Joe’s bid to save his Cockney traditions

Joe Leslie as a youngster

Joe Leslie as a youngster - Credit: Archant

“You can take the boy out of the East End, but you can’t take the East End out of the boy,” says born-and-bred Cockney Joe Leslie.

Joe Leslie with his dad Dave, his mum Rose and brother Eddie

Joe Leslie with his dad Dave, his mum Rose and brother Eddie - Credit: Archant

“You can take the boy out of the East End, but you can’t take the East End out of the boy,” says born-and-bred Cockney Joe Leslie.

Joe Leslie with the Cockney website he has created

Joe Leslie with the Cockney website he has created - Credit: Archant

He is so passionate about his East End roots that he has created his own website to try to save the Cockney dialect and everything else associated with it.

He said: “I have lots of fond memories about growing up in the East End and I just want to keep that heritage alive. There’s no use in just talking about it, we have to try to save it.”

The 57-year-old, who now lives in Brentwood, came up with the idea of the website after hearing that the Cockney accent will disappear from London’s streets in 30 years.


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He explained: “A lot of original Cockneys have moved out of the East End to places like Romford and a lot of their children and grandchildren don’t know about their roots.

“A traditional Cockney was born hearing the Bow Bells and I think now they have said that the furthest it can be heard is in Shoreditch – but there isn’t a hospital in that area so that means that there are no new Cockneys being born.”

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The website has everything you need to know about the Cockneys. That means plenty of “Can you Adam and Eve it?” and “apples and pears”.

Most importantly, there is also space for people to share their memories and stories about growing up in the East End.

But Joe, a professional photographer, says that he is not trying to glamorise it.

“I have lots of fond memories of it, he said. “But it was rough and grey and we didn’t have much money and we had toilets outside, but the most important thing was that we made something out of nothing.”

Not surprising, one of the first people to share their memories of being a Cockney on the site was Pearly Queen Lorraine Wells, whose great grandfather, George Hitchen Senior, was the first Pearly King of Dalston.

Lorraine, of Chatteris Avenue, Harold Hill, is directly descended from one of the original 28 pearlies.

She said: “I am a Pearly Queen so I really want to preserve my heritage, otherwise it is going to die. The East End means everything to me and I am proud to be an East End girl.”

She added: “It brings tears to my eyes when I see my children and my grandchildren carrying on that tradition.

“My granddaughter is just nine months old, but is the Pearly Princess of Stratford and that really warms my heart.”

Joe also has fond memories of the East End. He was born and raised in Bow.

He said: “I remember everything about it. My extended family all lived in the next street to us, so everyone was close.

“My mum worked at the Roman Road market, I was there every Saturday. All my friends worked there and they sold everything from broken biscuits to wet fish.”

But things changed in the 1970s. “The council compulsorily purchased all the properties, he said.

“My family were split up – you had some in Basildon, some in Mile End, and it just wasn’t the same.”

Like many people, Joe moved to Collier Row, but still maintained his links to the East End.

He said: “Essex was like the next step up the ladder.

“But I was there practically every day, I had all my friends in the market and I was working in the area.”

Visit www.cockneypride.org

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