Akala’s “Natives” and Myers’ “7 Steps”.

20160429_074439.jpgIn 1986 I was at a Leyton school meeting with the head and another teacher present whilst we awaited the members of a larger group. A conversation was flowing agreeably. I answered someone:-
“Yes, I am multi-cultural”.
“Why do you see yourself as multi-cultural?”
“Because I just am. I’m aware of everything around me”.
I wasn’t sure whether the questioner were trying to trip me up or think of a question to ask hopeful interviewees for jobs in the school.
Akala said how all his life he is aware of racism. Myself too. And I taught the next generation down as much as I could. I stopped my sister almost my age, brought up in the same neighbourhood, from using racist words.
Myers tells us about her own mother who married outside her people, tribe, and suffered not necessarily because of her or her man’s racism but certainly she put her own mixed race children into a vipers’ den, into a 1980s era of Racist London as was, is now and ever will be despite laws, despite mixing up.

People say stupid ignorant things and somehow expect me to let them pass.
All my personal peers, not my friends, are racist and not multi-cultural. I am always on alert and always have been. I have supported people put into difficult personal positions because of their colour. I have been in those positions myself.
So Akala and Myers, well done. Your writings could not be clearer.

art trails

someone-elses-story-1882.jpg.jpegWhere I live is in the bosom of art trails. Sandwiched between the cleavage are parishes without such jollies. It’s all about anxious artists wanting to stamp their places on paving stones. It’s art with fierce promotion reaching out to other artists because everyone I talk who’s not dabbling in acrylics and rags hasn’t a clue about art trails, community art and any art.
You have to fork out readies to be included in a brochure. Whoopee. Facebook picks up more footfall.
Some art -trails have so much on that you have to sit down and plan out your route and hope that on your personal artogy you feel up to it and that the sun doesn’t drive you into the shade of an art caff where you’ll find an excuse to stay all day. Chumming along is good because you can mutter “Mmm” to another quizzical face. But looking at art alone by yourself is a meditative experience, spirit-raising.
I wanted people to see my art, so booked it into a caff after agreeing to down-size my work for the smaller walls. To get a tableful of my peers to munch amongst acrylics and recycled textiles was very difficult let alone the angst of having to remind the café to put up my work. Had to be done and now it’s done I question the whys and wherefores and I won’t join in again.
Someone else’s party.

Our Day Out

Get rid of the assumption that all white people think the same and all black people think the same. Cast away any negative that some commentaries at some events demonise the white or other race. Today was a learning day on a boat with one hundred and ninety-nine other people with those being mainly of African-Caribbean heritage. It was fantastic.
It was all of that because it was well-organised and strict. We were on a boat up and down the Thames so no mucking about. Everyone had paid their £35 tickets, had arrived in time as warned and expected to be entertained and taught something.
What wonderful hosts. What a lovely welcome and what a trip.
The boat was packed. It was no way a luxury craft. The upstairs deck was for standing only and downstairs was cramped. No-one took off their coats so I think it was chilly.
There were no refreshments except bar-fare. Those who needed and wanted a chair got one.
The commentary by Steve Martin was ace in that it showed much thorough research and was delivered via tannoy with an informal and engaging tone. Steve had a wealth of snippets of information up his coat-sleeve.

Up Your Street seniors were out in force writing notes and taking in all the information, turning their heads to port, to starboard, hearing the names of un-celebrated “Negroes”. and nasty slavers. We learnt again about eighteenth century literate lawyers from African and Caribbean descent and Africans pining for home. Historic women writers of colour were brought to life by today poets and contributors in costume. How fabulous.

Books and writings were continually recommended as we sat amongst Black activists in this our twenty-first century, dames, and writers, agitators and book-sellers, Windrush and before descendants, artists and museum guides, senior staff in London schools and Auntie Thomasina Cobbly and all.

London by boat is fine at anytime, Today the bridges looked majestic and the glass of the City Of London forced us to reflect on the fact that the City was built on the riches of sugar and slaves. Those rich Georgian traders included astute but now immoral people of colour who worked alongside watermen and a maritime workforce and their bosses; often employers full of viciousness and able to treat their servants like churlish dogs.

Aah, but we know much of this now. The high rating we gave this event was down to the welcome, the inclusiveness and generous invitation and the fact that human stories were brought to life through Steve and others’ accounts of the lives of people who were just “lodgers, if that”. Black people in London over five hundred years.

Up Your Street sends out emailed lists every seven to ten days to subscribers. All free

Here is an example of a regular listing:-

Up Your Street. Issue Last of 2018

Sat 15th Dec. 10-3pm Winter Fayre. Buxton School Cann Hall Road E11.

Mon 17th Dec free.Noon at Matchmaker Room Leyton Orient. Seniors social. Bring an edible to share.

2pm Dinner at Clapton Hart organised by Hackney Circle.

6.30pm free Bow Sewing Bee.Christmas do.
6.30-9.30pm at Eleanor Arms
460 Old Ford Road
E3 5JP
Bring along your hand-sewing.

Tues 18th Dec free 2pm Dinner at Chick n Sour. Fully booked.

£8 7.30pm.Doreen Fletcher artist of east end scenes at The Wanstead Tap Winchelsea Road E11.

Wed 19th Dec free Making cards and bows with christmas crafts outfits. EC1. Check Eventbrite. Many others.

Fri 21st Dec free. Blackhorse Road Church E17.Bags of Taste. Cooking and eating together. Text for a place to 07914 803530 no later than Saturday 15th.

Community. Define

Soon Up Your Street seniors will go along to represent seniors from around the once poorer London boroughs at an event in Shoreditch organised by Dr Leila Jancovich et al from Leeds University. The aim of the event is to find a positive amongst the structured but failing community and cultural offerings given out to the masses by the traditional cultural centres such as museums and art galleries and recently popped-up community hubs. Coincidentally in Waltham Forest the drive is on to enhance people’s cultural outlooks through art and the arts by the borough showing off as the Borough Of Culture: The first ever Borough Of Culture.

Those seniors twelve years old in the Up Your Street organisation say it like it is and it isn’t grand. They have attended tens of workshops from collage art to 3D printing to interactive theatre to drawing and movement. Often the workshops precede an art exhibition or a museum treat. For years those older participants have known that community engagement is a fluff and that their names settle on a tick-sheet to please funders. Better for the money drip is if the photos taken by the white middle-class trustafarian interns can show people of colour. Any last-minute evaluation sheets are loaded towards no rocking of the boat too. The only way participants can show displeasure is by not returning the next time. Next times are rare but anyway the facilitators at workshops don’t clock the names or faces of their public. Seniors do not matter.

Museum staff have since last year and beyond abandoned their brown wooden wall image to open out their welcoming arms particularly to the disinterested youth and the older more working class generation. Hackney Museum was well ahead over ten years ago and is a wonderful place to learn about the local people and their cultures. People from every background feel represented and own the venue.
The William Morris Gallery morphed into a shop and the café is neither magnet nor affordable to those folk who bring by habit their own flasks.

Art Galleries link with artists outside their perspex walls and intellectualise everything from living spaces to the shirt on your back to entice a population of people who never put art on their daily agenda. This is when art needs a definition. Schools are ready-made bait for culture and it is assumed that working class parents never take their children along the tunnels in Kensington during the half-terms. In all that, community artists spring up in every centre, exhibit and try to belong to an elite in an art world which is business always.

Exhibitions are still expensive. Up Your Street organises community group visits to those ten pound plus exhibitions. The Victoria and Albert Museum staff are ace; nothing is too much trouble. The staff at other places have much to learn about welcoming seniors on freebies.

Trouble is much is advertised on Twitter and at Facebook.
Trouble is the engaged never get called back. Tick-sheets are posted away. Job done.

Why do they at Up Your Street keep on keeping on pushing their way into worlds they never knew existed because they worked for years and transport was expensive and that thing culture was “nothing to do with us”. Was it curiosity, being egged-on, loving that expected cuppa, getting some skills learning and it can all be done before they get the tea on? Those people are ENGAGED for a couple of hours in a day. On Friday the mosque engages them. On Sunday the church engages them. So much is forgettable.
Nuff said.

women at work 1970-2000


Untold stories of first-generation Bangladeshi women in the East End (1970-90)

Stepney Community Trust (SCT) is pleased to announce an award of £55K from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to help reveal the incredible untold stories of the first-generation Bangladeshi women in Tower Hamlets who earned money working from home as seamstresses to support their families.

The project will cover a period of thirty years,1970 – 2000, and explore the rise and decline of Bangladeshi women home seamstresses in the Borough of Tower Hamlets. Many older women from this community living in the area today or who lived there in the past are in their 50s, 60s and 70s, and represent a very little known, but highly significant, East End heritage. They and many others who have already passed away have incredible, unique, individual and shared stories of being the first-generation Bangladeshi women in the East End of London who worked from home as seamstresses to support their families. The historically significant and well-known local rag trade provided them with an opportunity to work from home, like thousands of others from the then ever-increasing diverse local communities.

Most of these women were very young, some with children, when they first joined their husbands in London. Many of them got employed in economic activities soon after arriving into the country, while others started a little later, working from home to support their families. They faced many difficulties and challenges of the time.

While working as seamstresses from home, they brought up their children and undertook a multitude of other daily household duties, such as cooking and washing. Many older children, especially female members, also helped their mothers in sewing garments at home. As the children grew up, some of them also joined the rag trade, young men joined factories while young women worked from home. There were some Bangladeshi men who worked from home and women who worked in factories too, but the figures were quite low and insignificant compared to men working in factories and women working from home.

These women worked very hard with very little or no real social life or interactions with the wider society. They often experienced racial abuse themselves or feared that their husbands and children would be racially attacked when out of their houses. Examples of racial abuse experienced included: verbal name calling; physical violence and pigs’ heads being placed outside their front doors; and women comforting their children and husbands after they became victims when outside the house.

In the early 1970s, East London was still a very important centre of the rag trade and work was plentiful. Employers and factory owners looked for exploiting new opportunities to manufacture clothing and leather items. Many of the early employers who commissioned Bangladeshi women machinists working from home were Jewish. As the 1970s progressed into the 1980s, many Bangladeshi men who were previous employees also started to become owners of clothing and leather factories. However, as time passed into the early 1990s, the rag trade started to decline and eventually disappeared from the area, which was the major cause of a period of high levels of unemployment within the Bangladeshi community.

During the 1970-2000 period, East London experienced major changes, caused by post war immigration, experiences of and the fight against racism, decline of local industries, closures of docks and local resistance to protect jobs, halt and reverse environment dereliction and rising unemployment, as well as new initiatives and resources by local and central governments and the private sector for regeneration and community development programmes.

Stepney Community Trust’s 4th unique National Lottery Heritage Fund project “will help reveal and share the untold hidden stories of these women who contributed so much to society, economy and their families’ well-being, while making many sacrifices of their own health and dreams”. This heritage is very important for the present and future generations of the Bangladeshi and the wider East London’s diverse communities.

The project will help increase knowledge and understanding of the complex and varied heritage of London’s East End rag trade. It will undertake oral history interviews with eighteen Bangladeshi and six non-Bangladeshi women home seamstresses of the period, six children / grandchildren of such women and six businesses that supplied the work. There will be research on East End rag trade history, Bangladeshi Migration and the changing contexts of the time, which will add wider dimensions to the world of these women.

The work will be undertaken by community participants, to be known as heritage oral historians and heritage researchers: they will also collect relevant photographs and documents. They will receive training in oral history, archival research and archiving, provided by the Oral History Society, Tower Hamlets Local Library and Archives and London Metropolitan Archives.

There will be a printed black and white book, an exhibition, a drama performance and a project completion celebration. The collection of oral history, photographs and documents will be deposited at the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives. A six-month touring exhibition / workshops will follow in four venues, which will include the drama performance.

Stepney Community Trust (SCT) would like to thank The National Lottery Heritage Fund for their grant support and the National Lottery players that fund Britain’s diverse heritage.

For more information about this unique project, contact Muhammad Ahmedullah / Bodrul Alom on 020 7377 5482 or email heritageproject@stepney.org.uk / bodrul@stepney.org.uk

Note to editors

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. http://www.heritagefund.org.uk.

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund

Small Space, Grow MOre

Stepney Community Trust

Email: ahmedullah@stepney.org.uk
Phone: 0207 377 5482 / 07914119282

Website: http://www.stepney.org.uk/

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