In the late-19th Century, the church at the corner of Brick Lane became a synagogue, as thousands of Jews moved into Spitalfields in the Huguenots’s wake. More than 2 million Jews left Eastern Europe between 1881 and 1914, prompted by economic hardship and increasingly ferocious persecution. Following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, the persecution of Jews in Russia became even fiercer, and a wave of pogroms swept across Russia and neighbouring countries.
Many Jews landing in England actually intended to go to America, but about 120,000 stayed in this country. Again attracted by the area’s reputation as a place for cheap living, and by the fact that it had been home to a Jewish population in previous centuries, large numbers settled in Spitalfields, often finding work in the ‘rag trade’. By 1900 Jews formed around 95% of the population in the Wentworth Street district of Spitalfields.
Feet of Clay, by Beatrice Baltuck Garrard (pictured above), has won the first ever Amy Levy Prize – a new award given to a writer under the age of 30, addressing a Jewish theme. Tum Balalaika by Michelle Samuels has received the second prize and Garden Hose by Talya Zax was commended.
A distinguished panel of judges was headed by Naomi Alderman, winner of the Orange Prize for New Writing. The panel included novelist and journalist, Adam LeBor; literary critic and chair of Jewish Quarterly Advisory Board, David Herman; academic, Nadia Valman; and Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE.
The Amy Levy Prize is a new award for young, unpublished writers sponsored by Jewish Quarterly and JW3. The awardisdesigned to create a platform for writing by Jewish authors or about Jewish communities, life and culture. With a cut-off age of 30, it is the first international Jewish writing prize specifically aimed at making a difference in the early career of young writers. The winner receives a cash prize of £1,000, one week’s writers’ residency, and one year’s mentoring by Naomi Alderman.
About Feet of Clay, Alderman said, “It weaves the legend of the golem with the destruction of Prague during the Second World War. We were particularly impressed with Beatrice Baltuck Garrard’s brilliantly evocative language and the strange otherworldly narrative voice of the golem to whom the world entire is new and unimagined. Garrard’s 12-year-old female Kabbalah scholar is a brilliantly original character of whom we’d love to see more.”
Beatrice Baltuck Garrard is an undergraduate student of history and Yiddish literature at Stanford University. She was raised on Jewish folklore and Russian fairytales, along with a generous helping of Star Trek!
An early sign that Dave was not quite himself came when Jeremy Corbyn upstaged him by paying tribute to the playwright Arnold Wesker who had died earlier that day. Dave is normally well abreast of any celebrity deaths and seldom misses an opportunity to praise “Danny the Police Dog who slightly injured his front paw in the line of duty” but this time he was completely stumped. Arnold who? “Let me make myself absolutely clear,” said Muddy Dave, “I’d also like to pay tribute to… um, er, this playwrighty chappy whoever he was.”
Prolific writer who produced more than 40 plays, as well as books of essays, poetry and short stories was a key British figure in 20th century drama
Obituary from the Guardian Ben Quinn Tuesday 12 April 2016 18.24 EDT
Sir Arnold Wesker, one of the key British figures of 20th century drama and a writer whose work spanned more than five decades, has died. He was 83.
A prolific, often highly political writer who produced more than 40 plays, as well as books of essays, poetry and short stories, his work also included children’s fiction and a first novel, Honey, which was published in 2005.
After first gaining prominence in the 1950s, critics grouped him with other working class writers sometimes referred to as the “angry young men” generation, although Wesker rejected the label. He was later characterised as a leading voice of 1960s “kitchen sink” British drama.
“You’re not a good writer because you come from a working class background and you’re not a good writer because you’ve been through university. You’re a good writer because you’re a good writer and it’s the work that matters, not the labels that surround you.”
Born in 1932 in the East End of London, Wesker was the son of Jewish communists and drew on his upbringing for some of his key works. They included 1958’s acclaimed Chicken Soup With Barley, which juxtaposed the story of a struggling East End Jewish family with their crisis that Stalinism and world events presented to their communist ideals.
The play, the first in a trilogy, was also the subject of one of two major revivals of his works in recent years when it was staged in 2011 at the Royal Court. The other, The Kitchen, was performed at the National Theatre.
Wesker also remembered his parents as being “completely atheist”, though he added: “But they were also – this is difficult for gentiles to understand – fiercely Jewish.”
After winning acclaim for his early trilogy, which was completed by Roots and I’m Talking About Jerusalem, his efforts to spread culture more widely found a focus when he founded the Roundhouse’s first theatre, Centre 42, in 1964. Among his notable later plays was The Merchant, renamed Shylock, in 1976. In later years he lived in Wales, and then Hove in East Sussex.
Despite suffering from Parkinson’s, he continued to write late into his life, publishing his first collection of poetry, All Things Tire of Themselves, in 2008. He received a knighthood in 2006, by which time his plays had been translated into 18 languages and had been performed around the world.
So, tonight, I a doing an event at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA. It’s about the book The House with twenty Thousand Books. The address of the house is 5 Hillway, London, N6. I thoguht, I knew roughly where it was, but when I looked it up, I realised that it was here:
The home I came back to after being born in a amternity home near Hampstead Heath, maybe my mum or dad know what it was a flat in Hylda Court on St. Albans Road, just around the corner from the house with all those books.