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Playwright Bernard Kops shares his Whitechapel Dreams

PUBLISHED: 17:45 13 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:28 05 October 2010

By Julia Gregory WHEN playwright and poet Bernard Kops discovered East End libraries he found his university. The Mile End born writer grew up in the Jewish community in Stepney Green until th

By Julia Gregory

WHEN playwright and poet Bernard Kops discovered East End libraries he found his university.

The Mile End born writer grew up in the Jewish community in Stepney Green until the Blitz of September 1940 damaged his home. He later moved to Gosset Street in Bethnal Green, and devoured the books on offer in the libraries in Whitechapel and Bethnal Green.

He told the Advertiser how he ran way from home and the small area of East London he was allowed to roam in and discovered the library and all the treats it had to offer.

At the time the Blackshirts were active in Bethnal Green and Mr Kops remembered that it was not a dangerous place for Jews to visit, whilst there were 200,000 Jewish people living in and around Whitechapel.

He recalled: "Running away was quite wonderfully exhilarating and fearsome because I was pulled in two directions."

The library influenced him so much he wrote in his poem Whitechapel, Aldgate East: "The door of the library was the door into me."

He is performing at the Whitechapel Gallery, which incorporates part of the old Whitechapel library, at 7pm tonight (Thurs Jan 14) in a reading of his radio play Whitechapel Dreams.

He is joined by a cast including Warren Mitchell in the show which is set in the library's cellar.

He said: "I started out as an actor and I wrote myself into the script, I'm the narrator, explaining the background."

In it celebrated East End war poet and artist Isaac Rosenberg, a retiring librarian and a young Muslim share stories from their lives.

Mr Kops, who now lives in Hampstead, said: "The play is about the dying community and the new community."

Contact the gallery in Whitechapel Road on 020 7522 7888 for tickets which cost £6.


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