We challenge our contributor to reply to ten devilishly probing questions about their London and we don’t take “Sorry Gov” for an answer. Everyone sitting in the hot seat will face the same questions that range from their favourite way to spend a day out in the capital to their most hated building on London’s skyline to find out just what Londoners really think about their city. The questions might be the same but the answers vary wildly.
[D]avid Rosenberg is a teacher, writer and tour guide. He specialises in walks around the East End revealing its social and political history, but also leads a course called “In the Footsteps of London’s Rebels” for the City Lit – London’s leading adult education centre. He attributes much of his geographical knowledge of London to three years spent working as a van driver in the early 1980s delivering books to the furthest reaches of London as well as to inner city locations. He is the author of Battle for the East End: Jewish responses to fascism in the 1930s (Five Leaves Publications, 2011) and, more recently, Rebel Footprints: a guide to uncovering London’s radical history (Pluto Press, 2015). You can find out more about David’s walks by visiting: www.eastendwalks.com
What’s your secret London tip?
Discover London on foot! There’s a world of social history, art and culture out there which shows why London is such a great and diverse city to be in. But don’t go for the all-singing-all-dancing central London ones – look for the more localised, more quirky tours.
What’s your secret London place?
Angel Alley, a few doors down from the Whitechapel Art Gallery. The East End used to be full of little alleyways. Down this one you will find a rather intriguing art installation, and Freedom Bookshop – one of the longest standing radical political bookshops in the capital.
What’s your biggest gripe about London?
Empty buildings alongside homelessness. London’s a great city and nobody should be spending it sleeping on the streets. We need to make some of these buildings socially useful again rather than let them simply add value for speculators. We need to address homelessness in creative ways and make use of the talents of everyone in the capital including those who have fallen on hard times.
What’s your favourite building?
The old St George’s Town hall on Cable Street because across the whole of one external side it has got the fabulous Cable Street mural recalling the dramatic victory over Mosley’s fascists in October 1936. Look also for a very poignant small golden plaque on the front of the building.
What’s your most hated building?
Toss up between Brent Cross shopping centre or the new Westfield in Stratford. No, Brent Cross gets the vote! I like real shops, selling useful and interesting things that real people need.
What’s the best view in London?
That’s really difficult as there are so many. But a few years ago, when Ken Livingstone was heading the Greater London Authority, I was invited to an early evening event at the GLA building and we were encouraged to take our drinks out on to the 9th floor balcony. The view from there is spectacular!
What’s your personal London landmark?
That’s got to be Upton Park – home of West Ham United FC, my place of worship on Saturday afternoon’s since 1966. It’s the only place where I pray, though it doesn’t always work. Things are starting to look up now though! Like most West Ham fans, I will be totally gutted when we move to that soulless wasteland of the Olympic Stadium in Stratford.
What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
The London Nobody Knows – a short and powerful documentary narrated by James Mason in 1969 – is my favourite film. My favourite London book is a fascinating study, mainly told through oral history, of an estate in East London that was pulled down in the 1970s. The book is called The Rothschild Buildings and it’s written by Jerry White
What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
No contest. Monsoon Restaurant at 78 Brick Lane – the best Brick Lane curry by far. I used to work off Brick Lane in the late 1980s and got to know most of the restaurants along there. New restaurants continue to open but nothing can compete so far with Monsoon.
How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
If it’s raining (as it often is) I would spend it in museums and art galleries, especially the Tate Modern, which is consistently excellent, but if the weather is good and it’s the right day I’d take in a few markets like Portobello Road, Brixton market or Camden Lock, and do a bit of canal walking to get away from the traffic and enjoy London’s buildings from a different angle.
This ‘Grill’ was first posted on the Radio Taxis blog.