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Bangladesh 50 Years

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh, Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives is proud to present a programme of free online events exploring the connections between the War of Independence in 1971 and the local community here in the East End. All events are free and take place between March and May 2021.

Coming soon: the launch of a new public artwork and exhibition which has been devised and produced collaboratively by the project’s Citizen Researchers with lead artist Ruhul Abdin.

Read on for our events programme, or you can download our flyer [PDF 1.7Mb]

Bangladesh 50 Years is a strand of Citizen UK, a partnership project led by the National Portrait Gallery in collaboration with local archives, supported by National Lottery Heritage Fund.
 

Birangonas: Towards Ethical Testimonies of Sexual Violence During Conflict
Thursday 25 March 6.00-7.30pm
Kicking off our Bangladesh 50 Years programme, Prof. Nayanika Mookherjee will share her research on public memories of sexual violence during the 1971 War of Independence. Testimonies of survivors, state officials and human rights activists have been examined through an ethnographic lens, alongside archival sources and cultural representations. Together these histories inspired and informed the creation of a new graphic novel and animated film which tells the intergenerational story of one (fictionalised) family. A set of ethical guidelines was produced with survivors to steer the processes involved in uncovering their experiences.

book your free tickets

Please follow the Eventbrite link to book onto this event. The event will be hosted on Zoom and you will receiving joining instructions 1-2 days before the event. 
 

1971: Women's Contributions 
Sunday 28 March 2.00-4.00pm
Women living in the UK made valuable contributions to the Bangladesh War of Independence but their stories are seldom explored. Join Dr. Romena Toki of Central London Youth Development in conversation with Ms. Shefali Haque who will be looking at the critical, political, financial, and moral support organised by women, Bengali and non-Bengali, based in the UK in 1971.

book your free tickets

Please follow the Eventbrite link to book onto this event. The event will be hosted on Zoom and you will receiving joining instructions 1-2 days before the event.

 

The Spirit of ’71: the Bangladeshi War of Independence in Tower Hamlets 
Wednesday 31 March 6.00-7.30pm
‘Joi Bangla!’ in London – or how to fight a war from 5,000 miles away. In this talk historian Sarah Glynn will explore the ways in which Bengalis living in Tower Hamlets supported the independence struggle, and set the events of 1971 in the historical context of community activism in the East End.

book your free tickets

Please follow the Eventbrite link to book onto this event. The event will be hosted on Zoom and you will receiving joining instructions 1-2 days before the event.

 

1971 in the UK: a photographic exploration 
Saturday 3 April 5.00-7.00pm
Ujjal Das is a journalist turned curator based in Canada with a specific interest in the role of expatriate Bengalis in the Bangladesh War of Independence. Over the last ten years he has collected many rare records ranging from photographs to posters, leaflets, letters and press cuttings from Bangla and English newspapers. Join us for an illustrated talk exploring his collection, which also includes the first postal stamp issued by the new nation of Bangladesh.

book your free tickets

Please follow the Eventbrite link to book onto this event. The event will be hosted on Zoom and you will be receiving joining instructions 1-2 days before the event. 

 

BD50: Tree of Life Narratives
Saturday 15 May 10.30-4.00pm
Sunday 16 May 10.30-3.00pm
Storytelling is a powerful tool in Bangladeshi culture often used to explore family histories, connecting loved ones to glimpses of past experience which is sometimes traumatic. In this two-day workshop, participants will be supported to use storytelling as a form of therapy, in which the tree becomes a metaphor for a person's life. Facilitated by Dr. Romena Toki, Clinical Psychologist, the workshop aims to support participants to tell their story in a way that makes them stronger. 

Spaces are limited and participants must be able to commit to both sessions. Please sign up to sessions by emailing local.history@towerhamlets.gov.uk Sessions will be held on zoom.You will receive details a few days prior to the sessions. 

 

Whose image is it anyway?
Wednesday 19 May 5.00-6.00pm
Join photographers Kois Miah and Phil Maxwell alongside Magda Keaney, Senior Curator of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, to discuss the ethics of ownership, focussing specifically on photographs of the East End’s Bangladeshi community from the 1970s to the present day. The event will be convened by Nishat Alam from Khidr Collective Zine. 

book your free tickets

Please follow the Eventbrite link to book onto this event. The event will be hosted on Zoom and you will be receiving joining instructions 1-2 days before the event. 



My Great Uncle, Ayub Ali Master
Saturday 29 May 2.00-4.00pm
A pioneer of the Bengali East End, Ayub Ali Master opened the Shah Jalal Restaurant and Coffee House in Spitalfields in 1920. The café became a vital community hub for migrants from the Indian subcontinent, where activists made plans and new arrivals could access information and shelter as well as a taste of home. We are delighted to welcome his grand-nephew Tam Hussein who will recount the story of two Sylheti brothers who arrived in London in 1919 and changed the face of the East End forever. 

book your free tickets

Please follow the Eventbrite link to book onto this event. The event will be hosted on Zoom and you will be receiving joining instructions 1-2 days before the event. 
 


BD50: What next for Bengali archives?
Thursday 20 May 6.00-7.30pm
The last twenty years have seen a surge of interest in British Bengali history and the establishment of Bengali community archives. Join Julie Begum and Ansar Ahmed Ullah of the Swadhinata Trust in conversation with Howard Doble from London Metropolitan Archives. They will explore the challenges in researching as well as capturing these histories, the importance of collecting them, and reflections for the future.

book your free tickets

Please follow the Eventbrite link to book onto this event. The event will be hosted on Zoom and you will be receiving joining instructions 1-2 days before the event. 

 

Home, Sweet (Squat) Home: Housing struggles in 1970s Tower Hamlets
Saturday 5 June 2:00 – 3:30pm
Hundreds of Bengali families squatted in 1970s Tower Hamlets; they had been denied adequate housing by the councils and were also facing the rise of National Front violence. Squatting was one way of overcoming the housing crisis and building a safer community. Featuring Shabna Begum (QMUL researcher) and conversations with Husnara Matin and Helal Abbas who were squatters from the time, the session will establish the importance of this radical history in the homemaking of the Bengali community in the East End.

book your free tickets

Please follow the Eventbrite link to book onto this event. The event will be hosted on Zoom and you will be receiving joining instructions 1-2 days before the event.
 


If you have any queries please email: localhistory@towerhamlets.gov.uk 
 

 


 

COVID-19 collecting volunteer project

Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives wants to create a lasting collective memory of our community’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. As an archive it is our responsibility to not only preserve historic records from the past, but collect and preserve the history of today to inform many generations to come. We would like to invite you to help us document the impact of the virus and the lockdown measures in place and organisations in the borough.

If you would like to volunteer your time with us, read our Life During Lockdown: COVID-19 collecting volunteer project summary and see how you can get involved.

If you are are an organisation or sole trader and would like to contribute your experience of the pandemic, or would like recordkeeping advice as a result of any changes caused by lockdown, please visit our new page on Recordkeeping Advice During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

If you are an individual who would like to contribute your personal experiences of the pandemic, please visit our new project website: Making History: documenting coronavirus in the East End


Online exhibition

We are pleased to report that a new online exhibition is now available. From Town Hall to Local History Library & Archives: a short history of our service and premises, 1861-2015 is based on research undertaken for last year's 50th anniversary celebrations of the borough.

If you've ever wondered about the history of our Grade 2 listed building here on Bancroft Road, these web pages will reveal all.

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