Invitation to Tender: Performance Poet to Lead Workshops with Children

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: 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 [] 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:

 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:

Read more about the Traveller community here:

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Invitation to Tender for A Hackney Autobiography app and website

We are accepting tenders for the app and website and just the app.

The Material:
A Hackney Autobiography project is gathering an archive of poetry, memoir, fiction, oral history, illustration and photographs associated with the groundbreaking community publisher and co-operative Centerprise. The project also reimagines Centerprise’s work for the 21st century with a series of creative mini projects, such as the singing strikers protest songs or poetry workshops inspired by Traveller history. On the Record, in collaboration with community groups and project participants, will curate this material into 30-40 digital stories linked to discrete GPS locations later this year. These stories will feature a combination of audio, still images and text. Nota Bene: some stories just feature audio and a picture, while others will feature text and a picture. The stories will be connected into a number of trails, giving suggested routes (some stories may feature in more than one trail).

Vivian Usherwood (aged 12) was supported to write a poetry book by Centerprise which sold in excess of 18,000 copies

The basic app concept: The stories will be embedded on a map of Hackney, with GPS functionality, so people can see where they are in relation to the stories.

 Essential Functions:

  • Device responsive: must work on a phone or computer. We want people to enjoy the app indoors, away from Hackney and in situ.
  • Find my location” option (to be switched on and off). People must be able to locate their GPS co-ordinates if they are within the map area.
  • Fine to use Googlemaps as a base, but the app must not look like the Googlemaps interface. The map should be tailored to the aesthetic of the app. If a large part of Hackney is covered, it could be simplified so that only the relevant streets show.
  • Ensure that the trails are visible and distinguishable, by using colour codes for the different trails and/or layers on the map and/or some other solution.


Desirable Functions: We would like to have notification features (which could be switched on or off). For instance:

  • Users are notified that they are near a story location
  • The app suggests other stories that are thematically and geographically linked to the one presently being viewed.

Possible Functions: A manual and an auto setting. The auto setting tracks users’ location and stories appear/play when they walk into a story location. This is a feature of Soho stories and Kings Cross Voices. When it is in manual, users select manually which story they want to hear/see. There are advantages and disadvantages to an auto setting.

 Platform:  At a minimum we need a web app that works brilliantly on any phone. In an ideal world we would have a web app plus Android and iPhone native apps.

 Similar apps:

1.Soho stories.
2. Street museum (Museum of London)
Why do we like them? Because it is easy to chose and navigate between the stories and the user interface is clean and simple. Street Museum is a bit scanty on content. We want audio with image or text with image, rather than just images.
3. In my footsteps by Manifesta
Why do we like it? Because it keeps a strong connection to the project participants and the user sees places through their eyes. You can scroll through related material after each story, which creates suggested trails.  For our app, we want to make sure that each story/place is clearly linked back to the map.

Timescale:  Digital stories will be ready to embed in winter 2015/spring 2016 (we are in the early phases of the project).
Trial period: May-June 2016
Absolute Deadline July 2016

Future proofing: We have no budget for engineers to update the app in the future. Please explain how you would future proof the app and how much (if any) aftercare you would be willing to provide.

Surrounding website: The web app must be capable of being integrated seamlessly into a larger website documenting the whole A Hackney Autobiography project. This site must be mobile responsive. It will have an about page, an oral history page with a subpage for everyone interviewed, and pages featuring Centerprise publications and other archive materials that have been digitised by our project.

Budget: tenders accepted in the region of £5000 and in the region of £7,000 if you are tendering on the surrounding website. Please also specify if your company has an account with iTunes already, which we could host the iPhone app through.

 What do we want from you?Tenders should contain a clear statement of the following on no more than 4 sides of A4:

  • A portfolio of comparable apps and Websites you have previously designed and developed
  • A detailed explanation of how you would meet the essential and (if applicable) desirable and possible features of this brief
  • Your ability to work collaboratively and creatively
  • Your ability to meet deadlines
  • Your ability to set out a clear plan of how the work will be undertaken within the above mentioned time frame and technical support post website launch (if applicable)
  • A clear total costing inclusive of all incidental expenses including VAT (if applicable)
  • References for previous work undertaken for similar projects.

We have included desirable and possible features but these are not prescriptive. We expect that the successful tenderer may offer creative solutions and will be able to steer on functionality.

Submit to Laura Mitchison by 6pm on 15th May 2015. I am very happy to have a telephone discussion:  07583656338/07787243656





Starting A Hackney Autobiography

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

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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Volunteers needed for Centerprise project

Courtesy of Maggie Hewitt

On the Record is looking for dedicated volunteers to record and research memories and publications associated with Centerprise, a unique cultural institution that operated in Hackney from 1971 – 2012. We want to recruit a diverse group of volunteers of different ages, backgrounds and levels of experience. Download a full role description and details of how to apply by the 7th of January at 5 pm here.


Centerprise was a groundbreaking community centre in Hackney (established in 1971.) It hosted a bookshop, publishing project, reading centre, café, youth club, crèche and more all under one roof in Dalston. It not only sold books, it made it possible for local people to write and publish their own works of poetry, autobiography and history.

A Hackney Autobiography will record and remember the history of Centerprise focusing on the period from its inception in 1971 to the early 1990s through oral history, gathering a permanent archive, conducting free workshops and events and producing a book, learning resources and digital experiences. The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and will run until July 2016.


Volunteers can get involved in any or all of the following areas: oral history, archiving and research.

–       Oral history volunteers should like meeting new people and be excellent listeners. They should be willing to travel to people’s homes and be fairly flexible about when they interview people.

–       Archive volunteers should be willing to do routine tasks like scanning publications, as well as more creative work. They will help decide which publications to preserve and share things that inspire them through writing and posting on social media.

–       Research volunteers should like reading, listening to archive recordings, be methodical about recording and sharing their research, be willing to work independently and act on their own initiative.

Download full role description and details of how to apply here.

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Youth music specialist required for a mini-project inspired by the Rego Singing Strikers of the 1920s


Musical skills required: Vocals and beats/drumming.

Role Description: We need someone with serious skills in contemporary/urban music genres to help a group of 9-12 year olds reimagine the singing strikers’ songs for the 21st century. The young people may want to adapt the original tunes, rewrite the lyrics or compose their own songs from scratch.  At least some of the children love singing, others are more interested in spoken word/rap so they can work on lyrics and beats.

Background: The singing strikers worked for Rego, one of East London’s biggest rag trade employers in the 1920s.  The trade union refused to recognize their action and they had no strike pay. So the women and girls – some as young as 14 – took to the streets, singing strike anthems they had written to popular tunes of the day.  They carried their banners written with lipstick through the streets of London. They won popular support including funds to keep them going and countered the sneering press.

Sandra Kerr, acclaimed folk musician, researched and recorded the strikers songs with historian Maggie Hewitt. On the Record will investigate the history and the original songs with the young people, many of whom live in the same streets as the singing strikers and help them find themes for their songs.

Whole Project Time: Wednesdays 6pm-7pm: 7th January until 11th February 2015. These short sessions will be followed by recording the songs over 1 day in half term (16th-20th February 2015).

Time Commitment: We expect the youth music practitioner to commit to 2 or 3 (60 minute) Wednesday evening sessions and 1 recording day in half term (16th-20th February 2015). Ideally the music practitioner will ‘tidy up’ and master the recordings, though this is not an essential requirement.

Fee: £500

Venue: Hackney, E9

Please send:

1. a CV

2. links to/files of 3 examples of songs you have worked with young people on

3. a brief covering letter of up to 600 words explaining how you worked with the young people to produce these three examples


Deadline: 19th December 2014, 5pm

a cartoon expressing the feelings of the Rego strikers

a cartoon expressing the feelings of the Rego strikers



On the Record featured on BBC

BBC Radio’s Robert Elms featured On the Record in his  21.10.14 program about Speakers’ Corner, along with people who took part in Sounds from the Park. (Bravo Tony Allen and Philip Wolmuth!)  Check it out: (On the Record features approximately 1 hour 33 minutes into the recording).

doris evening news


First Digital Storytelling workshop


Thanks to everyone who came to the first of a six part digital storytelling course at Redmond Community Centre. What a fun and fascinating group of people! We’re looking forward to supporting you in the development of your audio-visual projects over the coming weeks. Below is a map of Hackney from the workshop – each dot is connected to a story or inspirational person that will be developed into digital stories over the coming weeks.

Digital Storytelling workshop 1

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FREE Digital Storytelling Course


This course combines history and media production. On the Record will teach you how to research and produce exciting digital media pieces exploring oral, local and community history.

Any Hackney resident aged 20 and over can attend. It is ideal for people who lack confidence with computers and/or  want to learn a new way to present oral history, autobiography and local history.

Book your place now by emailing your name and contact details to or calling 07583 656 338

Dig where you stand leaflet