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is-it-just-me-or-is-dick-van-dykes-cockney-accent-not-that-bad-124840-470-75

On the 10th of November, a story in the Daily Mail carried the following headline: “They’re not just for cockneys! Sales of jellied EELS booming outside London for the first time as shoppers cut costs.”

(For those outside the UK, jellied eels are an antiquated snack-food associated with Victorian Cockney (East-End working class) society.)

The article (or rather the headline), despite being intended as light-hearted nonsense, provoked quite a few politicized responses. One such reply read

“London? Cockneys? When was the last time you walked down an East-End street?”

 While another suggested simply:

“Probably because there are no Cockneys left inside the M25.”

These objections are well-founded. Indeed, the very notion of a geo-cultural ‘East-End’ filled with ‘Cockneys’ is even more out-of-date than the stereotype understands.

The “East-End” of London, described on Wikipedia (no less) as ‘coterminous with the borough of Tower Hamlets’, is now almost without trace of its historic identity. If you got off at an East-Central Tube station tommorow, you’d find yourself in a maze of Bangladeshi restaurants, bazaars, curry houses and religious buildings. One thing you wouldn’t see, or at least would be hard-pressed to find, was any living hint of England.

None of this is controversial. All of it was predicted by (and is now indicated in) the official statistics.

Yet still, in the media – no doubt for the benefit of those who rarely visit London – the ‘East-End’ is presented as being frozen in time; a traditional, pub-centred timewarp inhabited by a largely White Working-Class demographic.

Nowhere is this deceit more obvious than in the popular soap opera ‘EastEnders’. For a long while this show has been the second most popular drama in the UK, behind Coronation Street. Despite this popularity and the public trust the BBC is meant to honour, the show brazenly uses for its casting, a demographic model suited to the London of thirty years ago. Eight out of ten characters are non-Asian. Most are White, nominally Christian, family-centred and employed. If this were a real and representative slice of the contemporary East-End, the minority fifth would be the English, and the majority would be benefit-claiming Muslims.

The audience outside of London, if they haven’t bothered to find out otherwise, might reasonably infer from the ‘Walford’ universe that the Islamisation of the East-End never happened.

And why on Earth would the BBC want to give that impression?

D, LDN.

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