Shoreditch sits outside the walls and the jurisdiction of the City of London. It has always been a place where one could get away with a little more indulgence and pleasure than the city fathers might strictly approve. James Burbage set up London's first public theater in shoreditch in 1576, 23 years ahead of William shakespeare's Globe Theatre. "The 'Ditch," as the locals call it, has always been cutting edge.
In later years, this East End neighborhood became home to music halls: mirror-and-brass palaces of proletarian entertainment showcasing racy comedians, cross-dressers, magicians and dancing girls. In the 17th century, Protestant Huguenot weavers who'd been exiled from Catholic France set up a working enclave in the twisty little streets. shoreditch became known for prostitution, drinking and wild living in the 19th century, when Jack the Ripper stalked the filthy alleys and courtyards of nearby Whitechapel. Later, progressive waves of immigration brought Jewish and Bengali communities to the area around Brick Lane, a short walk from shoreditch proper.
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In the past 20 years shoreditch has gentrified. When the White Cube gallery opened in Hoxton square in 2000 it turned a derelict corner into the unofficial headquarters of the Young British Artists, or YBAs (a group that includes Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin). More recently a hugely lucrative high-tech sector has developed around Old street. While the artists are whinging that they're being priced out by the wealthy newcomers, the quality of the restaurants now easily rivals the West End. still, shoreditch has somehow never lost its transgressive undercurrents, its edgy, rackety charm.