At the intersection of a collapsing textile industry in the 60s, the rise of fascism and deplorable housing conditions in the 70s and 80s, there were individuals who contributed to the development of dynamic community spaces of shared consciousness, struggles and literary expression. These three decades also represent a unique story of the first generation Bangladeshis: It marks the decade that saw the beginning of a large scale migration of Bengalis to Britain, the freedom struggle of Bangladesh in 1971, and the emergence of a unique British Bengali cultural scene. Poetry has always played an inseparable part of Bengali life transcending across class, religion, age and gender. Through increasing accessibility of the poems and the life of poets, the project hopes to reveal the rich history of a community that is still underrepresented in the British Heritage spaces. The project has also documented the memories of the original members of Basement Writers and its creator, the radical teacher, Chris Searle, who was at the forefront of building cohesion and empathy between the diverse youths of East London. The full oral history memory collection will be available in Tower Hamlets Local History Archives.
The Free Exhibition explores the role poetry has played in the lives of an emergent east end community in the mid to late twentieth century and those growing up in post-war East London. It investigates poetry as a vehicle in engaging with memory, past and present, of an individual and of a collective; as a driving force for social change; and as a platform for the affirmation of identity and self-hood.
The Free Poetry Anthology includes a selection of Bengali and English poems with translations from 1957 - 2017.
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