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Local History - What's on

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Reimagining history through speculative fiction!

Saturday 18th May 1-4pm & Saturday 1st June 1-4pm

Often archives are thought of as static and decided – holding the material of our past, and ordering our collective histories. But archives are never done, never decided. Archives are speculative. Archives always contain gaps and breaks that archivists and writers read into and imagine beyond. Work by artists and writers such as Black Quantum Futurism, Juliet Jacques, and Shola Von Reinhold shows how queer and anticolonial practices can reimagine history and make new futures through archival research.

Join us for a series of archival and writing workshops; you can come to one or all three sessions (introductory session took place on 8th May). Participants will have the chance to investigate Tower Hamlets Local History and MayDay Rooms archives, working with selected materials to reimagine and reconstruct histories, and using creative writing practices to make your own speculative fictions and radical counter-realities. Hosted by archivists and organisers from Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives and MayDay Rooms, and writers and lecturers from Queen Mary University of London, workshops will focus on the history of activism and community organising in East London, and how this material holds the seeds of futures yet to be written.


Workshop 2, Saturday 18th May, 1-4pm

Narrating the archives: A guided session in which we’ll encounter materials from the archives and work with them using a combination of archival methodologies and creative writing practices. Book here

Workshop 3, Saturday 1st June, 1-4pm

Speculative futures: We’ll head into the future - any number of possible futures! - and build on archival methodologies and creative writing practices to make new worlds. We’ll share what we have written and put together our own archive from the workshops. Book here

‘Uncovering the Archive’ is free a programme for young people (18-25) on archives and archiving developed by MayDay Rooms in collaboration with other radical spaces, groups and people in London!

All sessions will take place at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives, 277 Bancroft Road, Stepney E1 4DQ

Image of children at a nursery in 1915

East End History Club, Parent/Carer & Under 5's Session

Friday 7 June 2024, 10-11:30am 

Come along to our Parent/Carer’s & Under 5's meet up,and explore historical records on the famous East End. A chance to meet other parents, enjoy a cuppa and look through our unique collection of maps, photographs,newspapers, pamphlets and much more.

Toys will be available for children ages 0-5 with a mini brunch and refreshments including Tea & Coffee.

brick lane protests and women seamstress

Whitechapel Stories - Developing a mural, inspired by history

Fridays: 10am – 1pm, starting on Friday 10 May, and ending on Friday 28 June 2024

The project is open to all Tower Hamlets residents. Whatever your interest in Whitechapel’s communities and history, you’ll get something out of this project.

Developing a mural, inspired by history

  • Delve into the stories of Whitechapel, past and present
  • Get to grips with old maps, photos and newspapers
  • Take a closer look at landmark buildings on guided walks
  • Undertake your own personal research, and share your own memories of the area
  • Help us shape up a new mural, booklet and website, to share your research with others

Sound interesting? Then join us on the Whitechapel Stories project, starting on Friday 10th May 2024.

To sign up email

close up of Basil's ceramics

What we can become

Thursday 30 May, 6pm-8pm

With a subtle twist of the title based on the book Complicity by Jay Bernard, the closing event for the group exhibition What we have become showcases the work of a group of local young people from Mile End Community Project on their creative response to the exhibition exploring the impact of archives on collective and personal identity and how art can possibly help us understand modern day Britain.

Past events

passport photos of chinese migrant family members

Archival Silence, Gaps and Breaks Artist Talk with Q+A

Thursday, 16 May, 6:30-8pm 

Online : Zoom (link will be sent on the day)

Utilising the archive as a mode of expression and social document, this panel discussion with the artists participating in the exhibition, will explore the gaps within the archive that invite us to engage critically with the silenced voices and obscured histories that underpin its very existence and its relationship to artistic practice. Based on the writings of Stuart Hall and his essay 'Constituting the Archive', the panel will discuss how the archive has influenced their work and the connection between memory and meaning.

 Participating artists

Diesen Pamben, Kelly Wu, Rudy Loewe, Holly Graham, Basil Olton

hand holds blue card of archives

Changemakers of the East End Pop-Up Stalls

Saturday, 8 June, 11:30am-4:30pm, Festival of Communities, Stepney Green Park 

Saturday, 22 June, 1pm-4pm, Idea Store Canary Wharf 

Come and join us at one or both of our pop-up stalls on 'Changemakers' of the East End. You can see our display of zine's produced in the research workshops, take the 'Changemakers' Quiz and make your very own zine!

No booking required just drop-in on the day!




close up of embroidery on handmade needle book

What We Have Become Creative Workshop

Saturday 20 April, 11am-1pm 

Using memory and examples of archival textiles from the Tower Hamlets collection, costume and set designer Veronika Seifert will lead a collage workshop with text, texture, sculpture and imagination.

All ages welcome (children to be accompanied by adults)

Limited capacity of 15 participants

Kelly Wu Photographs

What We Have Become: Exhibition Launch

Join us for the launch of our new exhibition with a tour by curator Basil Olton. Participating artists Holly Graham, Diensen Pamben and Kelly Wu will also share their working processes and how they responded to the themes of the exhibition.

P22682 Women's Hall c1915 300 dpi SMALL

East End History Club: Women’s Revolt!

Saturday 16 March, 11am-1pm

In partnership with The Women's Library at LSE, we will be exploring how women in the East End resisted and fought for their liberation. Whether it was for voting rights, better living and working conditions, equal pay or better health and family care, you will have the opportunity to look through material from both our collections.

There will also be a badge-making activity for those who feel inspired to mark their own mini protest!

FLYER for film screening event

Film screening: Hyenas in Petticoats

Saturday 2 March, 2-4pm

A screening of short films made by participants of the Hyenas in Petticoats women's radical filmmaking course led by Katy McGahan and Mizgin Mujde Arslan at Newington Green Meeting House in 2023. These short documentary films cover a range of topics including environmental activism, gentrification, concepts of home, women's relationships with the city, love and loss. Tower Hamlets is an important location in several of the films, including Carol Gyasi's 'First Whispers' and Susan Croft's work ‘In search of Margaret Wynne Nevinson’.

Artists: Katy McGahan, Mizgin Mujde Arslan, Kirsty Edginton, Catherine Phillips, Madeline Hartley Salim, Lydia Julien, Noemi Menendez, Lili Ly, Carol Gyasi, Susan Croft

Shabna Begum's book cover

Bengali radical housing movement in Tower Hamlets with Shabna Begum

Thursday 29 February, 6-7.30pm

1970s Britain witnessed housing struggles for many working class communities across the country. Racialised groups, like the growing Bengali community in Tower Hamlets, faced additional hardships owing to structural racism and the rise of far right racist attacks by the National Front. In her book From Sylhet to Spitalfields, Shabna Begum explores how the longstanding Bengali community resisted the housing crisis amidst the violence and discrimination, by squatting. In this workshop we will be revisiting material from our archives used for the book: examining how records are used to uncover hidden narratives, and discussing the radical history of the Bengali squatter's movement.

Shabna Begum is interim CEO at the Runnymede Trust, the UK’s leading race equality think tank. 

communities of liberation

Communities of Liberation Launch Event

Thursday 22 February, 6:30-8pm

There is no public recognition of African people who lived in the East End 300 years ago. We’re launching a groundbreaking project researching in the archives and producing new creative work which gives life to these neglected lives and stories.

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.

Join us at our launch event to find out more and how you can get involved!

If you can’t come along, this information will be posted on the project website and social media platform with regular updates about our activities, discoveries, and creative re-imagining throughout the year.

collection pamphlet spread

Resistance in the archive: with Nijjor Manush & MayDay Rooms

Saturday 17th February, 2-4pm

In this workshop with Fatima Rajina and Hajera Begum from Nijjor Manush, we will investigate anti-racist resistance and advocacy from local communities through archival material from MayDay Rooms and Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives. What social and political hardships have communities faced in Tower Hamlets since the 1970s? What lessons can be learnt from their radical histories? And how do we apply these teachings to contemporary struggles? Join us in exploring grassroots activism and strategies of resistance.

MayDay Rooms is an archive, resource and safe haven for social movements, experimental and marginal cultures and their histories.

Nijjor Manush is an independent campaigning group that aims to educate, empower and organise Bengalis and Bangladeshis in the UK.

pink map with text over image

Imagining Queer Pasts and Futures in the Tower Hamlets Archives

Thursday 15th February, 6-7.30pm

You are invited to an evening of writing and discussion, where you will explore photos, records and memories of the LGBTQ+ community in Tower Hamlets. East London-based writer and facilitator F. Zeeshan Choudhury will provide writing games and activities to interact with these archival materials. As well as sharing your work, there will be a discussion exploring elements of our queer past and ways it can be brought into the future.

This workshop is for all people 18+ who want to find strength and inspiration from the past, as well as writers looking to see how archival material can inform their work.

newspaper cuttings of Leon Greenman and an Image of Hyde Park Holocaust Memorial park

An inter-generational conversation on remembrance and memorialisation of the Jewish Holocaust

Wednesday 24 January 2024, 6.00-7.30pm

How do Jews of different generations commemorate the Holocaust today? How effective are national memorialisation initiatives in the UK and Europe? In the decades that followed World War Two, what was the response of the East End’s Jewish community to the genocide? Can Holocaust remembrance ever be non-political?

Join Barnaby Raine, David Rosenberg and Nadia Valman as they discuss these questions and more, from a personal, national and local perspective.

Children's workshops at Bancroft

‘This is Our History’ Exhibition Launch

Saturday 20 January, 2-4pm

Join us for the long-awaited FREE launch event of the exhibition ‘This is Our History’ produced in partnership with Tower Hamlets Schools Library Service. The launch event will be a fun-packed afternoon suitable for the whole family, including badge-making, collage map activities and tote bag printing. We will also have some surprises to bring to life some of the unknown stories of the East End. The exhibition features artwork produced by school children who attended workshops at Tower Hamlets Local history Library & Archives.

Light refreshments will be available throughout the afternoon. ‘This is Our History’ was supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Image by Syd Shelton 1978

Summer of protest: Bengali anti-racist movement in 1978

Wednesday 17th January, 6.00-7.00pm ONLINE

It is said that the brutal murder of Altab Ali on 4 May 1978 was a turning point that led to the mobilisation of an anti-racist movement by the Bengali community in the East End. This period marked a political awakening amongst Bengalis who had been long suffering violent racist attacks and housing discrimination in the locality. Join Ansar Ahmed Ullah as he explores what led to the summer of protests in East London, how the Bengali community forged alliances with other community and political groups, and how the movement developed in the following decade. This event aims to provide a wider historical and political context to Paul Trevor's photographs in the current exhibition Brick Lane 1978: The Turning Point at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives.

Image: Clockseller, Cheshire St, Brick Lane Sunday Market, 1970 © Ron McCormick

Re-sounding the East End

Thursday 16 November, 6.30-8pm

Join us for a discussion with curators and historians Nadia Valman, Tamsin Bookey, Rehana Ahmed and Alan Dein responding to Everything is different, nothing has changed; the three sound art installations in the context of the East End's social and public history. 

This event is part of the Being Human Festival. 

Image: Woman selling bagels on Petticoat Lane in the East End, 1930s

Listening to the Jewish East End: A guided walk

Sunday 8 October, 11am-1.00pm

Explore London’s Jewish East End with Professor Nadia Valman and Dr Vivi Lachs of Queen Mary, University of London, who present a free guided walk through East London’s Jewish past based on their Arts and Humanities Research Council project on English and Yiddish literature and song of the East End from the 1880s to the 1950s.

Image: Cassette tapes from the sound collection at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives

East End History Club: Voices in the archive!

Saturday 2 September, 2-4pm

Join our librarian Robert Jones in exploring materials related to our sound collection. There will be a talk about the types of sound recordings held at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives and an opportunity join us for a selected listening session.

Image: Nijjor Manush

Un/making narrative: a conversation on grassroots organising with Nijjor Manush

Thursday 7 September, 5-7pm

The making and unmaking of narrative has been key to the anti-racist, social and housing justice battles won and lost around the East End over the last century. This informal conversation with Dr Fatima Rajina and Tasnima Uddin, founding members of the Bangladeshi/Bengali-led campaigning and solidarity group Nijjor Manush since 2017, connects the historical themes of Syma Tariq's audio artwork Delay lines with a focus on the narrative challenges, complexities and tactics involved in the group’s ongoing activism. They will speak particularly about grassroots organising within the Save Brick Lane campaign.

Image: Whitechapel Public Library, 2005, © Fin Fahey

How Writers Remembered the Jewish East End with Nadia Valman

Thursday 28 September, 6-7.30pm

After World War II many East Enders permanently left the neighbourhoods where they had grown up. For Jews whose parents and grandparents had arrived in the East End in the Victorian period this also signified the end of the vibrant Jewish community life that had developed here in the first part of the twentieth century. In this online talk Professor Nadia Valman of Queen Mary University discusses how Jewish writers remembered their childhood in the East End of the 1930s.

Image: Book cover from Across seven seas and thirteen rivers by Caroline Adams

Nawab Ali: An Extraordinary Life

Saturday 16 September, 2-4pm

This workshop will centre around a transcript from an oral history interview made by the writer Caroline Adams. The interview’s subject was a Bengali immigrant to the UK called Nawab Ali who arrived here in 1939, just before the start of World War II. His story is extraordinary and reflects the richness and hardships of the lives of immigrants to this country and the East End specifically. Participants will be invited to read sections of the text and edit together their favourite parts of Ali’s story for further discussion in an informal group setting. The workshop will begin with an introduction to Alastair Levy’s exhibited work My Home In Morgan Street (2023).

four cassette tapes

Public launch event - Opening reception

Thursday 24 August, 5.30-7.00pm

All are welcome at this public launch event for the exhibition.

Produced in collaboration with researchers at Queen Mary, University of London and Birkbeck, University of London, who have been exploring what the East End meant to generations of migrants, Everything is different, nothing has changed uses archival audio to offer new interpretations of Tower Hamlets’ past.

Refreshments provided, speeches at 6.15pm.