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Communities of Liberation

Communities of Liberation is a historical research and public art project which aims to increase awareness of the long history of the African presence in the borough of Tower Hamlets, by focusing specifically on excavating and sharing stories of individuals who lived here in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The aim of the project is to identify the places, spaces and networks in which African people lived, worked or socialised during the period of operation of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Rather than focus on exceptional individuals - eg those who published their life stories or were abolition activists - the project will locate names, stories and experiences of everyday life of working Londoners, and map them to specific locations in present day Tower Hamlets. We are especially interested in the buildings and spaces - homes, taverns, places of worship - where ‘working class’ African people would gather, meet and coalesce as a community.


May 2024 update

A group of six Co-Producers have now been recruited and are now beginning their journey of exploring archival records relating to African people’s lives in the East End of London during the C17th and C18th centuries. Over the coming months they will start to develop their creative response, re-imagining these lives and stories, with the help of freelancers Judith Bryan, Holly Graham and Weyland McKenzie.

The final exhibition and launch will take place in February 2025.

February 2024 update

Join the team | Paid opportunity

There is no public recognition of African people who lived in the East End 300 years ago.

Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives is seeking 6 local people of African heritage to research in the archives and produce new creative work – visual, text and sound – which imagines and gives life to these neglected stories.

Please get in touch if you:

  • Have African or African Caribbean heritage - age 16 to elder
  • Live in Tower Hamlets or have a strong connection and familiarity with the borough
  • Are keen to do historical research and creative work inspired by your findings
  • Do not have formal training in history or visual arts – people with no specific qualifications or experience are particularly welcome
  • Are available to attend fortnightly 2.5 hour workshops in East London during Friday daytimes

What do you get out of it?

  • Your work featuring in a groundbreaking public exhibition, on digital platforms and in audio portraits
  • Training in archival research from heritage experts
  • Support to creatively imagine the lives of African people found in the archives using visual arts, writing, sound recording and editing
  • Payment for your time at London Living Wage - £13.15 per hour (total fee available £1,270)

You’ll be expected to:

  • Commit 4 x half-days per month during May to November 2024 (12 days in total)
  • Collaborate and share your experiences with the group throughout the project
  • Take responsibility for completing the tasks assigned to you

Sound good?

  • Send us an email telling us a bit about yourself, why you fit the bill and want to be involved
  • If it’s easier, you can email a video or voice note instead
  • Elders supported by younger family members are welcome

Deadline for applications: 5pm on Tuesday 2 April 2024

Email for more info and to submit applications –

September 2023 update

We have recently appointed a Research & Engagement Lead to the Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives team to take this piece of work forward.

In 2023 and 2024 Tony T will be carrying out historical research to identify and map specific histories and narratives of individuals and collectives; and engage local residents and the wider public with these histories through participatory workshops.

The outcome of these workshops will be to gather community responses and feedback on the stories uncovered and build a collective appreciation of their significance. Then, in 2025-6 the Communities of Liberation project will commission one or more creative public memorials to the individuals whose stories have been uncovered, sited in relevant locations in Tower Hamlets.

Further fundraising is to be carried out to extend the scope and budget available for the co-production process and the artwork commission.

Oversight and support comes from the Communities of Liberation Steering Group, which comprises historians and activists with decades of experience researching these histories. The project has been developed by Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives with the Communities of Liberation Steering Group.