London's Working Class History Celebrated With 8 Exciting New Projects

London's Working Class History Celebrated With 8 Exciting New Projects

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People protesting with banners
The Islington Nursery Strike of 1984 will be remembered, thanks to new funding. Image: Julia Manning Morton

From Chinatown, to Waterloo's Cardboard City, to a pub in Canning Town — stories of London's working class heritage will be shared and celebrated thanks to £180,000 of Historic England funding.

Everyday Heritage Grants: Celebrating Working-Class Histories is funding 56 projects nationwide, with the eight in London as follows:

Untold Stories of St Agnes Place, 'House of Dread', Kennington: Not as ominous as it sounds, the 'dread' in this case refers to the Rastafarian hairstyle variety. St Agnes Place is thought to have been London’s longest running squat; from the mid 1970s to 2007, it hosted people who existed on the margins of society and continually managed to resist eviction. Now, public historian and curator Dr Aleema Gray and community producers will work with Rastafari Movement UK to compile a digital learning resource on this south London landmark, of which few written records exist.

A group of men sitting in a park chatting
The Lost City of Cardboard: A Homelessness Heritage Project will create a tangible record of this ephemeral encampment. Credit: Eleanor Bentall

The Lost City of Cardboard: A Homelessness Heritage Project, The Bridge At Waterloo: Thousands of rough sleepers made Waterloo's 'Cardboard City' their temporary home in the 1980s and 90s. With Historic England funding, St John's Waterloo/The Bridge At Waterloo will work with people who lived in Cardboard City, those who provided support to its inhabitants, and local residents, among others, to create a more tangible record of this ephemeral settlement.

Chinatown with lanterns up
London's Chinatown has had official designation for almost 40 years. © Historic England Archive

40 Years, 40 Stories: The Everyday Heritage of People Working in London’s Chinatown (1985-2025), China Exchange: Chinatown was officially designated in Soho in 1985, and a new project headed by China Exchange will seek out and interview those who've worked in the area over the past 40 years.

A very 80s looking male band in suits
Q-Tips were one of many bands who honed their craft at the Bridge House pub. Image: Eastside Community Heritage / Barry Watts

Echoes from the Bridge, Eastside Community Heritage, Canning Town: Iron Maiden, Dire Straits, Cockney Rejects, Chas & Dave, Depeche Mode and Q-Tips — just some of the artists who cut their teeth at Canning Town's Bridge House Pub between the mid 1970s and early 1980s. Oral history interviews and pop-up exhibitions are planned to bring those halcyon days back to thundering life.

Workers holding a banner demanding more nursery staff
Credit: Julia Manning Morton

When the nursery workers said no: The Islington Nursery Strike, On the Record: It's unlikely you've heard of the Islington Nursery Strike of 1984, but it was a landmark event of its time. Predominantly women — many from minority ethnic backgrounds — the workers' action led to improved standards of care given to the children they looked after. With Historic England funding, options include a podcast, a piece of theatre for radio, or an audio walk linking the nursery sites — created by On the Record.

A red door stating: the Old Fire Station
Stoke Newington's old fire station has been part of the community one way or other since the late 19th century. Image: PRS Architects

Looking Out: The Old Fire Station, Stoke Newington: Stoke Newington's former fire station opened in 1885, and operated for the best part of a century before being repurposed into a community centre and nursery. Still run by locals now, the Old Fire Station will use the funding for new archival research, as well as re-connecting with past workers (including retired firemen).

Old photo of soldiers waving crutches aloft
Seasons of Kingswood Life, Kingswood Arts, Dulwich, London. Kingswood House in use as the Massey-Harris Convalescent Home for Canadian Soldiers. Image: Canadiana

Seasons of Kingswood Life, Kingswood Arts, Dulwich: 'Bovril Castle' as it's affectionately (and semi-officially) known is a stately pile in Sydenham Hill with a fascinating past. Kingswood Arts, who are based here, will work with locals to create a permanent exhibition exploring the working-class history of the building, from 1811 to now.

Communities of Liberation, London Borough of Tower Hamlets: The stories of the everyday lives of Africans who lived in Tower Hamlets during the 17th and 18th and centuries — in particular, the homes, streets, taverns and places of worship — will be explored and commemorated by Communities of Liberation.

Last Updated 21 February 2024

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