All Is Not Well In Brick Lane

February 17, 2010

I heard on Vanessa Feltz’s radio show this morning that Tower Hamlets in their wisdom are looking to put up arches at Brick Lane. The shape of the gate is to be based on a headscarf, apparently. ‘Hijab gates,’ as they are now known, have bought the residents of Tower Hamlets together as one. According to The Guardian, they don’t want it. Muslims believe it to be divisive and Tracey Emin; one of our more famous denizens has suggested they spend the £2 million making the streets cleaner and clear of vermin instead.

I’m mighty hacked off that I had to find out about something that affects me through a local radio show. Thanks for thinking of me, Tower Hamlets council. Bless their little cotton socks; they’ve tried to explain the reason for this grand idea. I apologise for the length of this, but I felt it needed to be quoted in full. Taken from The Guardian 15.2.2010.

A spokeswoman for the council said the concept behind the arch was “loosely based on the sculptural form of a headscarf, reflecting the many cultural backgrounds that have occupied and sought refuge in and around Brick Lane over the centuries.”

She said headscarves were worn for a variety of purposes, “such as for warmth, for sanitation, for fashion or social distinction; with religious significance, to hide baldness, out of modesty, or other forms of social convention,” and not only by Muslims.

“Observant married Orthodox Jewish women, for example, are required to cover their hair, often employing scarves for the purpose, and Jewish men will use a kippah or yarmulke to cover their heads for religious purposes.” She went on: “Many men and women currently wear headscarves or bandannas as a fashion statement, and with Brick Lane being a cultural melting pot both historically and now at the start of the 21st century, this design reference seems appropriate and fitting.”

It doesn’t matter how the burghers of Tower Hamlets spin it, the belief is that this will represent only one culture, the large Bangladeshi and mostly Muslim community. That ALL communities in the borough think it’s a stupid idea tells you how far off the radar they are when it comes to the needs of the people.

The population of East London and Tower Hamlets in particular, personified by Brick Lane changes all the time. It’s changing already with the influx of trendy skinny-jeaned Hoxtonites in the borough. Once they’ve settled in, will they pull the gates down and replace them with Pete Docherty pork pie hats? And speaking of wasted money – £2 million pounds?!! I’m so happy to know they’re thinking of wasting money on this universally reviled idea. Here’s a radical idea – why not use that £2 million to take a little off our council tax? Or perhaps create something for the teenage boys to do so they don’t break into my block to smoke and spit as they did yesterday, leaving my flat still stinking of smoke, 16 hours after opening all windows to Siberian weather and burning a forest full of incense.

I have no idea what these gates are going to look like, given that as a resident of the affected borough I’ve not been privy to the plans, but the possibility of ending up with some God-awful spun sugar confection like the Queen Mother gates in Hyde Park doesn’t bear thinking about.

Good grief.



  1. …not to mention how divisive the headscarf itself has been in secular countries such as Turkey and France.

    Clearly they need to read Orhan Pamhuk’s Snow… or this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headscarf_controversy_in_Turkey to really appreciate the damage this could create.

    extremely naive – coming from a council that is trying to appease its unhappy populace by vanity measures that are less ‘multicultural’ and, as you say, more ‘monocultural’.

    Thanks for bringing this one up.

    • It’s the same kind of local authority thinking that leads to the banning of Christmas type events and other things to not offend ‘other cultures.’ By this they mean Muslim and I say this is a criminal way to behave because 1. Muslims on the whole couldn’t give a monkeys. They just want to live a quiet life and 2. By falling over backwards to accommodate one or two cultures to the detriment of everyone else in the area in some misunderstood notion of political correctness, a fractured community is created. Human beings are simple. If we feel we’re getting a fair shake of the stick, we’re happy, if not, we start growling. I wish these people would work with that simple equation in mind. Or am I naiive?

  2. If you are a Tower hamlets resident and want to put yoiur views across to teh council, you have intil the 22 feb to do so. That’s right! That’s what I found out yesterday. Here’s the email
    Tower Hamlets has totally got this wrong.

    • Thanks for this, Plume. Looks like I’d better get a wriggle on.

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