Remembering Your East End
“Immigration as a whole has made the East End something which is distinct from any other part of London, in which you’ve got a mixture of all nationalities. The major question before us now, is how do we all make a contribution in order to ensure that there is peace and civility amongst us all?”
In January 2006 we began working with care settings in Tower Hamlets and Newham. Newly trained East End project workers worked with Age Exchange to run reminiscence sessions for older people on the themes of Health & Welfare, Women, World War II & the Blitz, Migration, Childhood & Streets, and Work.
At the same time, posters encouraging the wider East End public to support the project with their own family memories were put up in hospitals, surgeries, pubs and community centres. As well as group reminiscence sessions in care settings we recorded 51 in depth thematic individual interviews. Many of these formed the heart of the resulting touring exhibition.
This project aimed to give many people who would not consider their life experience important the opportunity to have their say and to pass on their evocative and powerful memories of East End life to future generations. As such the exhibition we created did not seek to imitate textbook histories of the East End, but to try and create a sense of the sights, sounds, and experience of the place, through hearing from the people who lived there.
In the final stage of the project, participants worked with Age Exchange on a programme of reminiscence workshops for local schools.
The reminiscence interviews and project archive were given to local libraries and museums for the education of future generations of Londoners. Remembering Your East End concluded with the production of a learning website for schools and the general public, available at https://www.age-exchange.org.uk/eastend/. The website offers the ability to view the touring exhibition online and provides additional resources and exercises for schools, together with links to related resources. The exhibition toured venues in the East End for 18 months and is now available for hire from Age Exchange.
“Inside our street door we had a string with the key on so anyone could pull the string and come in. Then we thought we’d get a bit more posh so we had a chain instead. But if you did that now I don’t think you’d have a home left.”
We are grateful to The Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting this project.