From 'The Englishman & The Eel'
The Englishman & the Eel is a journey into that most London of institutions, the Eel, Pie and Mash shop. Today, these simple spaces hold within them the memories of a rich, largely undocumented cultural heritage of generations of working-class Londoners in a city whose only constant is change.
Stuart Freedman grew up in East London in the 1970s, then a byword for poverty now a metaphor for gentrification. The streets were navigated by pubs, rough, cheap cafés and Eel, Pie and Mash shops. Often elaborately decorated with ornate Victorian tiling, many sold live eels in metal trays that faced out onto the street to the fascination (and sometimes horror) of passersby. Inside, warmth and comfort. Steam. Tea. Laughter. Families.
The Englishman and the Eel is a tribute to a timeless institution. For Stuart Freedman the eel and its decline is a metaphor of the cultural change that has enveloped the East End. What remains is a tenacious and rare creature – endangered – but still surviving.