Once home to the largest concentration of curry houses in the UK, Brick Lane in London's East End has long played an vital role as the home of migrant communities.
For years it has been central to the Bangladeshi community in Britain, but recent investment in this part of London has drastically changed the face of the Bangla Town area.
The 'Beyond Banglatown' project grew out of a larger piece of research on the Bengal diaspora which explored Muslim migration from the north-eastern Indian state of Bengal in the period after partition. millipedia created the website for this earlier research Bangla Stories. As part of this work, the project team became interested in the iconic status of Brick Lane as the centre of the Bangladeshi community in Britain and in the significance of Banglatown and the curry restaurants to the area.
Research for ‘Beyond Banglatown’, undertaken by researchers from LSE Cities, London School of Economics and Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity, University of Manchester, explored the changing fortunes of Banglatown’s restaurants, and the implications of this change for the Bangladeshi community in East London and for Brick Lane itself.
Through visual mapping, face-to-face surveys with shop proprietors and employees, a qualitative survey, and in-depth interviews with Bangladeshi restaurant owners, former restaurant owners and key stakeholders, the project captures some of the complexity of Brick Lane and Banglatown at a moment of transformation and uncertainty. By the close of the project, the southern section of Brick Lane hosted only 23 restaurants and cafés focused on curry – a decrease of 62% in 15 years.
The pages of the website capture the project's findings, tracing the rich and complex history of Bengali migration to East London, the development of Banglatown and changes to Brick Lane's Bangladeshi-owned curry restaurants over time. It also provides a snapshot of the contemporary context of the street, including broader and more recent processes of urban change and gentrification.