About Poetic East-End Oral History Project

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 largescale 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 Heritage Lottery Funded Project began in October 2015. We have collected 36 interviews and produced an anthology of poetry written by the contributors from 1939 to 2017. The anthology also contains poems published in various poetry magazines produced by the contributors such as Basement Writers and Renaissance Literary Society. 

A team of volunteers were recruited to conduct the oral history interviews. The volunteers received training from The Oral History Society and Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives. A steering committee was set up to oversee the project. The interviews will be archived at the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives.

Project Curator: Faridha Karim


Volunteer Oral History Team

Chris Searle and Nektaria McWilliams
Nektaria McWilliams
Michael Bowden
Aliya Mirza
Alide Naylor
Rosa Kurowsky
Maraz Ahmed
Sunbul Akhtar
Akvile Terminate
Runo Hye

Volunteer Steering Committee Members:
Chris Searle
Muhammad Ahmedullah
Tamsin Bookey
Dr Ashraf Haque
Dr Michelle Winslow
Runo Hye
Salam Jones
Abu Taher
Faruk Ahmed Roni
Sayada Tuhin Choudhury

Oral History Exhibition Design
: Akvile Terminate