More heritage but with an oral twist.

Cancelled stuff today and started some research for a project which hasn’t yet accepted me onto its volunteer team. The project’s based in east London and the draft outline looks worthwhile but where was it advertised?

Stepney’s community hub’s doing a research project into the East India Shipping Company. Difficult to commit to meetings but am involved from afar. What is research but reading Wikipedia which is not recognised by some universities as a reliable source?*

The glory is learning new material and being cast into the role as researcher, albeit unpaid. An associate of mine began a two year art and history course. After two years she said to me “I never even knew what research was until I joined the pre-degree course two years ago. (Now I know about tunnelling!)”

*For the record I’m doing my own research but not making it public yet. It involves much interviewing and…art. Wikipedia is pretty useless for my own thing.

The second part of the  project I’m applying for is interviewing offspring of women activists in the sixties. They’ll be like 65+, won’t they? I so want some research buddies but no-one will commit or be interested in ‘them feminists’.

For me, how luxurious to have lived through defined times but not taken deep note and then to be older and have the Internet and convictions at my disposal plus an ache to learn. Some ole gals I’ve revisited anyway:-

Joan Littlewood (statue unveiling Oct 4th at Theatre Royal Stratford east. E15

Gingerbread’s staff.

Claudia Jones (neé Cumberbatch) (Check Eventbrite for Black Culture Archives walks and talks)

Barbara Castle

Spare Tyre Company.

Dagenham strikers. (Check Eventbrite for a Parliament venue talk about 1984 strikers at Fords.)

Bernadette Devlin


In praise of older women

This past week subscribers to Up Your Street have been collecting grandchildren, praying in the Mosque, attending Mass, rushing to Lidl’s, seeing to spouse appointments and then attending art exhibition launches, inter-cultural teas, doing art and discussing and debating gender issues, visiting a museum and highlighting Black History Month in their conversations.

Credit where it’s due mate.

Saturday it’s back to a creative writing workshop on the other side of London, watching a play and attending a fashion show; British Museum story-telling training on Monday and a visit to the old docks on Thursday.

Black Cultural Archives

,bca 2Up Your Street subscribers joined Waltham Forest Local History Network on its first outing, an afternoon out in sunny Brixton to visit the Black Cultural Archives. The planned trip was not a Black History Month event but the coincidence looks good. I wasn’t sure what the trip was for but I wanted to see a million pound building and museum

.black cultural archivesphoto:Waltham Forest History Network

With open minds we, an ethnically diverse group if ever there were one, attached ourselves to the teenagers and tutors led along by a retired teacher. I knew the Waltham Forest history lot were after finding ways of recording the histories of every cultural group in the borough. Currently the publicized history borough-wide is that of the White British. The network meetings are those of the White British, so I understand, which means very little except a whole heap of assumptions about individual experiences.

Brixton Riots, Swann Report, Multi-Cultural Education, Mary Seacole. In the eighties, the Waltham Forest schools were the movers and shakers when it came to  valuing all members of the community. Library books changed colour and humanities bore the torch for christian love thy neighbour  essays and discussion ideas. The pupils grew up with “Kumbaya” echoing from their Walkmans. The neighbours moved away and other mother tongues filled the bus queues. More people needed a burst of identity to keep the “Rivers Of Blood” at bay and still the meetings could not attract story-tellers  to enhance the next generation’s well-being. The failing was abysmal. We are still doing the same: Thudding out Black History Month, raising up archives, talking about hair and repeating all of 1985 when in reality we are going backwards into our own tents, frowning at FGM, presenting theatre about back in the day, abusing our children, watching our words, and voting in fascists.

Even the force of the riots in 2011 was not the catalyst for the country’s sagging and muddled government to gift a Black Cultural Archive building to its people. Bravo to those people of passion who got in hand pretty fat Heritage Lottery money.

The current and free exhibition is all about women from African blood who inspire people even now, centuries down the line.


The display area is tiny. Before the founders had their Georgian building the collections were kept in what is now a chicken shop. They are scared of space obviously. Small and cramped but okay for eight people at a time. There’s a café with £1.50 tea.

In the sharp October sun, we,  the unrecognized pearls  from Up Your Street,  sat at the empty picnic table on the flag-stoned courtyard, counted our £1.99 McDonald’s vouchers and ate our Penguins.