Tom hunter talks to Robert Elms about his new book, ‘Down the Lane’ on BBC Radio London
Listen here to Tom Hunter in conversation to Robert Elms, Tom’s part is 40mins into the show;
Tom hunter recounts his time selling bric-a-brac on a fly pitch in the late 1980’s just off Brick Lane, and the photographs he took during this time in East London.
The book is available through Cafe Royal books at £6.50 very limited edition
Down the Lane
I took these images between 1989 and 1990 around Brick Lane market. I had been working as a tree surgeon in Regents Park for two years before I spent 10 months hitching around America. When I returned to Hackney I moved into a squat with an old mate, Josh and we started selling bric-a-brac down The Lane
Every week we brought the Hackney Gazette on Thursday and planned our Saturday like a military campaign to get to as many jumble sales as possible. There were at least 4 every week starting at 10am and ending around 3pm. We knew all the best ones; the church halls with the tastiest baked potatoes and pizza for lunch, the Scout Hall with the array of camping equipment and the treasure troves laid out before us in St Joseph’s Hospice. We had to be there early to be at the head of the long queues, 10p at the ready, before the doors opened and the charge began. These were no places for the faint-hearted, elbows were out, no airs and graces, ladies grabbing, pushing and shoving, the bargains were there for the taking but you had to be quick with your small change and know what you wanted. The feeding frenzy was over in half an hour and with lamps, 501s and records securely stuffed in rucsacs, there was just enough time for a 10p cuppa before cycling off to the next venue to commence battle again. At the end of the day it was back to the squat to lay out our plundered goods and compare trophies; what would sell, what you would keep for yourself and what you would swap.
Saturday night squat parties were abruptly curtailed for a couple of hour’s kip before the rude awakening of alarm clocks to get our clobber down The Lane. Setting up shop meant getting down to the pavement at the bottom of Bethnal Green road before 6am to grab a place. We had a usual spot but we were fly pitching so being a few minutes late meant someone else would already be there selling their gear. We laid out our wares on the pavement and hung some clothes from the wall, all the prices in our heads, all our dreams in our hearts. There was just time for the 20-minute dash along the road, to try and grab bargains from the other sellers, to sell on our pitch at greatly inflated prices, hopefully!!! It always seemed so cold that first couple of hours standing and waiting for the punters, the damp morning air crawling through our boots and up our legs as the alcohol drained from our blood. But as the punters arrived and the goods start to shift our moods lifted as the sky lightened and our wares changed hands. The bargaining and bantering got faster and faster as the clock ticked down to 1pm with punters returning to make final offers before the market ended. With just enough energy we packed up what hadn’t been sold and headed back to Hackney to count out our takings that would keep us in food and beer for another week. Later, settling down in the evening to watch The Antiques Roadshow and dream of getting that Ming vase at next weeks’ jumble sale for 10p that would set us up for life on Easy street.