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East London 2012: Joe Dunthorne

We speak to the east London-based writer about his thoughts on the changes in the local area

In the May issue of Dazed & Confused we invited a collection of east London-based creatives to join the debate 'East London is Dead' on our interactive map of the area. In this interview we speak to Shoreditch-based writer Joe Dunthorne who talks to us about the social, economical and cultural changes in the local area.

I'd love to say I remember an authentic East End but ever since I've lived here it's been in the middle of huge change. The area lost the unique character that attracted the developers in the first place – and so the plague keeps spreading

DD: Who are you and what do you do for a living?
Joe Dunthorne: I'm Joe Dunthorne and I'm a writer.
 
DD: Where in east London are you based?
Joe Dunthorne:I live in Clapton and have an office in Shoreditch. 

DD: What first attracted you to the area and how long have you been working here?
Joe Dunthorne: 
I was lured here, seven years ago, by one of my best friends who’d found a flat on Curtain Road. I didn’t know I was moving into, as I recently heard it called, ‘London's entertainment district’. Prior to that, I’d always said that I wasn’t cut out for London. I was intimidated by the bus timetables. 

DD: How has east London changed the most since you've been here? Why do you think that is?
Joe Dunthorne: I'd love to say I remember an authentic East End but ever since I've lived here it's been in the middle of huge change. Shortly after I arrived, Old Spitalfields Market was demolished and replaced by a Norman Foster aircraft-hanger full of chain stores. The area lost the unique character that attracted the developers in the first place – and so the plague keeps spreading. When that thought gets depressing, I like to think that Shoreditch has not changed but, in fact, has just returned to the role it had four hundred years ago, as London's entertainment district, with trendy Shakespeare putting on plays.

DD: What is the most exciting part of your local creative community?
Joe Dunthorne:
For me, it's the food. The other night, in Bethnal Green, I was in a bar when, at midnight, a fishmonger came in with a basket, selling cockles and whelks to the landlord. I was excited. The next morning, when I woke up, I found the smoked kippers I’d bought in my coat pocket.
 
DD: Has the area informed your creative work at all and if so, how?
Joe Dunthorne:
Not especially. I haven't quite got a handle on how to write about London yet. I think I'll have to move away first.
 
DD: Is it possible to say ‘Silicon Roundabout’ aloud without laughing?
Joe Dunthorne: I take my new-media start-ups very seriously.
 
DD: What's your favourite East End hangout?
Joe Dunthorne:
I'm currently in love with a snooker hall behind Hackney Downs railway station called Anglia Grove.
 
DD: Does anything annoy you about the area? If so, what?
Joe Dunthorne:
It's a shame that it's not possible to go to Shoreditch on the weekend without wanting to die.
 
DD: What are you going to do during the Olympics – stay or flee? Why?
Joe Dunthorne:
I’m upset because I missed the ticket lottery. I would absolutely love to see the floor gymnastics, or the box vault, or the ping pong. Instead I'm going to stay and watch on TV. It's going to be awful.
 
DD: Is east London dead?
Joe Dunthorne:
It's dead. Totally. But the corpse is beginning to smell wonderful.

Dazed Digital invites you to map your east London memories on our timeline, 'A Secret History of East London'. Get involved HERE!

Joe Dunthorne is also part of Dazed's Feed Your Head issue where he's written one of the 11 short stories. More info on the issue and how to enter our short story competition HERE

Photo by Jamie Hawkesworth