Past tense, future perfect

Errol has rattled down the roll shutter for the last time after running the Hoxton Garage in Cremer Street for 27 years. He featured large in this kaleidoscope of a neighbourhood, chatting to gaggles of visitors and rescuing drivers from the tyranny of their cars. Latterly he embarked on a campaign to raise awareness about prostate cancer; his portrait framed by gritty slogans entreating men to get checked displayed on posters in offices, pubs, cafes and clinics across the borough.

Errol’s shed plus 10 acres of the studio spaces and artisan workshops which made Hoxton such a little gem are being bulldozed to make way for a dismal procession of generic penthouses, retail outlets and office blocks. The new scheme has none of the visionary architecture found in Bilbao, Barcelona, Lisbon and Berlin, or the quirky anomalies that neighbourhoods acquire through collisions of serendipity, or even the sublime symmetry of the Geffrye Museum almshouses which sheltered the widows of Shoreditch cabinet makers. London is blighted with similar homogenised developments that remain largely unoccupied after being bought as ghost investments by overseas absentee landlords.

I photographed Errol’s garage the day the van turned up to clear it out. Peeling away the layers of history was like observing an archaeological dig. Every square inch had a story to tell about where something had happened, and some soul had left their mark.

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