The pomposity, the arrogance of museum director David Dewing is astonishing. First, there's the mere phrase, 'the Labouring Classes', as de-haut-en-bas as you can imagine
There was a storm in an antique teacup recently when the director of the Geffrye Museum, a Shoreditch institution which recreates the living rooms of the middle classes through the ages, justified the demolition of a 19th century pub to make way for an expansion of his museum thus: 'I have no interest in the culture of the Labouring Classes.' Unsurprisingly, this did not go down well, provoking several on Twitter, including me:
— Matthew Sweet (@DrMatthewSweet) March 31, 2013
— Josh Spero (@joshspero) March 31, 2013
The Marquis of Lansdowne, for the record, was built in 1839 and is 'the only old building left on Cremer Street'. 'It contains the history of the people who have been here for the last two centuries, their culture, their society and their industry,' writes the respected Spitalfields Life blogger. It could certainly do with restoring to its former glory – no-one is saying it's in pristine condition – but that's no reason simply to replace it with a concrete box.
Pompous and arrogant
The pomposity, the arrogance of museum director David Dewing is astonishing. First, there's the mere phrase, 'the Labouring Classes', as de-haut-en-bas as you can imagine.
Second, there's the complete hypocrisy of wanting to protect one part of local history and being quite happy to demolish another, all for a shiny David Chipperfield building.
Now local artist – and long-time Spear's cover artist – Adam Dant has struck back. His new drawing In Celebration of the Culture of the Labouring Classes, printed on a rather smart tea towel, is 'a satire fashioned in the National Trust style, upon our national obsession with class stereotypes, and printed to the highest standards on linen by craftsmen in Bethnal Green'.
By playing with the patronising, Daily-Mail-ish perceptions of the 'Labouring Classes' – all they care about is darts, bulldogs and stealing – Adam turns fire back on David Dewing: he takes the piss out of his pretensions in a style familiar from his giftshop.
It's also worth reading Spitalfields Life's latest post, because today is D-Day for the Marquis of Lansdowne: the Hackney Council Planning Committee is meeting at 6.30pm. As the author puts it, 'How can it be that a museum which exists to protect our heritage wants to use public funds to destroy an historic building?'
And more: 'David Dewing’s avowed concern is to furnish a fancy concrete box as a terrace where visitors to his new restaurant can sip a glass of chardonnay, he shudders at the very thought of restoring an East End pub and serving pints.'
David Dewing has proved himself a philistine, a hypocrite and a snob; let's hope that Hackney Council see through him to the real history of Hackney.