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Dinner at Daddy Burtt's

Homelessness is evident everywhere you go in London and any other major city in Britain.

If you ride the Overground train that loops  through Shoreditch, you hear London Transport asking you to donate money to the Whitechapel Mission, rather than give cash to beggars that squeeze past during the rush hour.

The Whitechapel Mission has been helping the homeless for over 140 years and is an institution in the East End, part of its history like George Orwell's Down and Out in London and Paris, himself inspired by Jack London's People of the Abyss.

I have been one of the thousands of volunteers over the years who have turned up at 545am to start frying bacon and eggs for the homeless people that queue up for breakfast every day of the year.  

But as The Last Director of Shoreditch illustrates, the Whitechapel Mission has not been the only welcoming post for the marginalised.

Frank, one of the novel's main characters, often drops by at "Daddy Burtt's", a Christian mission located next to the power station. It was founded by brothers Lewis and John Burtt in 1881, a time when there was no welfare state. 

It became a "home" for so many of the East End's poort that they spoke of "going to Daddy Burtt's for dinner."

Unlike the thriving Whitechapel Mission, Daddy Burtt's is now closed, but a plaque outside the building on Hoxton Square is a reminder of how such lifelines still have a place today.

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Listen to a podcast I did with the amazing which casts a spotlight on London, its people and history. I spoke about how my neighbourhood inspired me to write The Last Director of


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