Author pens tribute to Dagenham’s banjos
PUBLISHED: 15:30 02 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:30 02 August 2019
An author has published a novel about living in a cul-de-sac in tribute to the people of Dagenham.
Elaine Spires's new book, The Banjo, is set in the imaginary Cromwell Close, and charts the story of family life in eight homes over the 1950s and 60s.
The writer said: "It's my tribute to the family and friends I grew up with and who I miss."
The 69-year-old explained the book's title comes from the local word used to describe round-ended cul-de-sacs, which she said is unique to the area.
"[A banjo] was a little world of its own. Everybody knew each other.
"They feel cut off from the outside world," the retired tour manager said.
Elaine, of Victoria Road, Dagenham, lived in Stansgate Road as a child and set the book in the Heath Park Estate.
It begins with a young mum receiving a letter from the council letting her know a home is ready for her on the newly built estate.
Elaine recalled her own parents receiving news they would be moving from a cramped flat in Harold Hill to a two-bedroom home with bathroom and central heating.
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"It felt amazing," she said.
The plot is made up but some details come from Elaine's own cherished memories including trips to buy sweets at Stan Pryor's tobacconist's in Stansgate Road, which features in the 505-page book.
"Dagenham was a great place.
"There was a sense of community.
"We called our next door neighbours uncle and auntie. You always had somewhere to go," Elaine said.
"That's not to say then was good and now is bad because everywhere changes. Everybody looks back on their childhood with nostalgia.
"[The book] just tells it as it was in the 50s and 60s but it's not all through rose-tinted glasses," the former Dagenham County High School pupil added.
The Banjo took a year to write and already Elaine is working on the sequel which continues the story of Cromwell Close in the 1970s and 80s.
"It's not just a good read, there's a bit of local history people will find interesting too," she said.