The band stand at Arnold Circus in Bethnal Green


Well it’s a spooky, gloomy time of year, so I thought I’d mention the bandstand at Arnold Circus. It always strikes me as such an eerie place. It was built in the 1890s on top of a mound of rubble left from the demolition of the Friars Mount slum, which was replaced with the elegant red-brick Boundary Housing estate that still surrounds it, one of the earliest social housing estates.

 The bandstand also appeared in the teen prostitute movie Stella Does Tricks – which, I just found out, was written by the brilliant Scottish writer and comedian AL Kennedy, author of the skullf*** novel Paradise. I saw that film long before I saw the bandstand, and have always found it a strangely isolated place in the middle of so much life. At the same time, it’s beautiful and atmospheric. And then it struck me – it’s the perfect place, in this crowded corner of the world, to break up with someone.

Think about it. You’re no longer a teenager, and so realise that breaking up over the phone or by just turning up with a new squeeze is unkind, and gutless; you’ve been told that it’s best to do these things in neutral places, but you don’t want to taint a restaurant or park or pub with an unpleasant break-up memory. I personally had this happen with the Barbican, although we were reunited (me and the Barbican, that is; we realised we were too good for him). Plus you want a degree of privacy and a suitably solemn atmosphere. For all these reasons the old bandstand is perfect.

Its long history will perhaps remind the unfortunate dumpee that nothing is forever, and that this too will pass. And the setting will hopefully provide a sense of perspective, too – after all, the slums that the bandstand now sits upon were mostly without running water, crammed with prostitutes and thieves using every square inch of space from the cellars upwards, and so squalid that death rate was apparently four times that of the rest of London. Things could be worse, although it’s probably wise to leave such sage observations unsaid at the time.

P1030544Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, let’s leave on a more cheerful note with a picture of London Fields in all her autumn finery. Happy Halloween!


1 Comment

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One response to “The band stand at Arnold Circus in Bethnal Green

  1. Claire, E2

    What’s this about ‘Friar’s Mount’? Do you really mean the slum that was known as the Old Nichol (hence Old Nichol Street) or the Jago?

    The area was famously captured in Arthur Morrison’s novel A Child of the Jago, but also indelibly (and problematically) othered: as the following article points out, Morrison was much criticised for hyping up the squalor (in keeping with wider trends in the sensationalist representation of the East End): see

    You might also like to support The Friends of Arnold Circus. In addition to campaigning successfully for the current improvement works (now almost finished, and un-thwarted by an arson attempt), they’ve run community events, music, etc, on the bandstand for a few years now – including Turkish music and a pigeon fly-past coming up this Sunday 4 July. It’s far from ‘eerie’ when it’s in full use!

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