Launch A Hackney Autobiography on 7 May

© Joanna Layla
© Joanna Layla

When: Sunday 7th May, 5 – 7 pm

Where: Sutton House, 2 and 4 Homerton High Street, London E9 6JQ. Map here.
Booking essential. Contact: info@on-the-record.org.uk to reserve your place.

What: hear a roundtable of speakers who are engaged in cultural and community activities in related fields, reflect on the history of Centerprise as re-presented by a hackney autobiography and join the discussion. Receive a free copy of The Lime Green Mystery, preview the app and get help downloading it.

Speakers include: Toyin Agbetu from Ligali, Vivian Archer from Newham Bookshop, Nana Fani Kayode, teacher and radio producer, Gary Molloy from Core Arts, Marie Murray from Dalston Eastern Curve Garden and representatives from the Young Historians’ Project.

Before the party, there’s a unique chance to preview Inside Out Homerton – one of the audiowalks featured on the app, as a group. Meet at 3:30 at Homerton station. To book a place on the Inside Out Homerton audiowalk, please contact us by 21 April. Later bookings will be accepted if places remain available.People who don’t like smart phones are welcome!

Event organised in collaboration with Pages bookshop.

Pre-order your free copy of The Lime Green Mystery: An oral history of the Centerprise co-operative now, by emailing us with your address.  Limited numbers available, pre-ordering is encouraged to avoid disappointment. Donations to cover the cost of postage appreciated but not essential.

The app and website is at https://www.ahackneyautobiography.org.uk/

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Invitation to Tender: Performance Poet to Lead Workshops with Children

Public speaking workshop in previous On the Record project
Public speaking workshop in previous On the Record project

On the Record Seeks Performance Poet / workshop facilitator to lead poetry workshops with children interpreting the history of the Traveller community in Hackney. This is part of the larger project ‘A Hackney Autobiography: Remembering Centerprise’

Venue: St Dominics Primary School, Homerton / Hackney Wick, Hackney, London.

Participants: Up to 15 Year 5 and 6 students. (10 – 11 years old)

Skills required:

  • To confidently lead engaging poetry workshops.
  • To support the students to write their own individual poems in response to their historical investigation into Hackney’s Traveller community.
  • To train the students in performance / slam poetry techniques.
  • To support the students to perform the poems to their peers and to be filmed or recorded.

Time commitment: 3 x 1 hour after school sessions (exact timing to be confirmed), held weekly in late June and early July. Exact dates to be confirmed. Some time will be required to coordinate with On the Record before the workshops begin. All sessions will be supported by both the school and On the Record.

Fee: Tenders in the region of £500 considered.

Contact: rosa@on-the-record.org.uk or 0785 322 8023 for more details.

To apply please send in a covering letter and CV by 9 am on 1st May 2015. The letter should explain:

-      How you possess the required skills.

-      Your previous experience working as poetry / performance poetry facilitator.

-      Why you would like to work on this project.

-      A description of how you would facilitate the three sessions you will hold with the students.

-      The cost of your time.

A Hackney Autobiography: Remembering Centerprise [http://on-the-record.org.uk/projects/hackney-autobiography-remembering-centerprise/] is an 18 month oral history and community archive project (2015 -2016) recording and exploring the history of community bookshop, centre and publisher Centerprise (1971 to 2012.) Centerprise published local writers, including many poets, along with memoirs and collectively produced histories of Hackney. It also hosted a crèche, youth activities, space for events, a café, bookshop, advice centre, office and meeting space for local groups to use and a Reading Centre for adult learners.

These workshops are being held in the spirit of Centerprise by enabling the participants to creatively record and respond to a currently underrepresented part of local history. The students will learn about the history of the Traveller community in Hackney, and will be trained in oral history interviewing techniques. They will then interview elders from the Traveller community. There are records of Gypsies and Travellers in London dating back to the 17th Century. A traditional stopping place was Hackney Marshes. According to the City and Hackney Wellbeing Profile there are 600 -800 Gypsies and Travellers currently living in Hackney. The first three workshops in the series will focus on the historical aspect and will be led by On the Record.

In the final three workshops you will work with the students to produce poems in response to what they’ve learnt about the history of the Traveller community. The poems will relate this learning to the students’ own lives and experiences in Hackney today. Once the poems are complete you will then support and train them to perform their poems, which will be recorded aurally / visually.

The recorded poems will later form part of a digital, online map that will be one of the final outputs of A Hackney Autobiography. This will be available to the public through guided tours, remotely on the internet and in situ on mobile devices.

About St Dominic’s:

St Dominic’s Catholic Primary School is an inclusive, ethnically diverse two-form primary school. They have around 50 students who belong to the Irish Traveller community (there is a total population of around 300 Gypsy, Roma or Traveller children living in Hackney.)

Read more here: http://www.stdominics.hackney.sch.uk/

 About On the Record:

On the Record is a small cooperative Community Interest Company (not for profit). We manage oral history and heritage projects, run participatory courses and produce historical interpretation in a wide range of media. Our previous projects include Sounds from the Park: an oral history of Speakers’ Corner and Arming All Sides: the arms trade and the First World War.

Read more here: http://on-the-record.org.uk

Read more about the Traveller community here:

http://www.hackney.gov.uk/eqal-traveller-communities.htm#.VQK75eE69Ts

http://hackneycitizen.co.uk/2009/11/29/hackney%E2%80%99s-place-in-the-romany-story/

http://www.hackney.gov.uk/Assets/Documents/Traveller-voices.pdf

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Starting A Hackney Autobiography

Leaflet showing different projects at Centerprise, by Doffy Weir, 1970s.
Leaflet showing different projects at Centerprise, by Doffy Weir, 1970s.

In the last three months, the new project, A Hackney Autobiography: Remembering Centerprise has held a launch event, trained over 25 volunteers in archiving, research and oral history interviewing and convened two steering group meetings. The real work of the project is now about to begin – the Centerprise archive at Bishopsgate Institute is being gathered and interviews with people about their memories of Centerprise are being arranged.

The project got off to a roaring start on the 24th of January with a gathering of over 50 people representing all the different eras of Centerprise. Some travelled from as far as Leeds to share their memories. The day was filled with animated discussions as the images below show.

Although we’ve made a good start we still need your help! If you remember Centerprise, have items to donate or know people who used to work at or visit Centerprise please get in touch and let us know.

© On the Record

© On the Record

© On the Record

© On the Record

© On the Record

 

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Children Make the Rules, Inspired by the Singing Strikers of Mare Street.

“I’m a stereotype and that’s not what I want to be!”
“Children should make the rules, When I get in trouble, Telling my mum is not so fun.”

cover 4

What happens when you mix a dozen nine-to-twelve year olds with an avant-garde sound artist, the composer of Bagpuss, and a few dashes of historical inspiration? After eight one-hour sessions the children of Hackney Quest, assisted by musicians Roshi Nasehi and Sandra Kerr, have produced a polyphonic protest album with minor chords reminiscent of Stevie Wonder’s Living for the City.

The project, organised by A Hackney Autobiography project, asked what would happen if children made the rules, and what would they protest about? The young people’s answers ranged from cyber-bullying, the closure of libraries, older children scaring younger ones, how stereotyping affects older people and young black people (who “both get stink eye” in Tesco’s), right across to ongoing concerns about police brutality in the States.

The seed for this mini-project was planted by Maggie Hewitt, a former worker at Centerprise (co-operative and publisher), who chanced upon protest songs written by rag trade workers from the East End in 1928-9. Her find contradicted the popular portrayal of women in the clothing trade as weak, badly organised, victimised “girls.” She discovered that 600 “singing strikers”, some as young as 14, had stopped work for 12 weeks after the old Rego and Poliakoff factories moved out to Edmonton in 1928. The bosses expected the workers to commute without complaint. Their bus fares increased and their work became harder as new conveyor belts forced a delirious machine-driven pace. Instead of more pay the youngest workers had to survive on around 4 shillings a week (certainly not enough to buy most of the clothes they were making). To raise awareness of their plight the women parodied popular songs of the day.

Folk musician Sandra Kerr, who researched the original melodies by getting her mother to sing inter-war hits, travelled almost 300 miles to teach them to the children. The lyrics were fitted around tunes such as Ramona and Tipperary, lampooning the bosses and exclaiming ‘we are no dirty shirkers!’ Songs written by male trade unionists were full of “solidarity” and dead acronyms, Sandra explained, while the women’s lyrics were witty and irreverent: “we’ll not be an old man’s toy.” The singing strikers marched to the West End, where richer people bought the fashionable clothes they were making, to collect donations, as the Union did not support their strike

Maggie Hewitt said: “For many of these young women, this was their political awakening. It reminds me of the second Iraq war when my daughter Sophie said, ‘if Britain joins the war, I’m going to walk out of school in protest. I’m not asking, mum, I’m just letting you know.’ I agreed with her but it was very much her own independent decision.”

The image of young women singing their hearts out and carrying banners emblazoned with lipstick slogans fired imaginations at Hackney Quest. Many of the young people live in the streets where rag trade workers toiled in factories (before the Second World War) and as home-workers (until much later). “Did men support them?” “Did they get hit round the face with sweet corn like Charlie Chaplin?” asked the young people, who had explored sources on factory life such as Chaplin’s Modern Times and poetry by Sally Flood.

The title song on their album is a Hip-hop R&B cross-over number called Stereotypes featuring lush strings, “a detention rap”, futuristic synths, subtle beat-boxing and a demented fairground organ. The album features a performance poem with a grasp of anaphora worthy of an epic poet and the young people’s renditions of the original strike songs.

All of the young people play an instrument or sing even though most had no musical training. Youth worker Jean Guy  Sylvestre said ‘the project was wildly ambitious in scope.’ Psychedelic cover art and the final mix down were completed over half a day in half term.

This project brought three eras into a constellation; the 1920s when the singing strikers declared “we’ll always stick together;” the 1980s when Centerprise, courtesy of Maggie’s and Sandra’s research, republished the strike songs; and 2015, when young people re-imagined them. This is the first of several creative mini-projects, conceived in the spirit of Centerprise, which A Hackney Autobiography will organise.

 

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Gathering to remember Centerprise

Exterior of  bookshop
Exterior of bookshop

Come to Bishopsgate Institute on Saturday 24 January to launch A Hackney Autobiography, a new project remembering Centerprise, a unique cultural institution that operated in Hackney from 1971 – 2012.. This event will bring people who remember Centerprise’s work together to share memories and writing from the time and discuss its work and impact.

When: 24 January 2014, 2 – 5 pm.

Where: Bishopsgate Institute, 230 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 4QH. Venue is wheelchair accessible.

What: Free public event for all those who remember Centerprise. Bring photographs, publications, documents from the time and your memories. Refreshments provided. All are welcome, please RSVP.

Leaflet showing different projects at Centerprise

Leaflet showing different projects at Centerprise in the 1970s by Doffy Weir

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