Author's worries over East End changes


The East End has always exhibited an ability to adapt - but the pace and scale of change with the arrival of the Olympic Games has placed a strain on the social fabric.

That is the view of author Barbara Nadel who has been living in Manchester, away from her native Newham, giving her an opportunity to watch the latest wave of regeneration from afar.

She said: "I saw the changes more objectively once I was away from it. It is quite useful to take that step back."

The writer is best known for her Ikmen series of crime novels set in Turkey, but her ruminations on the particular plight of Newham prompted a new series exploring the darker edges of life in the shadow of the Olympic Park.

She said: "I wanted to get back to my personal roots and I wanted to explore my borough, which I have seen through many decades now."

She's moving back to London soon and she's worried there has been too little time for communities to absorb the arrival of a new city on their doorsteps.

She said: "It's better to do something than nothing and a lot of the buildings that have been put up are very good, some of them are not. From what I discern, the most contentious building is Westfield. Friends of mine said that when they took down the screens it was like the aliens had landed.

"There are fears that things that people hold dear might suffer - there's a market at Stratford, we've all grown up with it, we'd like it to continue and we'd like the stallholders still to be there.

"Canning Town is another good case in point - it did need a major facelift but Rathbone Market has all but disappeared now - and we have to ask the question: where has it gone and how has it affected the stallholders' lives?"

And it is the lives of the people, the different immigrant communities rubbing along - or not - that is the theme of her new book, A Private Business, which pitches troubled private investigator Lee Arnold and assistant Mumtaz Hakim, a young Muslim widow, into a world of race hate and crime.

She said: "Newham has gone through a period of very rapid change. Over the years we have adapted and what is conceived of as community is a much wider thing than what was in the past.

"But you look at the borough as a whole and see the City is expanding out into our area and there are going to have to be more adaptations.

"We've been through many cycles - think of the dissolution of the docks, the Docklands Development Corporation - that was supposed to be a new dawn but it didn't really do a huge amount for Newham - and now we have the Olympics

"We'll have to see whether it's good or bad. There's not as yet rising house prices. Apart from that, there's not a lot to see except a lot and lots of flats."

■ A Private Business is published by Quercus, priced £18.99