cELLebline: Celebrity-spotting along the ELL

A plethora of famous names have their roots along the East London line, find out who, where and why with our interactive map. Photo montage: Laurie Whitwell

Home to actors, footballers, singers, and businessmen, the boroughs along the East London line are fuelled with fame and glamour. A number of locations within a stone’s throw of the stops have played host to celebrities’ birthplaces, school life, and early careers and ELL is here showing you just how many. Click on the interactive map to see which of your favourite stars spent their formative years in Hackney, Croydon, Lewisham, and Tower Hamlets, and see how their beginnings as an East London line child have impacted where they are now.


Alan Sugar
was born in Hackney on the 24 March 1947. His father was a tailor in the East End garment industry, and he attended the Brooke House School in Upper Clapton, Hackney. After leaving school at 16 he worked briefly for the Civil Service as a statiscian at the Ministry of Education. He then started selling car aerials and electrical goods out of a van he had bought with his savings of £100. Now an English entrepreneur, media personality and political advisor, Sugar now has an estimated fortune of £830m and was ranked 59th in the Sunday Times Rich List 2009.

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Phillips Idowu
was born in Hackney on 30 December 1978 and excelled at basketball and American football at school before an inspirational teacher steered him towards athletics. He says: “I was born and grew up in Hackney, on the De Beauvoir Estate, and that’s where I went to primary school. But in primary I was always in trouble. I changed a lot when I went to secondary school; I quietened down and chilled out a bit. It’s all down to Humphrey Long, head of PE. He was the first person who took me to a track, the first person who taught me how to triple jump.” TES
Idowu won the English Schools Championships in 1997 and three years later came sixth in the final of the Sydney Olympics. He won silver at the 2008 Games in Beijing but just a year later Idowu bounced back and leapt to a World Championships gold in a memorable final in Berlin.
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Jimmy Choo
Arrived in London from Penang, Malaysia during the 1980’s. He was an apprentice Cordwainers’ College, Hackney, now part of London College of Fashion, where he refined his skills as a shoemaker. In 1986 he opened a workshop in a rented an old hospital building in Hackney He said of Hackney “All types of designers and artists were in Hackney, and a lot of music stars. There was also a lot of factories and manufacturing, especially shoe manufacturing. It was a great place.” Hackney People. Jimmy Choo sold his label to Tamara Mellon in 2001 and is currently working on private collections.
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Ray Winstone
Raymond Andrew Winstone was born in Hackney Hospital, London on the 19 February 1957. At seven he moved to Enfield where his parents ran a fruit and vegetable business. He went to school at Edmonton County and aged 12 he started boxing for Repton Amateur Boxing Club. He won over 80 medals and fought twice for England. Winstone then studied acting at the Corona Stage Academy, Hammersmith. He is a succesfull televion and film actor and has appeared in series; Birds of a Feather and Births, Deaths and Marriages and films; Scum, Love Honour and Obey, Sexy Beast, The Departed and Beowulf. Winstone currently lives in Raydon, Essex and is married and has three daughters two of which, Lois and Jaime are pursuing acting careers.
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Idris Elba
Idris Elba, born and raised in Hackney, burst into the public consciousness with a searing display as drug kingpin Stringer Bell in the critically-acclaimed American television drama The Wire. The only child of a Sierra Leonean father and Ghanaian mother, Elba began acting at secondary school after developing a crush on his drama teacher. Elba has performed as DJ Big Driis since the age of 19 and has also acted opposite Beyoncé Knowles in Hollywood blockbuster Obsessed. He can currently be seen playing the eponymous lead in BBC detective drama Luther. “When I was a kid, I thought it was tough,” he recently told the Guardian. “I got beaten up. That was terrifying, but I know it’s harder for kids today. Back in the day, the baddest thing I ever saw was a flick knife. If someone pulled out a gun, that wasn’t the done thing.”
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Barbara Windsor
Barbara Ann Deeks was born on the 6 August 1937 at London Hospital in Whitechapel. She lived on Angela Street in Bethnal Green and moved to Stoke Newington when she was three years old. She has been in many films but became a household name due to her appearances in nine Carry On films from 1973 to 1975. Her most famous scene is during Carry On Camping where she is doing aerobics and her bikini top pops off to reveal her breasts.  She starred in many theatre productions including on Broadway Oh, What a lovely war! She has played the part of Peggy Mitchell in Eastenders since 1994. Windsor married her third husband, Scott Mitchell in 2000. She told Hackney Council: “My grandfather worked in the docks and I was born in the East End, but my family worked hard to get out. When we moved to Stoke Newington there were eight of us in a house, 10 at one point. We didn’t have a bathroom or toilet, but we thought it was wonderful. I love Hackney and think the Olympics will be good for the area. It would be lovely to be at the opening ceremony, I’d be so proud, I’d be in tears.” Hackney People
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Tinchy Stryder
was born and raised in Bow. He was educated there at Old Palace Primary School, but went to St. Bonaventure’s Catholic Comprehensive School in Forest Gate, Newham. He continued into further education by doing a BA in moving image and animation at the University of East London, and started his career with appearances on pirate radio in east London. The ‘Tinchy Stryder’ stage name derives from the video game Strider and an allusion to his short height, hence “Tinchy”. In 2009 he was the UK’s biggest selling male artist with his album Catch 22 spawning two number one hits – Number 1 and Never Leave You, and four Top 20 hits overall. Besides his burgeoning music career he also owns a successful clothing line called Star In The Hood (S.I.T.H)
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Dizzee Rascal
Born Dylan Kwabana Mills on the 1 October 1985 in Bow. He attended Langdon Park school. He was involved in producing music and his record label ‘Dirtee stank’ was conceived. Now he is a critically acclaimed rapper, songwriter and record producer. Dizzee’s first album was released in 2003, Boy in da Corner. In the same week he was stabbed six times this was allegedly related to an incident where he pinched Lisa Maffias bottom. Subsequent albums have been Showtime, Math + English with his most recent one, Tongue in Cheek which includes hits; Dance wiv me, Holiday and Bonkers.
Of the 2012 Olympics he recently said: “All that 2012 stuff does my head in, I’m not even a little bit excited. I don’t live in Bow, but I go back all the time and it is s***. The whole area is just a big building hole.” Evening Standard
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Angela Lansbury
was born in Poplar on the 16 October 1925, at the start of World War II she was evacuated to America where she pursued an acting career. Her first film was Gaslight in 1944. She then appeared on the stage in both Broadway and the West End, in productions; Anyone can whistle, Gypsy and Sweeney Todd. After this period she did more film work, appearing in Death on the Nile, and her most famous voice work as Mrs Potts in the Disney film Beauty and the Beast. In the 80’s, she became a household name for her television role as Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote.
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Des O’Connor
was born in Stepney on the 12 January 1932 and was evacuated to Northampton during World War II. Before his television career took off he worked in theatre in variety performances. In 1963 he hosted his first television show, Des O’connor Show. He has stared in many TV shows including most recently Today with Des and Mel and Countdown. O’Connor has also had a lucrative singing career. Four of his albums reached the Top 30 charts and single I Pretend got to number one in 1968. He has 5 children and has had three past marriages and in 2007 married his fiancée of 17 years, Jodie Wilson.
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Alex James
would not have been the bassist from Blur had he not gone to Goldsmiths’ to do French, he said. “The first person I saw when I arrived at Goldsmiths was Graham Coxon, Blur’s guitarist”, James says. “He was doing art. It was a good environment for the genesis of a band, particularly at that time. Damien Hirst was there and Sam Taylor-Wood, and everybody. The whole of the Brit art crowd basically. That’s where it all started. Art colleges are good places for bands to form; much better than those pop music academy type places”, he continues. “Music is irrepressible, though. Some of the best music has been made against all odds – by people in chains for goodness sake.” James is now a columnist, TV personality, farmer and had a successful reunion with Blur at gigs in the summer.
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Daniel Bedingfield
was born on the 3 December 1979 in New Zealand, but later moved to Lewisham. He recorded his first single, “Gotta get thru this”, in his bedroom, which reached number one. In 2004, he won a BRIT Award for Best British Male Artist, and he is currently working on new material to be released.
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Goldsmiths College
Located in the heart of one of east London’s most vibrant areas, Goldsmiths specialisies in the teaching and research of creative disciplines. The college has a reputation for producing visual artists, and its art department is widely recognized as one of Britain’s most prestigious and culturally important, producing over 20 Turner Prize nominees.
Goldsmiths alumni have been influential in the fields of journalism, theatre, music, politics, sport, and the visual arts, including British artist and Turner prize nominee Tracey Emin, Turner prize winner Damien Hirst, thrice named British designer of the year Vivienne Westwood, and English comedian Julian Clary.
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Jude Law
was born in Lewisham, and grew up in Blackheath, an area in the Borough. He was educated at John Ball Primary School in Blackheath and Kidbrooke School in Kidbrooke, before attending the Alleyn’s School in Dulwich. He began acting with the National Youth Music Theatre in 1987, and had his first television role in 1989. After starring in films directed by Andrew Niccol, Clint Eastwood and David Cronenberg, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1999 for his performance in Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. He has since won a Best Supporting Actor BAFTA Award. In 2006, he was one of the top ten most bankable movie stars in Hollywood.
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The BRIT School
is among Croydon’s iconic establishments. It is one of the most recognized and respect performing arts colleges in the UK, andiIn recent years it has gained cult status through the successes of some of its graduates. The critical acclaim of Adele, the astronomic worldwide popularity of Leona Lewis and the multiple tabloid column inches of Amy Winehouse have given the school – as their alma martyr – a cult status. Although it has an aura of being an impossible dream for most budding performers, its mandate states it takes students of all ability. Besides being an exceptional school for performing arts, offering training for a range of careers in the arts, entertainment and communications industries, it educates students up to GCSE standard. Lucian Grainge, chairman and chief executive of Universal Music Group said of it: “If you’re an A&R person, to have a profile at this school would be very beneficial.” Alumni of the school include: Adele, Katie Melua, Luke Pritchard of the Kooks, Kate Nash, The Noisettes and Amy Winehouse.

Selected quotes from former students:

“While at first I was very like ‘I ain’t goin’ ’ere! It’s a stage school! I can do it on my own!’, I think I do owe it completely to The Brit School for making me who I am today, as cheesy and embarrassing at it may sound. At The BRIT School I found my direction, because the music course was really wicked. Whereas before I was going to a school with bums and kids that were rude and wanted to grow up and mug people, it was really inspiring to wake up every day to go to school with kids that actually wanted to be productive at something and wanted to be somebody…” —Adele

“A friend of mine had already enrolled and it sounded like a good place … and it was free! When I was there, people were really dissing it, as there hadn’t been anybody who’d come out of it and the school had been going for ten years – nobody had made it on the same scale as people are now. I loved it there though – there was such a creative vibe, and it was the first time I got to meet and be around other musicians every day. The one thing I am scared of is that people will just want to go there now to get famous and it’s not about that. It’s just a place full of musicians and artists learning to act, sing, play an instrument or learning how to be a radio DJ.” —Katie Melua
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Kate Moss
was born on the 16 January 1974 in Addiscombe, Croydon. She was educated at Ridgeway Primary School in South Croydon before attending Riddlesdown High School in Purley. Her modelling career began in 1988 when she was spotted by Sarah Doukas, the founder of Storm Model Management, at JFK Airport in New York City, after a holiday in The Bahamas, aged 14. Her career took off and she is now one of the most recognised supermodels in the world. She is credited with being the influence for the expression ‘the Croydon facelift’. She has had high profile relationships with Jefferson Hack – the father of her child, Johnny Depp and Pete Doherty. “I had to work hard to get out of Croydon”, she says. “It wasn’t easy. I didn’t have it on a plate. When I could have been with my friends, just bunking off, I had to get on the Tube all over London, doing my eight castings a day for four years. But I knew I had to work my arse off to do something with my life. I’m not retiring in the near future”, she continues, “and when I do, it definitely will not be to Croydon!”
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Leona Lewis
was born in Islington. On winning the X Factor said she was proud to be a Hackney girl: “Thanks so much to my fans from Hackney. I am really proud to be a Hackney girl and appreciate all the support you have given me.” She went to Ambler Primary School in Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park, and studied at the performing arts academy, Italia Conti, in Goswell Road, Islington. Leona has brought a £120,000 home in Stamford Hill with her boyfriend, Lou Al-Chamaa, a 23-year-old electrician. She has become a multi-platinum selling artist and three time Grammy Award nominee. She was proclaimed ‘Top New Artist’ by Billboard magazine in 2008.
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Louise Redknapp
was born in Lewisham, Nov 4 1974. She attended the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London, and became an English singer and television presenter. She was a member of the girl group Eternal, until subsequently becoming a solo singer (billed simply as “Louise”). Among UK sport fans she is known as the wife of English footballer-turned-pundit Jamie Redknapp. In the July 2004 edition of FHM, she was named Sexiest Woman of the Decade. She is a main judge on So You Think You Can Dance in UK.
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Martine McCutcheon
was born at the Salvation Army Mother’s Hospital in Hackney on 14 May 1976. Suffering an abusive childhood, Martine found solace in watching old musicals like My Fair Lady, and knew from the start that she was destined to be an entertainer. At age four, Martine had ventured into the world of advertising and appeared in commercials. When she was ten years old, she wanted to perfect her acting skills at the Italia Conti drama school, but she had two siblings, L.J. and Isla, which made the budget rather tight. The family couldn’t afford to send Martine to this prestigious London establishment, so she took it upon herself to write letters to various charities. After having sent over 200 requests, she finally received a scholarship from the Church of England. She entered the world of fame through music, but became a real household name through her character portrayal of Tiffany Mitchell in Eastenders, which she played for three years. She has since starred opposite Hugh Grant in blockbuster hit Love Actually, and on stage as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.
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Natasha Bedingfield
was born in Surrey on the 26 November 1981, and later moved to Lewisham. Her interest in music was encouraged by her parents and she took guitar and piano lessons when she was younger. She spent a year at the University of Greenwich, where she studied psychology to “make [her] a better songwriter.” She recorded her first album Unwritten in 2004, which enjoyed international success with over 2.3 million copies sold worldwide. In 2007, she received a Grammy Award nomination for “Best Female Pop Vocal Performance” for the song “Unwritten”. She has achieved five top ten singles in the United Kingdom and, as of April 2008, sold over 10 million singles and albums worldwide.
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Carlton Cole
Carlton Michael Cole Okirie was born in Croydon on 12 November 1983 and signed as a trainee for Chelsea in 2001. The 6 ft 3 in striker made his debut for Chelsea in April 2002 and scored his first goal for the club against Middlesbrough three weeks later. He had loan spells with Wolves, Charlton and Aston Villa before signing for West Ham United. A regular with the England under-21s, Cole made his debut for the senior side on 11 February 2009 in a friendly against Spain. He has played a total of seven times for his country. “I grew up in Croydon and remember when I was younger going to the park many times, kicking a ball about with my uncle, cousins and friends,” Cole says. “I think it is very important to have somewhere to play. You hear so much about young people and children not having that much to do where they live or the facilities to do things, so parks and areas like this are important to have.”
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Dane Bowers
was born on the 28 March 1979 in Croydon and he remembers djing at a local ice rink in Steatham and older he attended the local BRIT schools (see BRIT school profile). In the late 90’s he found fame with boyband Another Level who had hits such as Freak me. He has been a tabloid favourite since then; his relationship with glamour model Jordon and subsequent sex tape and more recently as a contestant in the final Celebrity Big Brother (2010). Bowers has worked as a solo artist since 2000 and had chart success with Out of your mind, a collaboration with Victoria Beckham and Truesteppers. Currently he tours the UK club scene as a DJ.
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