Cockney dialect migrated to Essex, Dr Fox tells East End Cockney Festival

Cockney Festival Pearly kings and queens at Poplar's Idea Store in Chrisp Street market

Cockney Festival Pearly kings and queens at Poplar's Idea Store in Chrisp Street market - Credit: Archant

The first-ever Cockney Festival ends with a knees-up into the night at a working men’s club in London’s East End on Saturday—and a challenge from an academic that the term ‘cockney’ is no longer relevant.

Dr Sue Fox on Cockney language

Dr Sue Fox on Cockney language - Credit: Archant

Organisers have been staging 55 events over nine days leading up to this Saturday night’s shindig at Bethnal Green Working Men’s club in Pollards Row from 8pm till 2am Sunday.

The festival was the brains of 54-year-old Ray Sparra Everingham who was fed up reading about cockney being “brown bread.”

But a linguistics expert from London University’s Queen Mary College at Mile End has declared the term ‘Cockney’ is now irrelevant to many living in the East End today.

A new variety of Cockney ‘multicultural London English’ has emerged, as spoken by the likes of rapper Dizzee Rascal, with the more traditional-sounding speakers migrating to Essex like TV celebrity Stacey Solomon, according to Queen Mary’s Dr Sue Fox.


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“The ‘Cockney’ accent has undergone more rapid change than at any time in its long history,” she said.

“Speech forms associated with Cockney can still be heard, but the ‘Cockney’ label seems less and less relevant with the multi-cultural diversity now in the East End.”

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The traditional Cockney dialect is more likely to be heard in Barking or Basildon than Aldgate or Whitechapel where it originated.

White working class families have moved out to places like Essex, now urbanized and filling up with ‘East Enders’ and their descendants since the 1950s, her study has found.

“Cockney has now become more synonymous with white working class from a much larger geographical region of the South East,” she added. “It’s not generally a term applied to minority ethnic backgrounds—even those born in the traditional Cockney area.”

Dr Fox, speaking today on language history at the Cockney Festival, points out that the Bangladeshi community now makes up a third of the population of Tower Hamlets, while the vast majority speaks ‘Multicultural London English’.

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