Twitter logo Facebook logo Instagram logo

Oral History Online

Since 2010 Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives has undertaken several oral history projects. The recordings created were showcased in exhibitions hosted at the library and accessed via a listening booth. You can listen to the audio clips here by clicking the links to the right or below if using a mobile device. Descriptions of each project can be found below.

After You’ve Gone: East End Shopfronts, 1988

Alan Dein's photographs of East End shopfronts were taken in 1988 when many Tower Hamlets streets were on the verge of dereliction. Alan, an oral historian and Radio 4 broadcaster, lived in Stepney at the time and decided to capture the diminishing, decaying local shops on film, many of them relics of the area’s once flourishing Jewish community. These oral history clips of former shop owners and customers shed light on life in the borough from the 1950s through to the 1980s.


Oral histories of the Bengali East End 

These oral histories tell just a few of the stories of the Bengali East End. Here three people recollect life in the borough during the 1970s and 1980s and the part each played in community organizing and anti-racist protest. Find out more about the Bengali East End.


Mapping the change: Old Ford Voices & Island Memories

As the landscape of Bow has been altered forever by new development, the archive captured some voices of local people reflecting on life, work and play during the last century in Fish Island and Old Ford. Funded by Heritage Lottery Fund as part of Hackney Museum's Mapping The Change project.  


Somali Oral Histories 

A ground-breaking exhibition Don’t Just Live – Live to be Remembered examining the history of Somali migration to Tower Hamlets was hosted in March 2013. Produced by Idea Store in partnership with KAYD Somali Arts & Culture and Mayfield House Day Centre, the exhibition draws on oral histories of influential and inspirational residents as well as the collections of Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives to tell the story of the borough’s Somali history. 


Individual Oral Histories: Interview with Hellen Martin, grand-daughter of William Whiffin

Born in Poplar, William Thomas Whiffin (1878-1957) was from a family of photographers and spent much of his life living in, and photographing, the East End of London in the first half of the 20th century.  This interview was undertaken in order to capture Hellen’s thoughts about her grand-father, including recollections about him that she gleaned from other family members who knew him well.  


Full interviews may be listened to at the library by special arrangement. Please contact us to make arrangements.