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What's On

Bengali Resistance in the East End!

Date: Saturday 7th May, 11am-3pm
Location: Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives – Education Room

Protest against the National Front, 1978 (c) Syd SheltonWith the rise of the National Front in the 1970s, racial attacks on minority groups led to many serious injuries and deaths across the nation. People started to organise protests and marches nationally and locally. In 1978 after the tragic murder of Altab Ali, the Bengali community in Tower Hamlets organised the largest South Asian protest march from Brick Lane to Downing Street. 

Come and explore how the Bengali community in Tower Hamlets resisted organised racism and violence. Speakers on the day will include Ansar Ahmed Ullah (QMUL) looking at the impact of 1971 Bangladesh Liberation war on the activism in 1978 Tower Hamlets. MayDay Rooms will be exploring the Housing Struggle and Bengali squatters movement. This will be followed by an inter-generational conversation between Shuva Motin (activist from 1978 working with Progressive Youth Organisation) and Julie Begum (Swadhinata Trust and activist) discussing female activism over the last five decades. 

There will also be food prepared by Shuva Motin, along with teas and snacks available for all!

BOOK your tickets here Bengali Resistance in the East End Tickets, Sat 7 May 2022 at 11:00 | Eventbrite



Celebrate a street where you live!

Date: Saturday 21st May, 11am-4pm
Location: Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives – Education Room

Stan Jones's parents outside their house decorated for the Coronation in 1953. Photographed by Stan Jones.In the run-up to the Platinum Jubilee in June we are hosting an event to showcase our archives illustrating historic street parties in the East End, which range from the Peace Parties of 1919 to the 2012 Olympics. If your neighbourhood is hosting a street party in early June, this event is for you... 

Bow resident, Stan Jones of Lichfield Road, took the  iconic photo (left) in 1953, showing his parents outside their house decorated for the Coronation. This photo made the national newspapers, and Lichfield Road has since hosted some legendary street parties, with this year set to be no exception. 

We are very proud to have been able recently to provide a permanent home for Stan's extensive collection of photographs after his sad passing in December. Highlights will be on show at this event..
Activity & talks on the day include: 

Family activity 
Bring along your little ones in the morning and get inspired by old photos to make bunting and pennants to decorate the front of your house or building. Pens, paint, card and glitter provided. This activity is suitable for children age 3+, and children must be accompanied by an adult. 

Street history 
Rob Jones, our local history librarian will describe the key resources we hold for researching the history of your house, street and the people who lived there; and independent researcher Rachel Sweeney will share the deep dive she is doing to uncover the history of her house in Bow. 

Tea and cakes will be provided!

Book your tickets here Celebrate! A street where you live. Tickets, Sat 21 May 2022 at 11:00 | Eventbrite


Local Landscapes

New exhibition by Idea Store Visual Arts learners

On until May 2022local landscapes

Local Landscapes Artist's Tour

Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives – Exhibition Hall 
Thursday 19 May 5pm-7pm

The streets, waterways, parks and buildings of Tower Hamlets are the subjects depicted in our current exhibition of artworks by students enrolled on Idea Store Learning’s Visual Arts courses, closing at the end of May. Join us for an early evening guided tour delivered by the artists themselves, along with chance to view some of their most recent work followed by a meet and greet. Trained by tutor Virginia Hawke, these local artists have been inspired to draw, paint, print or collage their own personal snapshots of the borough’s landscape. Scenes range from landmarks as famous as the Tower of London and One Canada Square to more modest houses, flats and street markets. The Regent’s Canal, River Thames, Victoria Park and Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park are also well represented. 

Artists featured in the exhibition: Linda Baker, Ahmed Choudhury, Mira Connolly, Mignol Gregory, Virginia Hawke, Roy Leader, Tom Lyddon, Lynn Mardell, Cathy Phillips, Natasha Sherman, Alie Smith, Stephen Walker. This event is free and no booking is required. Tour begins promptly at 5.30pm




Bangladesh 50 artwork

2021 marked 50 years since the independence of Bangladesh. Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives and the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) led Bangladesh 50 Years. This is one of four projects that forms a part of the National Portrait Gallery’s offsite programme, Citizen UK, during its temporary closure to transform the gallery.

Citizen UK is an exciting research and creative engagement project involving the borough archive services, local communities and contemporary artists. It is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Further information about the project can be found here and here


BANGLA: a new public artwork for Whitechapel

Bangladesh 50 Years

In 2021 we launched a new art installation at Idea Store Whitechapel. A collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery, BANGLA is a bright and bold celebration of the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh installed in the facade of the borough's flagship library.
installation at idea store whitechapel 
Initially planned as an exhibition in our entrance hall, the pandemic led the project's stakeholders to identify an open-air space to display the new artwork, co-designed by Paraa: led by artist Ruhul Abdin & architect Sadiqul Islam Shehab.

The result - the word BANGLA constructed as a 3D illuminated steel structure clad in sari fabric. The piece was informed by research using collections at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives by a group of over 20 Citizen Researchers from the local British Bangladeshi community.

The sculptural artwork is illuminated at dusk every evening. The installation includes two large embroidered hangings depicting archival fragments of the 1971 Liberation War, and its impact on the Bengali East End.

Pasted onto the disused escalator shaft in the overhanging glass facade, highlights from our collections are used in a new exhibition about the history of the independence struggle, the contribution of Tower Hamlets residents and the Language Movement in the East End.

Bangladesh 50 is part of Citizen UK, a collaboration between the National Portrait Gallery and local authority archives. Check out behind the scenes photos and videos of the project process.
You can view BANGLA at Idea Store Whitechapel every day. Lights come on at 4pm to midnight. Take your pictures with BANGLA and post it on social media and tag us! @LBTHArchives #BD50

The Vanished East End

Documentary photography from the 70s and 80s
A new exhibition

Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives
30 September 2021 - 4 February 2022
Monday - Friday
10.00am - 5.00pm
1st and 3rd Saturday of the month
10.00am - 5.00pm

Exhibition Closing Event Book Sale and Meet and Greet
Saturday 5th February, 12pm - 3pm 

Join us for the final day of the exhibition!

There will be a book sale and meet and greet with curator Susan Andrews and participating photographers Mike Seaborne and Tom Hunter.

Booking essential

Thanks to our friends over at the East End Archive at London Metropolitan University we are delighted to host this new exhibition at Bancroft Road.

Photograph of fife and drum band parade in Wapping, 1980s
Photograph of fife and drum band parade in Wapping, 1980s (c) Diane Bush


The Vanished East End highlights the huge social and economic changes in the area, including the now vanished industrial landscape and the deregulation of the financial markets. The group show features work from the 1970s and the 1980s by acclaimed photographers Tom Hunter, Diane Bush, Mike Seaborne, Brian Griffin and Syd Shelton.

The work on show by four of the five photographers is highlighted in a recent publication series by Café Royal Books, a long term advocate of British documentary photography. Each book showcases each photographer’s distinctive and personal approach to capturing the area, and comprise.

  • Down the Lane features the work of Tom Hunter and dates from a time, now disappeared and prior to his professional career when he had a stall at Brick Lane Market and photographed the passers-by.
  • East End features the work of Diane Bush, which was made whilst working with EXIT, Britain’s first photography collective, which believed in the power of photography to contribute to positive social change.
  • London Docklands features the work of Mike Seaborne,  showcasing the huge social and economic changes in the area through the 1970s which were defined by a vanished post-industrial landscape.
  • The Broadgate Development features the work of Brian Griffin, which comments on massive economic shifts but this time in the City of London in the 1980s where borders were re-drawn as the City spread with the deregulation of the financial markets.
  • Syd Shelton is a British photographer who documented the Rock Against Racism movement. His work is held in the collections of Tate and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Please check our opening hours before visiting

About The East End Archive at London Metropolitan University:

The East End Archive at London Metropolitan University is an online and digital photographic resource which develops collaborative ventures with other community groups, public bodies and research projects that have a common interest. The Archive collects the work of photographers whose practice is concerned with the East End of London and its diaspora, where the East End is understood as an ever-changing frontier within the urban sprawl that is part imagined and part tangible.

The Archive holds only “bodies of work” in order to understand more fully the working methodology of the photographers, and to give context to the work. This is an archive for the future, which brings together not only historic bodies of work but contemporary collections from photographers currently working in the field in order to record current rather than retrospective ideologies. The work collected ranges from traditional documentary to works of the imagination in order to reflect the East End- a place where dreams, dissent and transformation co-exist. The archive aims to bring to light forgotten or little published work as well as the work of established photographers, and works with local communities to uncover and preserve histories, promote community well-being and cultural understanding.

Online exhibition on the history of our building, 1861-2015

Explore the history of our Grade 2 listed building here on Bancroft Road. An online exhibition is available. From Town Hall to Local History Library and Archives: a short history of our service and premises, 1861-2015 is based on research undertaken for 50th anniversary celebrations of the borough.

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