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Unite and Resist

Exhibition and Events

Unite and Resist! Protests in the East End 1970-200
3 August 2019 - 21 March 2020

Our new exhibition showcases original archives from our collections which illustrate the prolific activism of the people of Tower Hamlets in the latter decades of the twentieth century. From the Stepney School Strike to the Battle of Brick Lane, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Stop Clause 28, the exhibition shines a light on these and other important moments in the borough’s recent history including several lesser known struggles.

This period of rapid change saw Tower Hamlets residents forming independent collectives and rising up in protest in response to a variety of emerging threats. Despite the constant flux in the local area during these three decades, East Enders' persistent resistance to racism and fascism recurs throughout the exhibition.

The display features banners, badges, garments, posters, photographs, pamphlets and other archives which provide important evidence of these sometimes short-lived campaigns. Most of the items on display have been newly acquired or newly catalogued and have never before been on public display.

As usual we have programmed an extensive range of free talks and events which is still being added to - see below for the first few dates for your diary.

Events Programme

Unite and Resist! Private View
Thursday 5 September, 6.00-7.45pm
Join us for a free drinks reception to formally launch this new exhibition and hear from the staff involved in its curation.
Booking required: please email 
Walking Tour: History of Bengali Protest
Sunday 15 September, 11.00am-1.00pm
Join activist Ansar Ahmed Ullah of the Swadhinata Trust on this free walking tour exploring the history of Bengali protest in and around the East End. The walk will last for two hours and is suitable for all abilities but please note, it will go through busy streets. Details of where to meet will be sent to those who have signed up.
Booking required: please email 
Women East present 'The Next 100'
Thursday 19 September, 6.00-9.00pm
In 2018, the UK celebrated 100 years of female suffrage. 'The Next 100', a new project by Women East, looks forward to the next century of female change-makers in East London in an evening of discussion and reflection. Panellists include economist and activist Faiza Shaheen and Tower Hamlets councillor Rachel Blake.
The evening will include an opportunity to see historical material reflecting the work of the East London Federation of Suffragettes, including the photography of Norah Smyth recently exhibited at the Four Corners gallery.
Booking required: please book your tickets on Eventbrite:  

Celebrating Claude McKay: Poet and Activist
Thursday 3 October, 6.00-8.30pm
Join us to celebrate the life and activism of Jamaican-American poet Claude McKay. McKay became the UK’s first black newspaper editor when he was hired to write for Sylvia Pankhurst’s Workers Dreadnought.

Historian Steve Martin will talk about his political activism and its legacy today. The evening will also include a panel discussion, Q&A and readings of McKay's poems. Doors open at 6.00pm, talks begin from 6.30pm.
Booking required: please email: 

This event is hosted by the Philip Morgan Legacy Group.

Women Unite Against Racism: 25 Years On
Saturday 5 October, 2.00-4.00pm
In 1993 the British National Party won its first council seat in a by-election in Tower Hamlets, with their candidate Derek Beackon beating the standing Labour Party candidate by seven votes.
The election triggered fear in the Asian community in Tower Hamlets and, as a response, Julie Begum, Georgie Wemyss and others set up Women Unite Against Racism (WUAR). The group worked to ensure women's voices were heard in the otherwise male dominated anti-racist struggle in Tower Hamlets, providing childcare services to enable women to attend meetings and demonstrations and setting up stalls to register women to vote. Join us to explore their activism and legacy 25 years on.
Booking required: please email  
Somali History Lab: Somali Protest in the East End
Thursday 10 October, 6.00-7.45pm
Join Salma Bihi of NUMBI Arts to explore the unique library and archive materials chronicling the history of Somali protest in the East End. 
FREE, no booking required.  
Unite and Resist!  Exhibition Tour
Saturday 19 October, 12.30-1.30pm
Join Local History library staff for a tour of the Unite and Resist! Protest in the East End Exhibition. The exhibition explores protest in Tower Hamlets 1970-2000. Protest movements include Tower Hamlets Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, campaigns against Section 28, and the Anti Racism campaigns following the death of Altab Ali.
Booking required: please email  
East End History Club: Protest and Activism Special 
Saturday 19 October, 2.00-4.00pm
Collections-based drop in session looking at material relating to ‘troublemakers’, activists and instances of protest in the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archive collections.  
FREE, no booking required.                      
Remembering the Stepney School Strike 
Thursday 14 November 6.00-7.45pm
Join us for an evening of remembrance including poet and activist Chris Searle and his former students Ramona Harris and Tony Harcup, exploring the inspiration, purpose and legacy of the Stepney School Strike in 1971, when 800 pupils went on strike in Stepney, demanding that their teacher, Chris Searle, be reinstated after the school fired him for publishing a book of their poetry. The event will be chaired by BBC Radio 4 broadcaster Alan Dein. There will be an opportunity to look at collections materials relating to the strike.
Booking required: please email 
Remembering Blair Peach
Thursday 21 November 6.00-7.45pm
An evening commemorating the life and activism of Blair Peach who was a teacher in Phoenix School in Bow, who died after an anti-racism demonstration in Southall hit on the head, probably by a member a member of a special unit within the Metropolitan Police Service. Although his life was cut short, Blair’s anti-racism activism in Tower Hamlets is remembered and celebrated. This year marks 40 years since his death. This evening is organised by Chris Searle and will bring together Blair’s friends and colleagues from the National Education Union to remember his work and explore his legacy.
Booking required: please email
Island Race film screening plus Q&A
Thursday 28 November 6.00-7.45pm
Island Race (1995), was partly made on the Isle of Dogs during an election campaign featuring BNP candidate Derek Beackon. Filmmaker William Raban explores in this art film the traces of class and racial conflict on the Island. Using just picture and sound, with no added commentary, the audience is given the space to draw their own conclusions about the film's portrayal of English national identity in the late 1990s.
Join us for a special screening of Island Race as part of our Explore your Archives campaign. This will also be an opportunity to look at Tower Hamlets Local History Library collections relating to anti-racism campaigns in the borough.
Booking required: please email 
Unite and Resist! Exhibition Curator’s Tour
Thursday 16 January 6.00-7.30pm
Join exhibition Curator and Archives Manager Emma Harold for a special tour of the Unite and Resist! Protest in the East End Exhibition, accompanied by expert and behind the scenes commentary on exhibition collections. The exhibition explores protest in Tower Hamlets 1970-2000. Campaigns include Tower Hamlets Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Spitalfields Market Under Threat (SMUT) and the Anti-Racism campaigns.
Booking required: please email  
Radical Roots: Researching Rebels in your Family History 
Saturday 18 January 11.00am-4.00pm
A day of talks and workshops introducing how you can research the troublemakers in your family. Sessions will be led by experts from the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives. Their sessions will range from introducing you to researching your family history, preserving your family photos and documents to writing it all up!  Full programme of talks will be advertised closer to the time.
Free, no booking required, though you will need to sign up to sessions upon arrival.
Dan Glass Workshop
Thursday 6 February or 15 February (PM)
LGBT Resistance in Tower Hamlets
Thursday 13 February, 6.00-8.00pm
In 1988, Section 28 of the Local Government Act banned local authorities from ‘promoting homosexuality.’ Activist Paul Barlow, as part of the Tower Hamlets Lesbian and Gay Campaign Group campaigned against its introduction and lobbied the local council to not enforce it. The introduction of Section 28 galvanised the British gay rights movement resulting in a rise of now famous groups like Stonewall which started in Tower Hamlets. Join Paul as he discusses the legacy of these campaigns and the necessity for these campaigns to continue today.
Doors open 6.00pm, talk begins at 6.30pm. Drop in, no booking required.
Protest! Family Placard Making Workshop with Activist Julie Begum
Saturday 15 February, 11.00am-1.00pm
Join Activist Julie Begum in this family friendly workshop creating protest placards exploring activism in Tower Hamlets. This workshop is FREE and suitable for 8+ All children must be accompanied by an adult. All materials are provided.
Booking required: please email