I’VE been mugged ten times around here,’ says public relations guru Nick Ede, 43, of his life in the East End of London. ‘When I first moved here people were mugged on a daily basis. It wasn’t an area people wanted to go to. But things have become cooler…’
Nick should know: he has spent more than half his life in the East End. He relocated from Edinburgh 22 years ago to pursue a career in showbiz PR and stayed with a friend in a one-bedroom flat on Columbia Road. Then the friend left and Nick happily took over the tenancy.
‘It was an easy move,’ laughs Nick. ‘It was basically a bedsit but I loved it. People used to say “the East End is so far away” but it isn’t — I used to walk to work in Tottenham Court Road.
‘It was still an edgy area back then but things were already changing — there were new people moving in as well as the old gangsters.
‘There were no shops and Hackney Road was full of strip joints.
‘We used to go to the Royal Oak on Columbia Road. It would open at 4am for the guys on the flower market and me and my friends would go in there on the way back from clubbing.’ Nick says the area began its journey to gentrification with the arrival of the White Cube gallery and clubs 333 and Electricity Showrooms.
‘It became more art orientated and now London Fields and Broadway Market are booming.’
Nick (pictured) bought his first flat, on Kingsland Road, in the early 2000s. ‘It was still pretty rough round there,’ he says. ‘Because the flat was in a converted hospital the windows were massive. I couldn’t get curtains or blinds that were big enough, so I went to Brick Lane and bought a load of sari fabric and did it that way. I had to buy furniture big enough to fill the rooms — one of the first things I bought was a second-hand Chesterfield.’
The hospital connection continues in Nick’s current home — a new-build, one-bedroom flat on the site of a former children’s hospital in Hackney. He bought it last year with husband Andrew, shortly after they got married.
‘It’s slightly bigger than my last place and rather than keeping on living in my old flat we wanted to buy somewhere together that was ours,’ says Nick. He has put his stamp on the place with some colourful decoration — principally some specially commissioned neon pieces by artist Darren West.
An eye-catching neon angel sits in the living room and there’s a vibrant neon pineapple in the bedroom.
‘I’ve always loved bright colours and neon,’ says Nick. ‘It’s been minimised by my husband. I wanted to have a big neon sign on the living room wall but he toned it all down.’
Even so, the pineapple motif theme runs throughout the home.
‘I love pineapples because of their connotations of wealth, enjoyment and hospitality,’ explains Nick. He has pineapple-shaped cushions from furnishings shop WA Green on Brick Lane and an assortment of pineapple-shaped ice buckets and containers in the kitchen, alongside some fancy pineapple-decorated cups (inset) from further afield.
‘These cups are from The Ivy in Los Angeles. They are the iconic LA thing to have. All the Real Housewives have them so I just had to have them,’ he laughs.
But the item of biggest sentimental value in Nick’s home is a sheet of pictures of his late mother taken in the 1960s. They are from a series of headshots she had done for her work as an opera singer.
‘She cut the ones out she liked the best to give to people, and it’s created this pattern,’ says Nick.
Nick’s mother passed away due to a stroke, which was behind the launch of Nick’s Style For Stroke foundation.
Despite spending so long in the East End, Nick doesn’t think he’ll be there forever, suggesting he’ll want to move on in a few years and buy a house as a renovation project, possibly in Brighton. It’s either that or Malibu.
‘I have an ambition to live by the beach in Malibu. I’ve got friends there who show me their amazing homes. I would love a house on stilts. Patsy Palmer from EastEnders was my neighbour for years around here and she lives in Los Angeles now.
‘She keeps saying I should move over there, so one day I might be reunited with Bianca. That would be fun.’
■ Nick hosts The Fall Ball in aid of Style For Stroke with Alexandra Burke at the Café de Paris on October 14. For tickets go to cafedeparis.com