Newham’s hall of fame: eight of the borough’s notable names
Have you ever wondered who Newham’s most famous residents are?
Wonder no more, we’ve made a handy list of the borough’s cultural stars. From actors to photographers, musicians, and footballers, some of the best have called Newham home.
Perhaps the best-known actor to come out of Newham, the deep-voiced star of The Wire hails from East Ham and went to school in Canning Town. He’s also the compelling hero of Luther (above), the emotionally-layered crime drama filmed in the capital. He's not just an actor either — Elba has turned his hand to writing, producing and singing.
Dame Vera Lynn
Singer and actress Dame Vera Lynn was born in East Ham and she was hugely popular around the time of World War II. She was awarded her damehood in 1975 and she’s now 102. One of the new Woolwich ferries was even named after the dame herself.
Other singers from Newham include 90s rapper Kele Le Roc, and two girl-band members: Vanessa White, singer in The Saturdays, and Jade Ewen from the Sugababes. There must be something in the water.
Fear nothing. Do what you want to do, but be educated and intelligent and confident about it.
Idris Elba, speaking to Esquire
The EastEnders actor grew up in Custom House. In an episode of the BBC show Who Do You Think Your Are?, Dyer found out that he was related to royalty; his 14-times-great-grandmother was Elizabeth Seymour, Jane Seymour’s sister. It’s unlikely he’ll be donning the crown any time soon, but perhaps there's a tiny possibility of a Newham resident on the throne.
Dyer isn’t the only EastEnders star from Newham. Perry Fenwick, who plays Billy Mitchell, is from Canning Town.
That’s right, the borough has its very own Bond Girl. Actress Honor Blackman played Pussy Galore alongside Sean Connery in the 1964 Bond film Goldfinger, and she was born in Plaistow.
Photographer David Bailey has shot pretty much every celebrity and fashion model during his career. He was part of the swinging sixties phenomenon, and helped launch the career of supermodel and then-girlfriend Jean Shimpton. Bailey lived in East Ham from the age of three. In 2012, he returned to his roots to create an exhibition at Compressor House called David Bailey’s East End, which featured 50 photographs of Newham and the surrounding areas.
I never tried to revolutionise photography; I just do what I do and keep my fingers crossed that people will like it.
David Bailey, photographer
The Iron Maiden line-up changed a lot over its time, but one of its members was from East Ham. Drummer Clive Burr, was a member from 1979 to 1982 and played on the band’s first three records.
Rapper Tinchy Stryder’s real name is actually Kwasi Danquah. He was born in Ghana and moved to Newham’s Forest Gate when he was nine years old. He studied digital arts at the University of East London, and when he was younger he actually wanted to be a footballer. But actually Newham has a lot of those.
We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day.
Dame Vera Lynn, one of her most famous hits
Footballer Jermain Defoe is perhaps Newham’s most famous sportsperson, but the Premier League striker isn’t the only Newham resident with fancy footwork. The borough is responsible for a huge number of other footballers, particularly those who have played for West Ham at some point in their careers. Players Stan Earle, Charlie Colkett, Reece Burke, and Mark Noble all hail from these parts.
And one big name who isn’t from around here
Impressive as Newham's list of famous residents is, Wikipedia still feels the need to highlight that William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, not Stratford upon the Central Line. Thanks for clearing that up.
Read more stories of people in the borough here, including fencing star Teagan Williams-Stewart and photographer Kiron Ponnath, as well as ExCeL London chief Jeremy Rees and UEL’s Geoff Thompson. Photo at top: Sam Bush.
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