Alan loves awkward truths and odd details. The East End is full of myths and myth busting is a big part of his live events. He also loves quirky little stories and you'll find lots of all of these stuffed into little boxes throughout his book and the magazine, entitled...

BOLLOCKS BUT TRUE

1954 the Commercial Gas Company were doing their best to disrupt traffic at the junction of Cannon Street Road and Cable Street, by digging a trench, when something disrupted them instead. It was skeleton of a man with a stake driven though his heart. Six feet deep and bearing fragments of chain, it was believed to be the body of not some sexy vampire that teen girls might like but John Williams, the alleged Radcliffe Highway Murderer (Google it for lots more details.)

After committing suicide in prison in 1811, he was buried at a busy crossroads as a warning to others who might also contemplate topping themselves (to show they’d be no peace for the wicked) as was still the custom then. After his accidental exhumation John’s skull took up residence in the Crown And Dolphin pub on the corner instead. Regulars reported it was a miserable sight and never bought a round.

BOLLOCKS BUT TRUE

It is September 1924 – and every night larger and larger crowds are gathering around a Guinness Trust building in Columbia Road because A PHANTOM HAS BEEN SEEN AT A WINDOW!

So large have these early ‘Most Haunted’ gatherings become that the police are brought in to control the mob, now keen to break into the empty house and.. er.. beat up the ghost? But when the local papers reveal that the two small boys who first saw the face were on their way home from watching a Buster Keaton film -‘The Haunted House’- everyone gets a bit embarrassed and goes home.

BOLLOCKS BUT TRUE

It is a well known and most ancient London legend that if the ravens ever leave the Tower Of London then Britain will fall, which is why their wings are clipped. Except there’s no record of any ravens being kept there before 1895 and the first written appearance of the Britain falling story dates all the way back to 1955!

BOLLOCKS BUT TRUE

Oysters were once the food of the poor. Plentiful in the Thames estuary their shells littered the streets of East London on Saturday night/Sunday mornings like the salad out of today's kebabs. Eels liked the murky depths of the river too. They were delicious, nutritious and could double as a handy belt. Pie and mash was originally eel pie and mash because non-specific brown meat was too expensive.

BOLLOCKS BUT TRUE.

The East End once has Communist M.P's. Today this seems to surprise people, but before the Second World War they seemed a viable alternative to Labour and Independent Labour (who were more radical.) In the thirties Poplar has a council which would rather go to prison than impose rent rises, hard to imagine in an age when people go into politics so they can buy duck houses or appear on Celebrity Big Brother.

BOLLOCKS BUT TRUE.

A guy out of pop group The Honeycombs went to the same Stepney school as me. One hit wonders with 'Have I The Right?' in 1964, it was Joe Meek (Britain's answers to Phil Spector in pioneering recording techniques AND insanity) who got their number one single its distinctive 'stomping on the stairs sound' by having the band stomp on his stairs.

BOLLOCKS BUT TRUE.

"In the old East End no one ever locked their front doors" - that's something older cockneys often say when they're feeling nostalgic. But it was poverty not trust which ensured they never got burgled. Crimes rates in the 1930's were far higher than they are today but, according to notorious local criminal Arthur Harding, everyone knew that no one had anything worth nicking so house breaking was a waste of time.

BOLLOCKS BUT TRUE.

The largest school in the world was once in Gun Street, Spitalfields. The Jews Free School was established in 1732 and emphasised integration and a less Jewish Jewishness. Amongst the 4,230 pupils it had at any single time were comedian Bud Flannigan, band leader Joss Loss and Morris 'Two Gun' Cohen who served in the Chinese Army under Chiang Kai-Shek.