Monday, August 03, 2020

Mapping Banglatown

Brick Lane in London's East End has a fascinating history. The name 'Brick Lane' comes from the brick and tile workshops that sprung up in the area in the 15th century. In the 17th Century French Huguenots settled in the area and the neighborhood soon became well known for its many weavers and tailors.

During the 20th Century the area around Brick Lane became a popular destination for immigrants from Bangladesh. To cater to these new arrivals many Bengali restaurants and shops were opened in Brick Lane. In the later half of the 20th Century London's Brick Lane became best known for its many 'Indian' restaurants and the street has long been a popular destination for diners in search of a curry.

In the 21st Century Brick Lane has begun to undergo another process of change. Its proximity to Shoreditch and London's creative industries has led to the incursion of a number of niche, boutique shops and coffee shops.

In fact there are now two fairly distinct Brick Lanes. The southern end of Brick Lane has a large concentration of Bangladeshi restaurants and shops. While the street's northern end is dominated by more gentrified retail outlets, catering to a younger more 'hipsterish' clientele.

You can explore this new hybrid Brick Lane for yourself on Beyond Banglatown, a fantastic new interactive map of the modern Brick Lane. Between July 2018 and June 2020 Beyond Banglatown carried out face-to-face surveys with shop proprietors and employees in Brick Lane. They carried out in-depth interviews with the street's restaurant owners, former restaurant owners & other residents to document the modern Brick Lane.

The Beyond Banglatown interactive map colors building footprints by building category, (restaurant, textiles, art etc). If you click on the Bangladeshi restaurants on the map you can often read a detailed history of the restaurant and its owners. These detailed profiles provide a fascinating glimpse into the history of Banglatown and into the problems that its restaurant owners face in the 21st Century. The Bangladeshi restaurants in the southern half of Brick Lane have been experiencing dwindling footfall in recent years. There is obviously now a huge worry that the recent lock-down may bring an end to many of the most famous Brick Lane curry houses.

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