(July 29, 2020) Runnymede publishes the report, Beyond Banglatown - Continuity, change and new urban economies in Brick Lane by Claire Alexander, Seán Carey, Sundeep Lidher, Suzi Hall and Julia King.
As part of a two-year research project focusing on Brick Lane’s restaurant and retail sectors, the report highlights the unique contribution of the Bangladeshi community to Brick Lane and its world-renowned curry restaurants. Beyond Banglatown analyses Brick Lane’s rapid gentrification over the last 15 years and the impact of its new economies on the UK curry capital, and the Bangladeshi community that has been excluded and displaced by this process of regeneration.
The report highlights a steep decline in Brick Lane’s curry restaurants, with a decrease of 62% in just 15 years - in the mid-2000s there were 60 outlets compared to just 23 in early-2020. While hipster cafés, vintage clothes shops, delicatessens and boutique chocolatiers have boomed on Brick Lane (also known as ‘Banglatown’ because of its status as the heartland of the Bangladeshi community in Britain), Bangladeshi-run curry restaurants have plummeted.
Beyond Banglatown outlines broader challenges these restaurants have faced including, rising costs (rents, business rates); shortage of trained chefs because of visa constraints; lack of support from business and regeneration agencies; decline in the area’s night-time economy; and the reluctance of the new generation of British Bangladeshis to work in the restaurant trade. A dramatic reduction in footfall due to the Covid-19 pandemic has severely exacerbated the situation and threatens the existence of many of Brick Lane's curry restaurants.
The report authors call for a range of measures to help the restaurants to survive and evolve, such as government support to weather the Covid-19 crisis, investment and training for restaurateurs and formal recognition of the Bangladeshi community to the history of Brick Lane, and global London.
The project has also developed an education-focused website, which captures the project's findings for schools and teachers. The free website, complete with a film and interactive map, explores the rich and complex history of Bengali migration to East London, the development of Banglatown and changes to Brick Lane's Bangladeshi-owned curry restaurants over time. It also provides a snapshot of the contemporary context of the street, including data on recent processes of urban change and gentrification. The website features downloadable teaching resources, guidance for teachers, and links to further reading and online resources.