Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Year's Eve in East London

In October 2001 I spent an enjoyable afternoon with Don Jackson from Manor Park (E12). Don was extremely entertaining company, with a repertoire of music hall songs and a seemingly endless supply of jokes and stories.
Don was then in his early 60s, and had recently retired. He was living in his parents' former house, and recalled the New Year's celebrations in the street. At midnight, all the families would come out beating dustbin lids with pokers and making as much noise as possible. If anyone had a bugle, he said, they'd play that too. Gradually, over the years, fewer and fewer families joined in, and the custom had died out in the early 1960s - 1962 or '63, he reckoned.
It seems to have been widely observed locally. The following year I met Ellen Cordery, from the Bonnie Downs area of East Ham (E6), a mile or so south of Manor Park. When I mentioned this custom she said that it still persists (just) in her area. Her daughter supported her in this.
A couple of years later I had the opportunity to hear it for myself. A family who stayed briefly in my street (E7, roughly halfway between Manor Park and Bonnie Downs) came out at midnight with their pots and pans. They were the only ones who did it. They moved away shortly afterwards, and I have never heard it since.
Whether you're beating pots and pans to welcome it in or not, have a good 2010.

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