demolition. A member of the Spitalfields Trust, he was one of a group who staged sit-ins - and also bought threatened buildings.  'If any building that was important to us came up for sale,' he said, 'we bought it irrespective of whether we had the money, in the hope that we could find the money – and we always did.'
Part of the appeal of this post is to read about the courage and foresight of the members of the Spitalfields Trust. It also makes you think about how bad developers can be at predicting future attitudes. Spitalfields is now one of the gems that adds charm to London.
Girouard also reminisces about how nice the atmosphere was in the early days, with houses bought and occupied by people without much money. Now of course, thanks in part to his efforts, it is fast becoming gentrified and unaffordable - something that I am sure he would not have predicted.

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