Interact magazine in Bethnal Green

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Interact Magazine in Bethnal Green

Editor’s Letter Thanks to the Youth Interfaith forum, we have been given the opportunity to produce a magazine that combines people from all different cultures, faiths and backgrounds to research and create articles all in relation to Bethnal Green. After delving deep into the history and current culture of the area we have produced an issue that is packed with topics relevant and extremely important within Bethnal Green, looking at its past, present and future of the area, the impact, influence and the areas’ historical relevance. It has been inspiring to work with such a diverse and creative team and this opportunity has enabled a group of 20 strangers to gather and become colleagues to share ideas, to create and to showcase their talents resulting in an extremely engaging issue that I’m very proud to be a part of. I would like to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to the team and to enable this to even happen and I hope every one that picks up this magazine enjoys the articles as much as I do.

Clare Timmington Interact Magazine Coordinator


Winter Edition 2013


Bethnal Green

05 09 11 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 44

Left Jab... Right Hook... Left Jab...BOOM

Written by Misa Mesarovic

Bright Futures and Boarded up Histories Written by Jessamyn Witthaus

Left Jab... Right Hook... Left Jab...BOOM (continued)

Written by Misa Mesarovic

Street Fashion

Written by Zoe Michelle

Spotlight on: Mental Health Written by Amina Ali

London’s Best Known Secret Written by Miriam Ostermann

The Bethnal Green Tube Disaster

Written by Nick Krause

Bethnal Green: The Tragedy Written by David Ruddock

“Stairway to Heaven”: Bethnal Green Memorial

Written by Yu Shijia

Victims of the Underground Written by Franco Grech

Young, Angry and Muslim in Bethnal Green Written by Rahul Rose

Bethnal Green Ventures

Written by Daniel O’Mahony

Self Publishing

Written by Kingsley Reuben

The Creator of The Woodland

Written by Amrit Matharu

G. Kelly Pie Shop

Written by Tiziana Oliano

Oh! Oxford House

Written by Zoe Michelle

The (forgotten) Hours of an Other London

Written by Nikolay Nikolov

Singh Street Style

Written by Amrit Matharu

The Iron Lady Rests Her Fist…

Written by Lea Fessahaye

Cover: photo by Bo Li Left: photo by Reading Tom


Boxing is like jazz: The better it is, the less people appreciate it.

Part one: For a time I was stumped. A magazine about Bethnal Green didn’t seem to scream the diversity a magazine might require. The trouble was, a deadline was approaching for some kind of idea to be presented to a group of near thirty people and the embarrassment of not having anything to show would’ve been nothing short of a pure journalistic failure. With time becoming more and more breathless by the second I hopped on the ‘D7’ bus to Roman Road.

The air felt a little thicker than before and a wind had picked up urging me up the street and toward Bethnal Green tube station. “Am I in Bethnal Green yet?” I asked, as an elderly looking guy walked parallel to me. “What are you after?” he answered with a kind of ferociousness marking the standard friendliness of your average initial encounter with an Eastender. “Just Bethnal Green man, nothing more. It’s an assignment you see.” He stopped dead as I continued another couple of paces unaware of his actions. His demeanour changed rapidly, from wary local to helpful guide and it was as though he’d sussed me out, knowing I was no threat -- just another lost tourist wandering the streets of London he must’ve thought. “Well look around you boy,” he spoke, now full of enthusiasm and good intentions, “where the piss did you think you were?” I didn’t answer -- best not to encourage the old fool. “Well maybe you can help me. This assignment, you see, I need



George Foreman: Two-time Heavyweight Champion Written by Misa Mesarovic. Photography by Gwen Tugushi.


Winter Edition 2013

a story. Any ideas or starting points?” I asked. The old man started to answer, listing things like the Tube Monument and the Museum of Childhood and even the high street on Bethnal Green Road. Sure, I thought sarcastically, an article about a row of damned shops, that’d get them moving at the magazine’s meeting. I thanked him courteously, understanding that his intentions were pure despite being poor and moved on quickly up the road toward a fire station hoping he wouldn’t scream out any more suggestions in vain. I spent the next three hours or so wandering and talking and wandering some more like some hapless cretin, still with no idea to present. By this point, I was a little sick and tired, yearning for some relief away from this god-forsaken area before no doubt breaking down into cold sweats and yelling cold-hearted vulgar words from the bottom of my lungs from sheer depravity and the lack of a sane notion to go by. How much further could I go before some Cockney decided I were a pest and boxed the hell out of me? I stopped to think -- boxed, rather boxing, it’d been mentioned to me before; a friend of mine had told me the area was a hotspot for the boxing community. Could this be it? The theme, I thought, Boxing. It sure beat writing about prissy little toy cars behind glass in a museum or the amount of supermarkets on a five hundred yard stretch of road. Besides, the subject of boxing wasn’t all that alien to me either. Truth be told, when I was around fifteen I used to box, even though I’d leave the ring every time with blood pissing out of my nose, which only seemed to stop with copious amounts of bog roll stuffed up each nostril. But I remember being there in that ring, and it taught me something -- if not that the sport could and had changed each and every little feral beast that walked through the gym doors into something not far gone from a model human being, then that it really wasn’t that bad getting the crap beat out of you week in week out by someone ten times your size and double your age and a whole hell of a lot meaner than you. It was a cruel sport - but a good and honest one and it was time to get into the heart of the Bethnal Green boxing scene itself.

I got talking to a local promoter by the name of Chrissy Morton and she’d told me of an event in the coming days. I had never been to a live tournament though, nor a big match up between two titans wanting to beat the living hell out of each other for that matter and I only had the typical aristocratic filled images shown on Sky Sports to go by, so I didn’t know what to

expect when I was invited with my photographer to go down to the York Hall, by Chrissy, as esteemed guests to cover BADBOY Promotions event, ‘Last Man Standing’: A gruelling four hours of back to back three two-minute round matches between twenty or so fighters to determine three overall victors in three different weight classes, with a thousand pounds per classification up for grabs. All in all, it was spectacle I was finally ready to lay down as worthy for a piece of journalism. On the day of the tournament I spent my time loading up on beer and cider in the Westferry Arms, Poplar, beforehand to loosen up a bit - as any true blooded reporter would do before such a task - and to ask folks questions about the York Hall and the boxing scene in general. A guy named Lee turned to me, “They’ll no doubt be a fight there.” “Well Christ, of course, it’s boxing.” I said. “Not in the ring you mug,” he yelled back, “the bloody fans, they’re always at it – bottles flying, chairs breaking, y’know, that kind of stuff.” “You sound like you’ve been before?” I asked. “Of course I have; roughed up a handful of folk while I was at it -- the f*****g mugs.” He answered almost still het up and indignant by his experience. I didn’t pay too much attention though, and hell, were it to get to that, I figured I’d have some good material to write about. Supping up the last of a pint, I made a dash for the exit ready to get on with the evenings endeavours.

It was around 6pm when my photographer, Gwen, and I arrived on scene and we were greeted warmly and shown seats at ringside, of which the price went for normally £40 each. The hall itself was huge, and looked like an oversized school sports hall, fashioned in a Victorian era theme with a curved ceiling and an upper tier with magnificent wooden foldout chairs. I found it hard to believe that this relic of a building near went bust, to become an empty shell with no life within it. After all, the place looked stunning but the centrepiece, a huge twenty square foot boxing ring, reminded us why we were here. Pretty soon the hall filled and the lights dimmed and a sharp bleating voice could be heard from the stage explaining the night’s entertainment in pure cockney fashion: “Right, about ten fights for ya’, three rounds of two minutes for ya’ and a bloody good evening for ya’.” I couldn’t help but think that the passion of this announcer was second to none and he cared about what he was doing to

the extent that he may have wrapped microphone cord round the necks of those who dared start any trouble in the crowd whilst simultaneously introducing the next bunch of fighters. The whole thing seemed more professional than I could comprehend. That all said, the crowd – bar a few diehards – seemed fairly restless and not yet in the mood for anything and this didn’t seem to change much as the announcer yelled out the names of the first two boxers to go toe to toe in the ring. They started at the sound of the bell, at first sizing each other up and then moving a little faster, matched by the speed of Gwen who raced round the ring from below snapping away. A lunge here and a gloved fist there made up for the first match, but it went to three rounds and I forget who actually won as I couldn’t help but see the signs of early jitters between them and nothing more. I started to wonder whether this was the boxing I had envisaged and whether the mixed crowd of genders and colours really cared about having forked out thirty to forty pound per seat, or whether they thought that it was the bar that really beckoned them, when I was interrupted by what I thought I heard the announcer yell: “The bitches are here!” as he pointed towards three young ring girls making their way down the ramp and onto the main stage. The crowd finally went wild and I was surprised that it wasn’t the boxing that got them, instead it was these three ring girls wearing next to nothing sporting heels the size of their shins. I’d be a pretty crappy journalist not to comment on their looks either, but while this troupe of sexualised youngsters did nothing for me, they served a great purpose fuelling the testosterone driven machos of the crowd into a flurry of self absorbed hooting and ranting to the point at which I thought we’d see one of the sorry bastards clamber up – pissed as a fart – onto the stage trying to molest one. The female crowd kept them at bay though and I saw at least one or two women beat their male counterparts repeatedly in the head with the bluntest objects they had nearby… their handbags. It all kind of settled down for a moment, but you could see the spectators had gone from lonely sheep to dominant hell raiser’s now all whipped up into a frenzy for the next match. The announcer did his part calling forward yet another two young lads ready for a fight. They came out quite content, but to me this one didn’t seem fair. About the same time a group, no more than five, sat around us and one of them next to me, “Christ,” I said to him, “The little one looks like he’ll keel over just by the glare of the other.” “You think so?” asked my neighbour; his speech slurred and


his eyes red. Bloodthirsty or high, I thought, but he was much too quiet to be one of the bloodthirsty types. “I got a fiver on him to go down the first round man.” The other guy smiled. “No money,” he said, “but I think you’re wrong.” “How can I be wrong, look at the f*****g size of his opponent? Shit, I don’t care whether your man has ‘The Hackney Hitman’ stitched into his shorts, he’s no chance.” The bell dinged and they were off. Little to my amazement ‘The Hackney Hitman’ seemingly bowed out to every blow as the crowd all around us cheered and jeered some senseless drunken vibe. They were on it now, and in the closing few seconds of the first round so was ‘The Hitman.’ The bell rang again, and it wasn’t long before they got back up for The Hitman to chase down his towering opponent battering him insanely. There was a pause in the crowd, and then a sharp ‘Oooooo,’ but I’d missed it. Apparently you could hear the crack from the back of the hall but my deaf ears weren’t enough to pick it up. ‘The Hitman’ had knocked clean the other guys arm out of his socket and it dangled there lifelessly like his hopes of a thousand pounds. “First time lucky newbie,” I said to my neighbour. “I’d owe you a fiver if you weren’t so skint.” He looked up and smiled as I got to my feet. “Sure know your boxing don’t you?” he cheekily asked. I felt a little anger fall over me, though I’d lost that five pounds. But we were interrupted before I could answer. “We want to see two boys going at it ya’, none of this hurting and stuff ya’.” The announcer spoke, yelling through the speaker system again. It wasn’t long before they’d carted them both off, getting the next two up. It all seemed fast paced and full of angst and by now I wasn’t keeping track of who came up to the ring or anything. Once more the bell sounded and the crowd erupted as a couple of fighters started up their turn on one another. “This time I’ve got Mr Smiles.” I said. “Which one?” my new adversary asked. “The blue corner, the blue one damnit’.” This one barely lasted a round, and the crowd was evermore insane than before, now yelling names I couldn’t catch with cheesy slogans attached to them. Sadly, we were only in a minute when my guy managed a left jab, then a right hook, and another left jab again and BOOM! Out for the count. Mr Smile’s opponent lay there as silent as the crowd. Toiled by his strength and that of his adversary, which looked nothing short of a killing move. Paramedics, who up until now had sat whispering at the back,


Winter Edition 2013

moved in quickly; dousing him with liquid and trying to get him to wake up, a fair few members of the crowd standing in shock though he’d hit the fan prematurely. All of a sudden, like part of some evangelical church he rose, born again… missing a few brain cells but born again nonetheless. The announcer spoke once again, “Round of applause for the paramedics,” as the crowd got up, giving a standing ovation. The unison was beyond any kind parallel; for a moment in time everyone cared about the blue corner geezer who’d been shafted out cold and though it was man to man warfare, of a kind, there was incredible camaraderie -- not to be mistaken by a slight simmer, still present, of fanaticism. Enough was enough for me. I needed a break. For cigs and booze, and shit, a rest away from the coupled men pummelling the crap out of each other until, “You got that one right,” my neighbour said, “I didn’t expect him to

go down like a fairy.” “God damn you foul bugger, watch your tongue, he’s still a fighter,” I said, realising I needed to get out of their quick, “Now I need you to do me a favour. Watch my stuff man, I need a drink.” I left as hastily as I spoke. I needed to find what else was going on around this place.

I headed straight for a cig and then to the bar. Sometime had passed now too, and it sounded like the hall had gone utterly berserk and I couldn’t help but feel a little for Gwen, the photographer, who was still stuck there leaning against the ring and snapping photos. Here though, it was a different story. A rejects kind of colony that stank of beer and spirits and oozed some kind of selfsatisfaction. It was kind of like a lobby hall at the horse races or something, void of screens but full of emotion and

skanked attitudes. There was no need talking to any of them, I was on break, and it sure seemed they didn’t have anything worthwhile to contribute to the article. I boozed up and listened a little to those around but still I was waiting to finish a couple more beers before getting back into the hall. Time had passed, and by now the entire hall was on its feet. I’d returned to see the yelling and screaming and the throwing of arms about the place and realised, Christ, these were the finals. I walked back in to see two juggernauts confined to the square as I quickly made my way to sit back down. The non-betting guy was still there. “Before you ask,” I said, “I don’t know and I don’t care anymore, I’m not backing anybody.” He replied, something, but I didn’t hear. I was too incensed by the crowd and vibes around us to care. In fact, it stemmed closer to the boxing I thought I knew -- utter machines hauling one another about a tiny enclosure and now with the taste of a grand prize on offer. It got all the way to the third round. There was no decisive winner, and the crowd was screeching: ‘ONE MORE ROUND… ONE MORE ROUND,’ over and over again. They continued, for another, still neck and neck and the booze had taken a hold and stopped me from working out which sorry sod had lost. I fumbled around asking, ‘who won?’ but no one came to my aid. And now, there was just one more fight. This time, I was here for the thick of it. Ready to get a decent dialogue out of one of them. But I could barely focus,

was I dreaming? ‘No, it must be the drink,’ I said to myself out loud, while a group around me shuffled their chairs a further few inches away from me. I was trying to sober up as yet another pair for fighters made their ways forth to the ring. Something took a hold and I got up and yelled something like, “I’ll talk to the winner. I don’t want no damned story from a jack in the box fighter.” I felt stupid, but the crowd around me heaved with laughter. I sat back down to watch. It seemed quick and so did each punch and jab and the crowd knowing this was the final fight were leaping about the place screaming things like: ‘JAB THE F****R’ and ‘F**K HIM UP YOU MUG.’ I took no part in this though as I sat pleasantly staring at them squaring up and punching the life out of one another. It was another close call, but nothing reminiscent of the last. A full three rounds went by quickly and truthfully only a half of the crowd could’ve worked out a decisive winner, but the jabs and the hooks were all placed perfectly and timed to hurt the other with perfection, something only really seen now -- at the end. When it came to it, only one could win and rightly so, but you could see the respect this boxer had for his opponent as he hugged him tightly and whispered something gently into his ear before his ceremony began and a loud cheer took on the entire hall. The boxer caught my eye, now leaving the ring with his trophy in hand. He seemed reluctant but turned to ask,

“What is it you guys are up to here then?” with a level of intrigue that zapped away the last of his energy. “Reporting,” I answered, “some magazine set up by the British council,” I continued, assuming he wouldn’t know what I was on about. “But you’re here now, you may as well tell me something like what you’d be up to were it not for boxing.” He paused a second. “Hmmm… probably dossing around, up to no good again.” I nodded as if to say ‘I thought so’. But that was the truth, at least for a good handful of these monstrous fighting figures: Were it not for the sport and the good things it was doing in the area, then they’d be the no good savages they were before. That’s not to say that anyone of them was a bad person, quite the contrary – and I don’t say that out of some fear of reprisal by anyone of them who might read this – but because of the deeply deprived circumstances they’d been born into; I mean, lest ye forget this is Bethnal Green in Tower Hamlets and not some old Etonian style bourgeoisie cesspit of wealth -- where I’m pretty sure the idea of boxing would fall nothing short of a day out in immaculate dress yelling their own kinds of obscenities like, ‘these bloody savages may as jolly well fight to their bloody deaths,’ whilst claiming the earth would be somewhat lighter without them. Thankfully there was none of that. Continued on page 11.


The East End of London is changing at a rapid rate, and leaving behind a curious boarded up history. Bethnal Green is no exception to this pattern. Frequenting a pub, or a local, is a British institution. For every pint poured and every regular who propped up a bar, there was a pub with a history as colourful as its patrons. Small pubs, large pubs, down at heel and downright questionable pubs, you name it and somewhere you could find it. Today, a vast number of these second living rooms and local landmarks are nowhere to be seen. There is a whole lost legacy that is now either demolished or re purposed for newer, more lucrative ends. There are exceptions to this trend, a select few that managed to weather the times and thrive. So what did it take, and how did they achieve the seemingly elusive task of longevity as an East End venue? The Sebright Arms in Bethnal Green is an example of one such venue that has managed to stand the test of time. Located off the beaten track of the high street, you could easily miss it, and it’s clear that it has had to cling on for dear life to maintain its presence. Named after the Sebright Arms Music Hall that once stood on Coate Street, which opened in 1865 as a music room annexed to the Sebright Public House it was a heavy metal venue in the 1970’, Disco pub in the 1980’s before being reopened in 1989 with a tagline of “traditional music hall returns to the East End”. Regular band

nights and jazz on Sundays were the order of the day. In the 1990’s it became a successful cabaret venue, with drag acts and East End sing-alongs. I’ve even heard rumours of strippers, too.

a distinctly quirky tinge to it. The past is acknowledged, but in a very tongue in cheek way that’s decidedly trendy now.

Venues like the Sebright are being revived and rebranded, and more new offerings from food and alcohol to vintage clothing are appearing in Bethnal Green.

The Sebright now boasts an array of the best of London’s microbrews, including their own Sebright Home Brew which involved collaboration with local tattoo shop Vagabond Custom Tattoo on the design of the label. They’ve also jumped on the ubiquitous pop–up restaurant trend, with a recent residency of two London chefs called Lucky Chip. Specialising in handmade burgers with whimsical celebrity names these guys delved so far in pop culture that recently their menu was Breaking Bad themed. As for the music now on offer at the Sebright, both The Vaccines and The Lumineers have performed secret gigs, and the small but mighty venue has been graced by Laura Marling and The XX before they well and truly hit the big time.

The colourful history of the Sebright came under threat from property developers in 2008, but an outcry and subsequent petition from locals and regulars saved it from demolition. Despite being featured on websites listing lost pubs in the East end, on all hallows eve 2013, spooktacular celebrations were had for its 2nd birthday under ownership. Successfully resurrected, the interior of the venue has still remained true to its roots, with wood panelling and velvet booths. However, the décor has

The boarded up pubs are simply the foundation in a bigger picture. Venues like the Sebright are being revived and rebranded, and more new offerings from food and alcohol to vintage clothing are appearing in Bethnal Green. I valiantly tried to speak to older members of the community as they nursed their lunchtime pints in the surviving pubs that seemingly haven’t changed in decades, but found total reticence in response to any questioning. I got a feeling that the past, and the

Bright Futures and Boarded up Histories Do lost pubs dream of unfinished pints? Written by Jessamyn Witthaus

Small pubs, large pubs, down and heel and downright questionable pubs, you name it and somewhere you could find it. Today, a vast number of these second living rooms and local landmarks are nowhere to be seen.


Winter Edition 2013

human relics that are the voice of previous generations are being left behind. The new influx is much more willing to tell the world about their clever ideas and their place in Bethnal Green. The Arch on Cambridge Heath Road, a pop-up bar and gallery nested amongst metal workshops and industrious activity, is a prime example. Under the railway, it’s a seemingly stark and empty warehouse like space. I walked in to find them supervising a delivery of half a tree to be used for the new bar and dismantling outlandish Halloween decorations. I was lucky to catch Anthony, who took ownership three years ago, painstakingly cleaning the rubble and neglect away to turn it first into an art gallery, and then a pop-up venue with collaboration from the Dead Dolls Club. When asked how the area had changed recently he said that even three years ago his mother had urged him to hand the place back, that the area was too dangerous, mentioning the mythical and murderous Cray twins. He swiftly added with a smile “I actually think that’s what is so charming about Bethnal Green”. When I questioned the need for places like The Arch in such an area the answer was a definite yes. He said “people want to go and do something that’s not usual. There are only so many times you can just sit at a table and be served by a waiter. People want excitement; how long it will last I don’t know.” Taking a wander around Bethnal Green, I stopped off at Frockney Rebel, a vintage clothing shop also on Cambridge Heath

Road. Talking to Laura, the very young but self-assured owner of this tiny gold mine and another local to the area, she assured me that despite the new and shiny additions that “there’s a real sense of community here, massively so. Everybody knows each other. We even know the homeless people. One of the famous guys around here is called Columbo – he’s a really interesting character. He wears a high visibility jacket and 3D glasses; he’s been around ever since I can remember.” There’s certainly an overwhelming fondness for this area and its quirky and even eyebrow raising history, and perhaps it’s this attitude from local people that is helping the old blend with the new and letting places like the Sebright survive and thrive. I asked Laura what she thought about people’s obsession with back to basics food and clothing, and “vintage”. In response she said “I think it’s got a lot to do with the recession and things changing really quickly. When things change really quickly you never feel quite secure and you never feel safe, so that’s why people are reverting back to vintage. Vintage things that are older tend to be made in England and better quality, at a time when it wasn’t all about profit profit profit.” A valid and interesting point, but it raised a question for me. People’s reversion back to vintage, and the desire to find back to basics experience coupled with the added bells and whistles of haute cuisine and pop culture sparkle, is most certainly making a profit. The revived pubs, organic coffee

When things change really quickly you never feel quite secure and you never feel safe. shops, pop up bars and vintage clothing of Bethnal Green are perhaps at odds with its history, and may seem out of place, but they’re certainly bringing in the custom and getting people talking. Whether this is flying in the face of authenticity and Bethnal Greens more down to earth history, or a necessary and inevitable step forward, well I think that depends on which side of history you’re sitting on. l


I hold a beast, an angel, and a madman in me, and my enquiry is as to their working, and my problem is their subjugation and victory, down throw and upheaval, and my effort is their selfexpression. Dylan Thomas: Welsh Poet and Acclaimed Writer Written by Misa Mesarovic. Photography by Gwen Tugushi. Part two (continued from page 8): It was time for a new direction, I thought. Truly by just reporting the York Hall and its spirit of lunatic fighters and raving fans the story might’ve fallen short somehow. I went back to the folk at the magazine with the idea of going to a training session and challenging one of the champs from the York Hall -- at first I figured they’d see it as another desperate attempt for cheap laughs deeming the idea an insane one that no self-respecting pseudo writer would ever go through, but this backfired as immediately the projects head honcho, Clare Timmington, yelled out, ‘DO IT!’ with a determined and frightening look. I sighed knowing my fate; it was time I put myself in that ring, quite literally.

I spent the next few days pondering, trying to come up with some kind of excuse to get out of it like; banging my head against a wall to concussion or something like that, but if were happy with a concussion, then just what the hell was my issue with going and getting the crap beat out of me. After all, I knew from experience that it wasn’t so bad and that, Christ, maybe

it’d be a lot of fun in some bizarre and tormenting way. Chrissy, I thought to myself, I hadn’t heard from her since York Hall, maybe she’d help me get the chuckles plucked out of me that the magazine thought I deserved. I figured at first, despite an obvious limitation with time, that I’d play it cool -- contact her through that bloody Facebook and wait… “… I’ve been instructed - rather coerced - by the magazine into going down one of the gyms myself and train for a day. I guess they want to see me get my head caved in during a sparring match in the true spirit of journalism. Do you think this is possible?” I asked, but to no avail. Despite the promise of top notch array of photos heading her way there was no answer; for a day, then two, then nearly a week. I’d started to pull out a few strands of hair wondering if I were on the verge of journalistic failure




Winter Edition 2013

yet again. I’d waited and waited and waited to no reply, and it was near on a few days before I had to come up with something again for the magazine. I’d thought about making it up or even relying on someone else’s experiences, but then again, what a senile idea. Who’d buy that crap; I know I wouldn’t for Christ sake. I mean to be cheated after being so drawn in to such a damn fine portrayal of the York Hall and a world that not enough seem to know about. There was nothing more to it; I’d have to give her a call. “You’re through to the answering machine of…” blah blah blah… damn it try again. And again… no answer… Christ, there’s no room for this level of shoddy work now, even the Department for Work and Pensions read the previous part and they were expecting more, though I were in some leech infested tank full of bourgeoisie – or Tory wives, as my father called

them – slave drivers, and I knew lest I got serious I’d be hung outside the Poplar Job Centre from a sodding pike with a sign reading, ‘WORK SHALL SET YOU FREE.’ Keep trying, I thought… “Chrissy here,” spoke a Cockney accent. “And Misa here, sweet Jesus, I’m here,” I said, which was followed by a long pause, “that random reporter at the York Hall.” “Sorry who?” “Y’know, Misa. The one with the photographer?” “Oh, I remember now.” She answered lightening up a load. Trust that, she knew me by my photographer. No matter I thought, best ask her for the fight. “Did you get that damned Facebook message?” “No I didn’t. What about?” “I need a fight…” the line went silent momentarily. “A fight? What do you mean?” She laughed. “A fight. The damned magazine weren’t happy about the whole York Hall thing – they want me to come along and fight someone.” There was an even longer pause now, only filled by cautious ‘ummms’ and ‘errrrs’. “Seems they’ll only be happy when I get my head kicked in.” “Well…” she stumbled, “what were you thinking?”

“They want some hard-arsed veteran, but to tell you the truth, a snot nosed twelve year old might as well run circles round me… so I’d be happy with one of those.” She laughed a little, but nothing could prepare me for her answer. “Come along to the TKO Gym this Friday. I’ll have you up against a British Champion, yeah?” “That’d be great!” Shit, did I just say that? “What time?” “At 6pm.” “Grand, I’ll see you then.” No way did I just say that. “Brilliant just ask for me when you get here. See you.” The dilemma had started to sink in now and I wondered how I’d fare; would I end up a bloody pulpy mess on the floor or somehow overcome it all in some David and Goliath type scenario somehow winning… I’d need a battle plan, and a beer. I got down to the pub shortly after. The place was barren of people except a couple of friends who I’d decided to tell about the fight. To them, it was either a shock or a laughable story were they expecting nothing short of my demise. They started to joke, bringing up the idea of a fighting name: ‘Magic Mish’ and ‘MishMashMonster’ seemed to be the favourites. To tell you the truth I hated them, but they then asked me about a battle plan. “I’ve no idea,” I said, “Let’s just hope the guys a log and I can run circles round him, otherwise, I’m f*****g doomed.”

Friday swiftly came; I was going through my battle plan before setting off toward the gym in Canning Town. I got there in good spirits and walked through into a stairwell that stank to high heaven of varnish. All around me, the echoes of punch bags being abused sounded and it felt somewhat reminiscent of the days when I went to such a gym. I walked in through the gym door expecting glaring eyes to follow my movements. But there weren’t any, they just continued pounding the hell out of the bags and each other. The gym itself was a large room full of punch bags, three fighting rings and you could see the passion they had for the sport by the amount of memorabilia hanging from the walls and ceiling. I’d just started looking around properly when, “Ahhh there you are,” it was Chrissy. “Ready for your fight?” She didn’t give me time to answer, “well just go get changed over there and they’ll be with you shortly. I’ve got some work to do though, so I won’t be around much.” And she disappeared. I got back out of the changing room and sat down on a long bench at the side of the gym, but before long, “You,” a voice beamed, “You

fighter,” it said again, “Get up boy, you’re fighting next week.” “Who me? Nah not me, I’m waiting for my fight now.” “You’re white-collar.” There was no answering him, “Get running,” he said grinning a little, were he expecting some kind of comical display from me. It dawned on me then that the whole damned thing was some evil repetitive routine, demanding a high level of physical stamina. You’d run, then beat a punch bag, then ten press-ups, then run, then beat a punch bag, then squat twenty times, then run, then beat a punch bag, then twenty frog jumps, and again, and again, and again. Occasionally, the trainer would hurdle over to you with impact pads and yell: “Left Jab… Right Hook… Left Jab… and BOOM!” And I swear I’d seen or heard this before, somewhere. But right now I didn’t care, I was just trying to prove I could keep going. “You hit like a f*****g girl, boy. Now, get running with the rest of them.” He didn’t fill me with any confidence, considering I was ultimately here to fight someone. Who; I didn’t know yet, and to tell you the truth, for a brief moment I didn’t want to. But this trainer’s urging screeching voice seemed to push the rest of the white-collar boxers into a realm I never knew existed. They pushed themselves harder than anything I’d ever seen before and looked though they could even be pushed further. I, on the other hand, was using up my reserved energy – that I was trying to save for my fight – just barely keeping up with them. Yet there was no way I could handle the relentless training and I’d only made it round the gym one more time before the big guy trainer, Barry Smith, pointed towards the bench, “Hard work isn’t it pansy?” He jokingly uttered, but I couldn’t argue with his sentiment as I felt he was right -- even about the pansy part. “There’s… still… no… excuse… though…” I wheezed, parking myself on the bench looking on at the rest of them all still going for it, with only one thing on their minds -- their fights next week. I envied the lot of them and they all seemed to boast an image of being something so much greater than a simple group of bog-standard boxing amateur athletes, but as human beings with so much more drive and compassion for a purpose of their own than you’d find in most of rotten society’s shady corners today. They were true supermen and wonder women. These thoughts were the only ones keeping my back straight and stopping me from hurling up a colourful pile of vomit all over the gym floor. The trouble was, they were compassionate towards me too and I didn’t expect it, nor did I know how to react. “How you feeling kid?” One of the elders asked. “Don’t worry about me,” I


said, “just get back in there and haul ass.” I turned away from him and looked down at my notepad with selfloathing. I shook, like a wind had come to tip me over, as I clasped the pen and illegibly jotted down a few notes – the sad part being that to this day I can’t make out the funny letters and symbols I scribbled – but it was enough to keep my mind off the churning deep down inside my gut. I looked up for a moment dazed by flashing stars that my mind had conjured up, as if I were on some trippy psychedelic road on out of reality. I jumped up, falling back down for a moment to the laughter of Barry who was enjoying the freak show that had turned up to run and jump and box and squat, now rendered useless by his own lack of stamina and training. It wasn’t malicious, but the embarrassment tormented me. I tried again to stand, now somehow performing on some basic pivotal movements towards the door, whilst shaking and rolling a cigarette. I stood outside pacing slowly back and forth trying to bring myself back to normality. But it was all too futile to bare, and a resenting feeling of being some raggedy old heap of crap came to haunt me the minute I pictured my head faced down on the strange felt-like material of the ring, being knocked-out by my adversary to be. I walked back up through the varnishsmelling corridor and into the gym. Now all the white-collar folk were skipping around Barry and laughing intensely at his jokes. I sat back down on the bench picturing him out in the countryside somewhere in a red coat, blowing a bugle while the rest of them charged at any given enemy. The point was, the bond between them all was next to nothing, and he seemed to lead them as some ridiculous caricature of an old wartime leader yet with a sense of care for his troop. Pretty soon after, they were all paired up and made their way one by one into the central ring. The sparring matches -- a tell tale sign of what I might have to face. Two by two they all stepped up, even more malicious in nature than what I’d seen at the York Hall. Strangely, there wasn’t a drop of blood in sight though their faces were all pretty much cauterised and immune from any kind of cutting. The girls, however, seemed to show the lads up a little though, fighting with even more grit and passion and I couldn’t help but stare and wish my opponent would go easy on me when I finally got to stepping in that ring. At this point it’d be wrong of me to tell you this were some real fancy fight, like I’d seen at York Hall, but it was the closest thing I was going to get. There were no musical entrances to psych us up, nor any adoring fans -- just three rounds and two minutes of flying fists and ducking and diving.


Winter Edition 2013

My opponent finally appeared. Built like a brick shit house, he came over with his arm stretched out ready to shake my hand. “Hello buddy,” he said quite softly, “The name’s Colin.” “Misa here.” There wasn’t much chatter after, but I made sure of him being the British champion he was made out to be. He stood a mere 5ft 9inches or something -- a little shorter than me -- but looked quick and hardened by his years of fighting. Not only that, but I discovered he’d even been a professional Muay Thai instructor too. But he was gentle at heart and gave me a good welcoming up into the ring. “Where are your guards? Helmet? Gum shield? That sort of stuff?” I asked warily. “Hah, I don’t think I’ll need them man.” He snuffed in some bizarre yet friendly manner. “You ready then?” “I guess so.” And we were off. The first round lasted an age and I could see he was toying with me. He’d move in close and bear hug me screaming that I’d have to break loose somehow. I punched him as hard as I could, still locked into that position and I realised then that he was quick and my battle plan was useless and that I’d spent the time coming up with it pissing around instead of making a

secure strategy. I dove in with punches and he did at me. I guess I managed around about a fifty percent hit rate, which wasn’t bad, but near nine out of ten that he threw hurled me backwards a few feet and the ones that missed were mostly fakes. “Stop!” He yelled, “end of the first round.” Only two more I thought. Better act even weaker in the next and then give him a show down in the last. We continued and he’d lean in to whisper at me with tips like; ‘don’t dance, you’ll knacker yourself out,’ and ‘keep that foot forward.’ It felt humiliating, not only was I not making a dent in the sod but his punches were starting to hurt, especially the body shots. “Time!” He yelled again, “You look tired buddy,” he said, “wanna quit?” I didn’t want to make the same mistake as in training. “No man, bring on the last round!” “That’s the spirit!” And we were off again. This time I tried to summon up all of my strength but he matched and surpassed it belting me about the place, thankfully staying away from my head. It was then, in those dying seconds that I got him, for a brief moment. ‘Left Jab… Right Hook… Left Jab… BOOM!’ was stuck in my mind and I acted it out with passion making him stumble but he came back and to really finish me off. Despite being bruised and a little torn up inside, I enjoyed it and I thanked him and left dying for a damn drink. I’d arrived at a pub, The White Hart in Aldgate, shortly after, still bruised and battered and walked to the back of the place with a beer ready to talk to Gwen and her friend. There was another fellow there though, already knee deep in a shit storm he’d created while trying to hit on them. “Alright buddy,” I said to him unfazed by his desperate attempts at Gwen. “OH!” He yelled, “You f*****g t’northerner, from t’up bastarding’t north!” What the hell was that, I thought. I’d have to ignore the fool, but my patience was thin much like the levels of my energy which flowed around my battered body. I turned away. “Where t’up north a’thee?” Good god, get him out of here. “Eating t’Yorkshire pud-puds a’thee?” It was driving me mad now. “Hey you horrible bucktoothed rat-faced bastard! Quit the act, I’m too tired for your shit.” I cried at him. He stood up now back to his southern self -- acting like some bull ready to crash on over the table. Shit, was I going to have to use what I’d learnt… in fact, what had I learnt? I’d had the crap beat out of me. I dove into my bag, next to me, clasping hold of the gum shield… just in case. “I’d watch it you.” Gwen said, “He’s just got back from

boxing y’know.” And his demeanour changed again. He looked around for a moment and disappeared as the table roared with laughter at him. But he reappeared only moments later, carrying two shots of vodka as a peace offering.

A couple days later I realised that there was a need to gather up a few more details; the full name of Colin, the boxer I fought, and a couple pictures of Barry – the trainer – and Chrissy – the promoter for good measure. We’d already been invited to their next event too, so there no was excuse not to head down the Troxy, in Limehouse, to get a good closing to the article ready to go and write about the whole damned experience. The Troxy was a different world though -- forged out of an immaculate theatre with prim and proper lighting, a grand walkway for the fighters to stroll down and table service for VIPs like my photographer and I. The tables were even drabbed with spotless silk-white sheets and the crowd needed no excuse to get on their feet from the get go. We got a couple of beers – somehow cheaper than York Hall – and we waited. The first fight got underway there and then and I’d spotted my friendly adversary Colin, who was acting as trainer for some of the fighters. But despite the level of competitiveness seemingly more vicious, I was in no mood for the fights

and here to close the case. After a few more fights, while Gwen was taking photos, a promoter came up to me at the table, “We’re going to have to move you to a better table, there’s a few suits demanding this one.” “No issue I said, as I grabbed all our stuff and moved it to the closest table to the ring. As I did so, the next fighters were on their way down the ramp to the ring, this time, the first of the female classifications. The suited upper-class bastards smirked and yelled out pathetic comments like; ‘we thought this would be boxing,’ or ‘go on Barbie, go home to the dishes,’ but they were booed by everyone around them. I felt like picking one up and chucking them into the battleground to be picked apart like the vermin they made themselves out to be, yet I was here for other matters and not to deal with the ‘elitist’ t***s here. That said, I couldn’t help but think that there was a more sobering and wholesome environment, void of these chauvinistic pillocks, back at the York Hall. I’d sat down and was joined by a guy called Wadi Camacho AKA ‘Macho Man’ – another professional brick shit house from the world of boxing – and a few of his mates. They sat there supping on soft drinks and talking vigorously about the fights that ensued in front of them. The more it went on though, the more it turned into some kind of a delightful freak show. There was OAP boxing that mostly ended in draws and then came a couple of boulder-built men rolling

around the ring at one another. “I’ve heard of heavyweight,” I said turning to Wadi, “but what the hell would they suggest in classifying this horror show?” He stayed still thinking, but his friends laughed a little. “Sumo-boxing,” one of them blurted out, but I had to hand it to them though – up in that ring – at least the shorter, fatter one who had more speed than a raging cheetah, even though it still presented a truly horrific and bizarre scene indeed. I didn’t want to spend much more time there now and I quickly grabbed the information I needed and caught up with Colin quickly finally finding out his full name… Colin John. We’d decided to leave the place and head for a beer, but I couldn’t help reliving the experience for myself for just a moment. You see, the truth of it all is, some – even I did for moment – consider boxing a barbaric sport -- but they don’t get it. In a place like Bethnal Green, hell, perhaps even in most of Britain’s dark nooks and crannies, life is pretty damned tough on the youth and I admire the work that these unsung heroes – like Chrissy, Barry, Colin and the rest of Badboy Promotions – have done. They’ve given a prospect, some kind of hope and something to fight for – for what may have been simply the next group of apathy stricken dumbdumbs, in a world that passed them off as unfit for society – and made the whole experience a worthwhile circus that truly rewards it’s victors and losers alike. l


Marsha, 26.

I love my DP bag, it always brightens up my winter mornings.


Winter Edition 2013

Street Fashion – Bethnal Green

What Are You Wearing? Written and photographed by Zoe Michelle

With winter approaching and temperatures slowly decreasing, it can be hard to show off your style. Well not for these ladies of Bethnal Green! Check the trends featured on the streets of East London, ranging from the perfect winter seasons faux fur coat on a budget, and casual chic attire. Be inspired! l

I love my skirt, it was my grandmothers, I love thrifting. Claudia, 26.

My hat makes me happy. I wear it everyday. Kavita, 22.

I love my Primark coat, how designer is it?!


Spotlight on:

Mental Health amongst British Bangladeshis

Written by Amina Ali

Mental health awareness is becoming increasingly important in the 21st century. According to the World Health Organisation mental disorders accounted for 22.8% of the total disease burden, compared with 15.9% for cancer and 16.2% for cardiovascular disease, in 2008. The stigma and taboo surrounding mental health is a major issue in the South Asian community, as it is for the population as a whole, which leads to many unreported cases. Yet there are some attitudes specific to the British South Asian community which often make it difficult to get a clear picture of the mental health problems they face. The prevailing attitude is that ‘mental illness’ is shameful, or “sharam.” This fear and secrecy surrounding mental illness means that those suffering don’t seek support- as they fear being isolated and ostracised from their own communities. Given that a majority of the population in Bethnal Green are Bangladeshis, I decided to explore the mental health issues and stigma faced amongst this particular community. To discuss these issues, I interviewed Kolil Miah, who has worked as a mental health professional for 15 years and is currently the chair of the Bangladeshi Mental Health Forum (BMHF). As described on their website, the BMHF is a registered charity seeking to “challenge stigma and mental health discrimination particularly in Bangladeshi community based in Tower Hamlets and


Winter Edition 2013

neighbouring borough.” I also interviewed Marufuz Zaman, who Kolil works alongside, a manager for a mental health specialist support service for residents in Tower Hamlets, based in Bethnal Green. Both Miah and Zaman discussed the stigma surrounding mental health as being a crucial factor in preventing those suffering from seeking the necessary services, and leading them to become isolated once they do seek help. This is often the case in many different cultures; however given that they work with Tower Hamlets residents, the fear of the label is described as being especially strong amongst Bangladeshis and Somalis. Miah explained that the taboo causes many young Bangladeshi service users to become socially isolated once they begin professional treatment, as their group of friends at school or college dissociate from them. Furthermore, as the Bangladeshi community is very family and community orientated there is a strong social pressure to conform to prevalent and esteemed social norms, such as succeeding academically, getting married and having children. Those suffering from mental health problems are often unable to meet such cultural norms and are therefore likely to become socially isolated by family and friends alike, which further deteriorates their mental wellbeing. Kolil stated that the stigma surrounding mental health mental health must be addressed, as crucially it leads to very little

The stigma surrounding mental health mental health must be addressed, as crucially it leads to very little Bangladeshi representation within this sector and thus inhibits cultural awareness and support. Bangladeshi representation within this sector and thus inhibits cultural awareness and support. When I spoke to him, Kolil had just returned from a meeting at the East London Foundation Trust where, out of 35 governors, he was the only Bangladeshi BME (Black and Ethnic Minority) representative governor for Tower Hamlets- a surprising statistic given that Tower Hamlets has such a large Bangladeshi community. “As you can see, there’s not much representation, the ratio is very low. We need people,” Kolil explained. As trustees and governors of mental health organisations

When we go to the ward, inpatient services you see are not culturally appropriate. Services are not meeting the needs of [the] Bangladeshi community. set the service agenda to meet the needs of the local community, and given that there is a large Bangladeshi population in Tower Hamlets, community needs are clearly not being met. Having mental health representatives from different backgrounds and cultures at the higher decision-making levels is crucial, in order to meet the needs of culturally diverse communities. This means defining support services that are appropriate and culturally sensitive, as well as making them more accessible by providing information and support in the common languages, such as Bengali and Somali. Miah has first-hand experience of how this lack of cultural representation further isolates those suffering with mental health issues “When we go to the ward, inpatient services you see are not culturally appropriate. Services are not meeting the needs of [the] Bangladeshi community.” However, recently there have been bilingual staff members in community mental health teams. Marufuz adds in a hopeful tone that communication is much better than before, and things have improved. The support service users that Kolil and Marufuz work with are referred to the organisation by psychiatric nurses and social workers, and therefore often have been in secondary care i.e. services provided by mental health specialists. Out of 156 service users, 81 are from a Bangladeshi background; 43 of them are female. Approximately 22 reside in Bethnal Green. These statistics alone clearly show that,

despite the stigma, a large percentage of Bangladeshis require and use mental health services. Marufuz states that there are socio-economic and cultural complexities involved- often several recurring factors contribute towards a mental health problem amongst service users. Poverty is high in Bethnal Green, and unemployment and welfare reforms put pressures on families. Forced marriage is prevalent, and amongst females collapse of marriage and divorce is common, and domestic abuse is very high. This has a negative knock-on effect, as it leads to a breakdown in the support network of the family, leading to isolation. Postnatal depression is very common and there is often a lack of awareness and understanding from family members in terms of support. An intrinsic misunderstanding and even rejection of mental health issues is so ingrained in the older generations’ belief system that a complete shift in attitude is required even to simply just accept a mental health problem. Such social, economic and cultural issues must be considered by mental health services. Yet although there is a shortage, Marufuz stresses that there are services within the community to address these problems; however do all families know about these services? By not being aware of the support services to seek help, many are suffering in silence.

Increasing Mental Wellbeing And Breaking The Stigma

tUltimately the stigma surrounding mental illness will continue to thrive across all communities and cultures if friends and family do not overcome the fear, and stand in solidarity and compassion for their loved ones. However this requires a shift in century deep-seated attitudes and norms entrenched in different cultures, which have been around for centuries. Therefore it is society’s responsibility in leading the way; to improve mental health services and confront the stigma and taboo. As many direct support services are funded by the local council, Zaman believes that is the council’s responsibility to promote them

and get the message across to the wider community. However given the government cuts in recent years, this is a difficult task. Currently, leaflets are advertised in set locations such as GP surgeries, community forums and carer centres. Yet it is crucial to get the message across to individual family units, and distributing leaflets to houses is one way to better promote services. To help challenge and break the stigma, cultural and language barriers must be overcome, and one way to do this is for people from different ethnicities to work in the profession, and for there to be regular specialised mental health awareness days and events held in local venues. Ultimately any mental health service should be accessible and inclusive to all, by catering to the needs of different cultures within the community. Thus material should be published both online and physically in the common languages according to demand; in Tower Hamlets almost 75% of schoolchildren speak English as a second language - the highest percentage of any borough. Not many GPs’ are professionally trained in mental health, which is detrimental considering that they are the first point of contact. This is becoming increasingly important as they are beginning to commission healthcare on behalf of their local communities. Zaman notes that cultural sensitivity training is essential to improve peoples’ experience of social care; “I feel it is important for the front line staff (care co-ordinators) to take a more pro-active approach and facilitate more discussion about this with service users and their families.” As case workers are often in high demand and are therefore time limited, more work needs to be done by the local government at the CMHT (Community Mental Health) level to bring about an effective change. Although there is still a long way to go, Tower Hamlets and other boroughs do have a number of support services to increase mental wellbeing. However making it a priority, breaking the taboo, increasing the number of services and promoting them to allow easy access within the community across all cultures is the difficult task faced ahead. Demand is high and primary care services are in shortage. The central government have a responsibility to keep mental health wellbeing high on their agenda.l

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article, for information and support visit: Mind Check - Time to Change Anxiety UK - Samaritans -

Information about mental health and addiction.

or call 08457 909090.

England’s biggest programme to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination. Information and support for those living with anxiety disorders., or call 08444 775 774. Someone to talk to in a time of need? Trained professionals can chat to you.,

Freedom Charity - Helping empower young people to feel they have the tools, confidence and support to deal with child

and forced marriage and dishonour-based violence., call 0845 607 0133, or text 4freedom to 88802.


London’s Best Known Secret Level of Secrecy Among Community Members allows Human Right’s Violations to go Unpunished Written by Miriam Ostermann

A skeleton is hiding in the closet of the borough of Tower Hamlets. Along with other areas in London, the borough has served as a possible playground for human rights violations punishable by law up to 14 years in prison. And even though the act of female genital mutilation has been illegal for nearly 30 years, the high level of secrecy among community members has made those responsible virtually untouchable to authorities. Recent rough data shed light on the 66,000 women who are currently living in the UK who fell victim to these ‘honor’ crimes – an act involving the partial or complete removal of young girls’ genitals for nonmedical purposes. The figures have placed Britain at the top of the list for the highest levels of FGM in Europe. Referred to as child abuse, the children are held against their will, usually without anesthetics, and in non-sterile environments. Under British law, it is illegal to perform the act in the UK, including any involvement to subjecting a child – usually between the ages of 4 to 15 – to the procedure. This includes sending them back to Africa or Middle East for the summer to get cut; an option many choose. Yet a lack of evidence and silence among family members and their communities has left official’s hands bound and currently put over 20,000 girls at risk. “People are not going to pick up the phone and say, ‘ya, I know hundreds of children who are at risk,’ even though we know the estimates are something like 20,000 children are at risk from this. They are not visible in that sense yet, because it’s a great secretive abusive behavior, “ said John Cameron, director of the FGM helpline. The National SPCC helpline was created earlier this year with help from the metropolitan police and has already received over 126 calls about potential victims, having led to 52 referrals. However, while Cameron said helplines are very effective, he acknowledged the complexity of gathering evidence surrounding cases of FGM.


Winter Edition 2013

“We interview the parent and we interview the child,” he said. “The child says nope… absolutely no way that this is going to happen to me. Why would you put a child on the child protection register? Where is your evidence? We’ve got somebody saying, ‘I believe it because the older daughter has been cut,’ but I’m hearing from the parents… ‘we were under pressure when we were in country X, we are here now… absolutely no way.’ Which they would say, wouldn’t they?” Having worked together with the police, he understands that prosecution can’t take place when no crime has yet been committed. And even though some factors may point to a child being at risk, children can’t be taken out of loving homes when there is no evidence that the they will be taken out of the country to get cut. The metropolitan police is working on encouraging more education sharing with schools and the health sector. Jane Scotchbrook, detective chief inspector, said young girls are caught in a difficult position to speak out against a family member who they love, while having been raised in a community where they were told not to talk about it. “One of the challenges around FGM is that the victims are young girls who it’s really difficult for to come talk to the police about something that their parents or family members have done to them,” she said.

I see women who come to my clinic, cry from the minute they walk through the door to the minute they leave, and they’ve been absolutely brutally mutilated; it’s distressing.


women who are currently living in the UK who fell victim to these ‘honor’ crimes

20,000 children are at risk from this


women are living with the effects worldwide

126+ calls this year to The National SPCC helpline about potential victims

One of the challenges around FGM is that the victims are young girls who it’s really difficult for to come talk to the police about something that their parents or family members have done to them Rising Numbers

In 2012 the Royal College of Midwives’ research revealed that professionals were not adequately equipped to respond effectively to FGM. According to the Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development, FORWARD, there is no systematic data collection on women affected by FGM in the UK.

“Apart from this they are actually in a loving family and they view it as this one incident. And that’s the main problem. They do not want to give evidence against their family or friends who’d be responsible.” Female Genital Mutilation is often carried out to ensure girls’ virginity stays in tact for marriage and for beliefs that it keeps a woman clean and pure. The practice is strongly associated with countries such as Somalia – 98 percent Sudan and the Middle East. Tower Hamlets has the second highest Somali population in London, under which population type 3 is practiced - the most severe. “We tend to see women who’ve had type 3... it’s very common in Somalia, unfortunately,” said Juliet Albert, specialist midwife at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital. “I see women who come to my clinic, cry from the minute they walk through the door to the minute they leave, and they’ve been absolutely brutally mutilated; it’s distressing.” There are no health benefits in connections with FGM. Because it is likely carried out by a family member with no medical training, or someone in the community, the instruments used often include knives, scissors, razor blades, and even glass. As the tools are often used on multiple girls, the transmission of Hepatitis B, C, and HIV are other risk surrounding the act. The procedure, which leaves only a small opening for urination and menstruation, has caused death, problems during childbirth, painful intercourse, and agony years later.

“The limited data from specialist clinics that FORWARD works with show that most of them are seeing more and more patients,” said Naana Otoo-Oyortey, executive director at FORWARD. “This could be because more women are accessing support, but also potentially represent and increased number of women.” She adds the need for adopting a statutory guidance for key professional in understanding and effectively responding when coming across such information. Schools have been reluctant to get involved because of other issues, but are least likely to attend training. Albert agrees that professionals need to be better educated and feels that a better system needs to be put in place for gathering information. “You’ve got lots of midwives, there is a midwifery training in Brighton, and they don’t talk about FGM in their training,” Albert said. “ I think it’s less to do with the fact that there aren’t the people out there, it’ s just where are we recording this information? For example, I collect figures for my clinic, but lots of people don’t seem to.” “There isn’t somewhere that I have to report to, and so because I don’t have to nobody has to. So that’s the big reason why there aren’t figures, because nobody knows. It’s ,unfortunately, like that all over Europe and America and Africa.”

Helping Children

At age 13, social worker Hawa Sesay nearly bled to death when she was taken back to Sierra Leone to be cut by her aunt. While it still traumatizes her in her adult life, she has also had to deal with long-term difficulties especially when it came to her two pregnancies.

Having been vocal within her community and in the media, Sesay has heard her share of complaints about spreading awareness from community members. Over the past few years she set up a charity, Hawa Trust. She now works with girls – and sometimes their parents – in Hackney to make sure girls are aware of the risks and helps to empower them to stand up for themselves. Having made her voice heard, and continuing to do so, she is hoping that someday the practice of FGM will be abolished.

A fear to become excluded from their community, love for their family, and extreme pressure contribute the silence that allows for the continued practice of FGM. “This is the 21st Century,” she said. “I’m telling kids it’s not in the Bible, it’s not in the Quran, it’s not a cultural belief, it’s a man-made thing. It needs to stop.” It is speculated that 140 million women are living with the effects worldwide. France has already had over 100 convictions, where UK authorities are inching close to their first prosecution. A fear to become excluded from their community, love for their family, and extreme pressure contribute the silence that allows for the continued practice of FGM. Cameron said: “If you’re going to protect children in our society, it’s not about the NSPCC going around doing it, or the health professionals doing it, or teachers doing it. It’s about all of us doing it together holding hands and the community is seeing that… we’re not out there to hurt them. And if people aren’t going to change their behavior then there are consequences I’m afraid. l



The Bethnal Green Tube Disaster Written by Nick Krause

The Bethnal Green tube disaster is a tragedy which still hangs over the community. Even on the seventieth anniversary year of the disaster there is controversy over its handling and remembrance. To understand why this is, we must first understand what happened on the 3rd March 1943.

At 8:17pm air raid sirens sounded in East London. While this was usual it had been a couple of years since the Blitz. The Luftwaffe air raids after the Blitz still caused damage and death, but to nowhere near the same extent as they did when Germany had been on the front foot. So with this in mind around two thousand residents of Bethnal Green calmly made their way to the underground station, which doubled as their local air raid shelter. The official story states that at around 8:27pm new anti aircraft guns were fired nearby. People started to panic thinking they were German bombs and started to rush to the shelter, just as a mother and a child fell at the bottom of the only staircase into the station. However there are some who believe, along with the local coroner at the time of the disaster Mr W Heddy, that there was “nothing to suggest any stampede or panic or anything of the kind.”

Above: The single station entrance circa 1943, showing a policeman where one should have been on the night of the disaster. Below: Workmen fitting handrails and painting white lines the morning after Credit: Tower Hamlets Archives, Bancroft Road Library

In any case the safety situation for the station could easily have been described as appalling. There was only one entrance to the station, and it was roughly ten feet high and across. Thousands at the time were trying to enter this space. Additionally there was only one twenty five watt bulb lighting the entrance, on a rainy day which left the steps perilously wet. It was no surprise then that under all these factors a crush occurred.


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It resulted in a hundred and seventy three people losing their lives. ‘Suddenly the searchlights went up crisscrossing the sky, but there wasn’t [sic] any planes about, and the next thing was a horrendous noise like thousands of rockets going off.... That is what caused the panic.’ Babette Clark- eyewitness. Surely a tragedy of this magnitude would have created a media storm, and an immediate public investigation would have been set up. However this did not happen. News of the disaster was withheld for thirty six hours, as a panicked government tried to figure out what to do. Nurses from the local hospital dealing with the victims, could not tell the loved ones of those who died what happened, until the thirty six hours were up. ‘I was on duty at the Children’s Hospital in Hackney Road through the night when the adult causalities started to arrive. They were all dead but wet as the medics had tried to revive them with water. We were sworn to secrecy and it was incredible that we obeyed. It was the worst night of my medical career.’ Dr Joan Martin MBE- hospital doctor. Even after this time, fearful of damaging the morale of the public, news organisations were only allowed to report the basic facts of the tragedy. This did not even

include the number of casualties and the location of the disaster. Also instead of a public inquiry only a short statement was read out in the House of Commons. An inquiry did occur but it was withheld from the public by Churchill’s Cabinet, who believed that the investigation, “would give the incident a disproportionate importance, and might encourage the enemy to make further nuisance raids.” Rather than “the incident” being given “disproportionate importance” it was treated as disproportionately insignificant. After all the Bethnal Green tube disaster killed many more people than the majority of tragedies which occurred in the 20 th century. This was however not the first incident during the war which the government suppressed. Exercise Tiger; an operation which trained British and American soldiers for the Normandy landings resulted in friendly fire killing around a hundred and fifty American soldiers. The whole incident was hidden by the authorities successfully; this was due to a German surprise attack on the exercise the day after which killed hundreds. Those who died during the friendly fire incident were simply said to have died during the German attack. No one outside the top of the UK and US governments had even heard about the incident until years after the war ended. Like Exercise Tiger after the end of the Second World War information came out about the Bethnal Green tube disaster. It was slow at first but steady. For many years all that stood to commemorate those who lost their lives in this disaster was a small, weather worn plaque; which still to this day stands by the entrance where this tragedy occurred. However thanks to The Stairway to Heaven Foundation, after many years of campaigning, the people of Bethnal

Green now have a fitting memorial, although not yet a completed one. The journey for truth and reconciliation for many people may soon be over. However many have had to suffer for years not knowing the truth about a tragedy which could have been prevented. Cover ups which last for years and tarnish those who are involved in them are rare, but they are serious. Unfortunately other tragedies which were preventable and were covered up have been seen before. On the plaque which sits at the entrance of the station are the inscribed words ‘not forgotten’, they are correct, we should not forget. l

News of the disaster was withheld for thirty six hours, as a panicked government tried to figure out what to do.


3rd March

Bethnal Green: The Tragedy Written by David Ruddock

But perhaps you’ve never heard of it, or maybe it rings a bell somewhere in the back of your mind? It isn’t surprising when you realise that despite the great trauma the event caused for those involved and their community, the Government at the time hushed it up to prevent morale from falling due to the war. Was it justifiable?

Bethnal Green had had no warning of what to expect so they assumed the worst and realised they had to run for cover. Panic set in. The debate has only just begun to pick up steam thanks to Freedom of Information requests and the ‘seventy-year rule’ revealing hitherto unreleased secret documents, showing a Government that appears more complicit than it would ever admit to. Babette (Babs) Clark was only 11 on that night when air raid sirens told everyone to find their nearest shelter. Hers was Bethnal Green Station: ‘Our Mum said “right, go and get the bundles”, which consisted of blankets and a pillow. You didn’t leave them down the tube even though you had designated bunks or they’d have been ‘nicked’. There was my 16 year-old sister Jean, Mum and me who was 11 years old. My Dad was at work. He was a civilian lorry driver for the Navy, so he never came down the tube.’ In what would later prove a stroke of providence they missed the first bus to the station, which likely meant they avoided the worst of the disaster. Then they arrived and begun filing down the steps in an orderly manner. Sandra Scotting, whose mother Ivy Brind was also present, related to me what sort of condition the station


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On Wednesday 3rd March 1943 a great tragedy befell Bethnal Green Tube Station when 173 people lost their lives in the greatest civilian disaster of the entire Second World War.

entrance was in back then. Firstly there was only one entrance, which is the one next to the park gates and where the memorial to the event is prominently visible from the junction. Also, as like today, there was no roof over the steps which meant they were wet on that particular damp, cold night. There wasn’t even handrails to steady them as they descended. As it was the station was barely equipped to deal with those living nearby, but on this occasion the top of the staircase was crowded with three full double-decker bus-loads of passengers (bus drivers were instructed to stop at the nearest air raid shelter when the sirens went off), the local cinemas and pubs, who were all busy that night, as well as men from the families down below who were, as was typical, standing about smoking and chatting. All this clearly contributed to what was to follow, as Babs continues:

pile-up of suffocating, terrified people as everyone fell over each other. Those who were free of the crush immediately started pulling out victims wherever they could, but it was harder at the bottom where those underneath were experiencing the combined weight of hundreds of people. Ivy Brind, Sandra’s mother, was clutching her 3 year-old nephew, Barry, in her arms as she fell with the crowd onto her back. She desperately tried to protect him from the squeeze above but it was too much and Barry died in her arms after calling out her name. All available emergency services members who were close at hand did everything they could to help. One messenger-boy who had lied about his age

‘Suddenly the searchlights went up criss-crossing the sky, but there wasn’t any planes about, and the next thing was a horrendous noise like thousands of rockets going off (I can still hear that noise), and as the noise went on and on there was a whistling sound just like when the bombs came down. That is what caused the panic.’ Babs is describing the noise made by an experimental new rocket launcher stationed in Victoria Park that sounded eerily similar to falling bombs. They were controversial and inefficient and scrapped soon after, but the residents of Bethnal Green had had no warning of what to expect so they assumed the worst and realised they had to run for cover. Panic set in. What happened next is a tragic moment in Bethnal Green’s history and an event that still scars the community to this day. In the rush to get under cover people at the back started pushing. A woman with a baby at the bottom of the steps tripped and fell over, dragging the man next to her down to the floor as well. The domino effect of the people pushing down behind them suddenly having nothing in front of them meant that there was soon a massive

Above: Babs Clark

to enlist was only 14 then. As a smaller boy he could only manage to haul out children. What he saw and smelt remained with him for the remainder of his life until he sadly passed away a short while ago. Those who were pulled free were assessed for injury and either told to find another shelter or get to a hospital. Those who couldn’t or weren’t moving were laid on the pavement as those with training went around administering first-aid and checking for signs of life. Back then the popular method was to hold a mirror under the nose to check for breath which would steam it up, but we now know this method to be unreliable and so many of those who were written off might still have been

court and to pay the victims’ compensation (which the Government secretly reimbursed them for). The Government launched an official enquiry which defied witnesses and claimed that the victims died instantly, that the panic was self-inflicted (‘a loss of self-control’) or that it was the result of ‘Jews’ or ‘foreigners’. All of these claims were strenuously denied by the witnesses in the official report (most of which was not published) and the survivors still alive today, many of whom are now endlessly campaigning for the memorial commemorating the event to be completed.

No one doubted that it happened and yet the influence of the Government was so great upon them that no one dared to discuss it openly. struggling for life. The casualties mounted and so did the horrors. The rescuers worked tirelessly for 3 hours, though why it took so long leads into the sinister part of the story. No sooner had officials at the scene realised the scale of the disaster than they began to cover it up. All the survivors and witnesses present were told not to speak a word of it and messengers were sent to the hospitals to inform the doctors and nurses treating the victims of the same. A plaque on the memorial today recounts how Dr Joan Martin MBE could never quite believe why they never spoke about it despite the instructions. It was the darkest day of her career. After a harrowing visit to a makeshift mortuary to look for her mum who turned out to be okay, Babs, her sister and their mum went home. Babs recalls when their father returned home after hearing about the disaster: ‘The one thing I’ve never got out of my mind was my Dad, my big strong Dad, crying, (he was a big built man). Anyway we went into our house and went to bed, but in the morning when I got up, I was bruised from my shoulders down to my feet, and so was Mum and Jean. But typical of my Mum, she sent Jean to work and me to school, (take your mind off things), but when they heard what had happened they sent her home.’ One thing becomes clear from this recollection: her father, who wasn’t present, already knew about the incident. In fact, according to Derek Spicer who’s brother and sister were both killed on that

night and who is currently fund-raising coordinator for the memorial project ‘Stairway to Heaven’, the entire community, being close as it was, all knew about the incident. No one doubted that it happened and yet the influence of the Government was so great upon them that no one dared to discuss it openly. Mostly it was out of fear of being shunned. During the War it was not conceivable that anyone could or would disagree with the Government so the punishment would have come from their neighbours and fellow citizens. Journalists were offering children £5 to tell their stories and were being turned away. But the cover-up had only just begun. It has more recently emerged that in 1941 (2 years before the disaster) Bethnal Green Council wrote to the Government asking them to take measures to improve the safety of the tube shelter entrance. They asked for more light in the area, a cover to shield the steps from the rain, handrails and a longer lead-in to prevent the bottlenecking that they feared. The Government refused their request, and then a second and third time after more letters reiterating just how dangerous the facility was in stronger and stronger terms. Eventually the Government suggested using recycled wood to strengthen the entrance but that was all. And yet, the day immediately after the tragedy all of the requested changes were put into place. But Bethnal Green Council were never vindicated because Home Secretary Herbert Morrison explicitly threatened them under the Official Secrets Act to keep quiet about their previous requests and told them to take the rap for the failures, to not defend themselves in

Called the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ it currently stands unfinished behind the original entrance at the corner of the park. It is a long snaking structure that rises up where a wooden box hangs awkwardly off the side. This is where the final piece will go, an inverted staircase with the names of the victims engraved upon it. The tireless fundraising and teaching of the survivors is what has got the memorial to where it is today, not the Government, and who even now still face an uphill struggle to finish the memorial in their lifetimes and finally see proper recognition for their nightmare. A target of £82,000 has been set but it is a considerable way off being met. Bethnal Green Council, local schools and community projects and generous individuals have all assisted the project but the fundraisers are acutely aware that there is only so much one can ask from their neighbours given the current economic climate and humanitarian disasters such as in the Philippines. They are desperately seeking large donations to finally achieve a recognition that has been denied them for so long and to that end they are always open to whatever can be offered. Mr Derek Spicer, who now visits schools to educate the children on this ‘forgotten disaster’, told me what sort of impact they were having when a young girl offered him her dinner money to go towards the memorial. He tells me how important it is that this memorial be finished within the survivors’ lifetime as they feel rejected and mistreated by the Government. But from the generosity of strangers he and the other trustees hope to create a permanent and lasting tribute to the 173 innocent civilians who lost their lives in tragic circumstances. l

You can text ‘STHM43 £10’ to 70070 and donate or you can visit the website at


“Stairway to Heaven”: Bethnal Green Memorial Written by Yu Shijia

“In memory of 173 men, women and children who lost their lives on the evening of Wednesday 3rd March 1943, descending these steps to Bethnal Green underground air raid shelter. Not forgotten.” If you have ever looked right in front of you when entering the Bethnal Green tube station, you might notice these words, written on a plain and inconspicuous plaque. With people’s hasty steps hurrying down the station to catch the next train, the words are almost inevitably left in obscurity. So is the event that the plaque intends to commemorate: the 1943 Bethnal Green tube disaster. Having lived in the area for about six years, architect Harry Paticas said that until told by others recently, he had never heard about this horrible incident before. Luckily, the obscurity of the disaster will be no longer. After years of persistent and hard effort by the victims’ family, survivors and a local charity, the “Stairway to Heaven” memorial (though still partly incomplete) has finally been set up in the park next to the tube station. Designed by Paticas and his team Arboreal, the memorial constitutes two major parts: the already installed plinth, and the wooden canopy in the shape of an inverted stairway, whose funding for completion is yet to be raised. Along the horizontal part of the plinth scatter bronze plaques bearing witnesses and survivors’ testimonies of the disaster. Three other plaques with the 173 victims full names and ages are placed on the vertical part of the memorial. The idea of listing all the victims’ names in a memorial is hardly new nowadays. We are inclined to take it for granted that such a notion is more or less engrained in society, that the dignity of life of each and every individual should be fully respected, regardless of their ethnic, cultural or religious backgrounds. The enumeration of names in a memorial is hence one of the commonest ways to reconfirm and display such an idea. Yet here, it means much more than a common practice. With this particular tube disaster, the treasured idea of the dignity of life has


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been severely damaged, and even today, it is not yet fully affirmed. The government’s immediate covering up of the disaster, as well as its reluctance to commemorate in any proper form even after World War II, must have haunted the survivors almost as serious a trauma as the disaster itself. The survivors’ heroic sacrifice for the so-called greater good—the stability of the wartime government, has earned them no respect in return, but continuing negligence instead. The choice of listing all the victims’ names, therefore, is not merely a random choice from the existing repertoire of memorial design. It stands as a longawaited apology, a gesture to try to heal the wounds left in hearts of the victims’ families and survivors. At the same time, it also functions as a solemn warning, cautioning us against the dangerous slipping of the discourse of the ‘greater good’, while emphasizing the significance of individual life, and inviting us to ponder the boundary and limit of the greater good. While using the established practice of enumerating victims’ names, the “Stairway to Heaven” memorial also has some unique designs that ingeniously link to the particularity of the tube disaster. The not yet installed canopy bears the inverted shape of a stairway, thus nicely echoing the stairway into the tube station just outside the park. As the memorial is named “Stairway to Heaven,” we can presume that the architect intends that people, and the spirits of the victims, “walk” along the plinth up to the canopy appreciating the memorial. Flowing out from such design is a certain positive belief in the strength of life, and ultimate respect for the passed. On the other hand, I think that the track of one’s viewing of the memorial can also be reversed. We can imagine ourselves walking down the wooden stairs that resemble the tube station stairs, and then along the plinth with fragments of the details of the terrible disaster surrounding us. In this manner, it is as if some of the horrors of that night are somehow recreated for us in our imagination, and we can hence be made more empathetic for the lost souls.

Top and bottom: Visualisation of the finished memorial Credit: Arboreal Architecture, Bethnal Green Middle: Survivors at the memorial 3/3/13 Credit: Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust

2013 In memory of 173 men, women and children who lost their lives on the evening of Wednesday 3rd March 1943, descending these steps to Bethnal Green underground air raid shelter. Not forgotten. A few more details about the stairway canopy are also worth mentioning here. According to the architect Harry Paticas, the material of the canopy has an interesting origin, as it is made of a cargo of timber that went down under the Irish Sea during World War I, from a ship sunk by the German army. The relation to the war obviously made this cargo of timber particularly relevant to the memorial. Paticas also regards it as fitting because the sense of life and softness associated with wood corresponds to the use of the memorial, while the material is also hard enough to withstand erosion.

And for me personally, the highlight of the memorial’s design is the roof of the canopy. On the outside of the roof, there is carved the family names of the victims. On the top, there are 173 holes, through which sunlight can shine, brightening and warming the inside. This forms a great contrast to the cold, fatal darkness in the station at the night of the disaster. So now, finally, with the light beaming through, we can assure the victims: “Don’t be afraid, you shall never fear about getting lost or hurt in the dark anymore.” l



Victims of the Underground Written by Franco Grech


I have always been fascinated with artwork and how an individual can come up with an idea and can go through many stages of development to produce something that’s fresh and innovative. My interest in the artistic field developed as I studied Digital Illustration. This was a brief module taught on the Multimedia Technology course at Leeds Met University. Furthermore, I have always been a big fan of art displayed on the London Underground. After hearing about the 70-year anniversary of the disaster that struck at the Bethnal Green tube station and devastating aftermath, I was inspired to create an underground illustration based on the event. My overall style consists of creating simple vector shapes and creating a dark mood through rough textures which are mixed with Photoshop’s filters and blending modes such as Overlays.

Art Concept

Intrigued by this subject matter, I wanted to further explore this event and provide my creative interpretation. My aim was to try and illustrate the mindsets of those who were involved in the incident and to produce a simple yet powerful art piece that can raise awareness for the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust. After sketching several concepts and conducting background research on what happened, I was able to produce a straightforward motif that could outline the scenario of those who may not be aware of the tube disaster. Coming up with the general idea proved to be a great challenge as I went through several different ideas, which at first did not seem work well. My main focus was on the staircase as this is what caused the victims to fall onto one another. It also reflects on the memorial that is currently being built. Secondly I decided to generate a worn-out paper textured background, complemented by different shades of white and black. This would apply a sense of time. To me, having the main image in black and white, whilst giving branding colours of the London Underground to the text was vital. This would make the wording be instantly recognisable and add to the overall theme, whilst allowing the image to standout in its own right. In addition to this, I created several vectors of bombs to creating an image on what was going through people’s minds at the time.

Technical Aspects

Adobe Illustrator was used to create the vector artwork such as the stairs and bombs. After that, Adobe Photoshop was needed to finalise the layout and manipulate the imagery. I relied on Illustrator’s Pen Tool to draw a simple set of 2D steps, which were then grouped together. In order to add depth, I used the Perspective Grid and duplicated the set of steps, moving it further away. The Pen Tool could be used again to join the two sets together, thus creating a 3D staircase at a 45° angle with a sense of depth. To create the background, several filters and textures of cardboard, metal and teastained paper were blended together with a hue/saturation adjustment. When doing this it is absolutely essential that each filter be converted into a Smart Object. This is a non-destructive approach and will let you make any later changes to the adjustments of each filter, should you need to. Blending textures with filters with low opacity values were needed to add a subtle mood and to allow the vectors to stand out more. In terms of typography, I used a font called London Tube to add to reflect on the underground theme. Each line of text was then kerned so that they were of the same width as the main image. Finally, I used a wide range of debris brushes, which were blended into the background with low opacity values to add to the worn-out effect. l

25 layers used 5 textures of tea stains, metal scratches and cardboard used Font: London Tube, Downloaded from Brush set: Debris Brush Downloaded from Website:


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Young, Angry and Muslim in Bethnal Green Written by Rahul Rose

in East London. Sometimes the younger people can get angry, but it is important that things stay peaceful.” Mohammed believes British politicians are generally a force for good. “I am not angry with the politicians,” he says. “Bethnal Green is a good place to live and the government has helped make it like that. All of us must learn to live together in this place, in peace.” His response is typical of the older Muslims that I spoke to. More than anything they tried to avoid any criticism of wider British culture. In fact, on occasion they reprimanded younger British Muslims for being too excitable and rash. Mohammed’s friend, Yuosuf Khan, a Pakistani who first arrived in Britain 40 years ago to work in a factory in Bradford, summed up the elder Muslim sentiment well when he said: “Keep your head down, do your prayers and feed your family. Then you will have peace, not trouble.”

“The world in one city” was the oftrepeated unofficial slogan of the London Olympic bid in 2005. Everyone from Ken Livingstone to Seb Coe trumpeted the virtues of multiculturalism on the day the capital was named host city for the 2012 games. The following morning 52 people were killed in London by four British born Muslim terrorists. The debate around multiculturalism changed forever. A new vision for Britain was born in the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings: multiple ethnicities bound together by a shared sense of Britishness. An emphasis on uniformity, on shared British identity, came to replace the earlier emphasis on diversity and difference. But one group has been consistently excluded from this vision of multiethnic Britishness - Muslims. For many they are the bogeyman of modern Britain. Take the English Defence League (EDL), the far-right group which has enjoyed a whirlwind of media attention in recent years. Leaders of the organisation actively encourage nonMuslim supporters (the former Sikh EDL member Guramit Singh Kalirai is perhaps the most prominent example) as a way of stressing their commitment to a multiethnic Britain without Islam. In his now infamous speech on “failed” state multiculturalism in 2011, David Cameron called for a return to liberal British values. He singled out Muslims for special criticism, claiming many were prone to “separatism” as they defined themselves “solely in terms of their religion”. While Conservatives do not share the EDL’s more extreme views,


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Yuosuf’s message is apolitical, intensely private and non-combative. It contradicts the popular stereotype of angry pissed off Muslims. It also makes recent media reports about Muslims confiscating alcohol, scolding gay people and imposing Sharia law in the East End seem wildly inaccurate.

both see Muslims as the main violators of Britishness. The inclusive multiculturalism of the Olympic bid has no place in present day British politics. How do British Muslims feel about being labelled chief antagonists of a cohesive multiethnic Britain? Are they angry or accepting? I went to Bethnal Green, part of Tower Hamlets, the London borough with the largest Muslim population in the UK, to investigate. Mohammed Kalim owns a small shop selling Bangladeshi snacks on Brick Lane. His customers are mostly Bengali Muslims, although the occasional tourist wanders in, attracted by the arrayed orange jellabies and decorated mishtis in his window display. I ask him whether he believes British Muslims are being unfairly treated. Mohammed thinks not: “There are few problems here

However, the seemingly inoffensive outlook of Yuosuf, Mohammed and other first generation Muslims is not harmless. For many young Muslims living in East London, the inability of their parent’s generation to speak out against anti-Islamic sentiment is frustrating. They feel abandoned by authority, unable to relate to either the meek kowtowing of their elders, or the critical and chastising words of politicians. Hasan Parvin, a 23-year-old software engineer, who lives and works from his home in Bethnal Green, told me: “The younger you go the angrier people get. We are angry about foreign policy in the Middle East and about being poor too… Our fathers do not want to fight for our rights. If we speak out we are called extremists.”

Our fathers do not want to fight for our rights. If we speak out we are called extremists.

Why is there more anger amongst the young than the old I asked? Hasan believes growing up in England has made him more confident to speak out. “Lots of older Muslims in this country have a guest worker mentality. Some of them are angry but they are too afraid to speak up. They don’t want to cause trouble,” he said.

given her a different perspective to her parents: “Unlike my mum I went to school here and I have white English friends… Growing up here means I ask myself: why shouldn’t I have the same rights as my friends? I should have the freedom to practice what I believe as a Muslim without being criticised.”

Lots of older Muslims in this country have a guest worker mentality. Some of them are angry but they are too afraid to speak up.

The recent media furore surrounding the niqab is a case in point for her. While Nadia does not wear the niqab some of her friends do. She says: “it is their choice to wear it. And in this country it is their right to do so. My non-Muslim friends do not feel threatened for what they wear. I think Muslim women should also be allowed to wear it without feeling threatened.”

A Channel 4 NOP survey carried out in 2006, shortly after the 7/7 bombings, found that while 82% of Muslims felt they belonged to Britain, only 58% felt comfortable living here – the figure was highest amongst the young. There is both attachment and anger towards Britain amongst Muslims, and the young feel it most acutely. Nadia Ali, whose name I agreed to change, was one of the few young Muslim women living in Bethnal Green who consented to speak to me. She was quick to tell me that her experiences growing up in Britain had

It is interesting that Nadia justifies the niqab using the vocabulary of liberal democracy: “choice”, “rights” and “freedom”. The act of wearing a niqab is not a rejection of Britishness for her, it is the expression of a fundamental liberal British right: to wear what one wants. Both Nadia and Hasan, like many of the young Muslims I spoke to in Bethnal Green, are politically engaged. Nadia is a member of the Labour Party, while Hasan aspires to become a local councillor in the future. Unlike the older Muslims in Bethnal Green that I spoke to, who had few white British friends, both Nadia and Hasan are also more fully integrated, working and socialising with British people of all races and ethnicities. In many ways they are unwitting adherents to Cameron’s vision of a multiethnic Britain.

But they are also angry, and the things that they defend with the liberal democratic value of free expression, like the niqab, are offensive to many. Young Muslims, like Nadia and Hasan, could privatise their religious and ethnic identity, suppress their anger, but instead they are choosing to engage with wider society. They are choosing to be vocal, and they are choosing to reject the inoffensive separatism of their parents. The question is: will anyone listen? l

Unlike my mum I went to school here and I have white English friends... Growing up here means I ask myself: why shouldn’t I have the same rights as my friends?


Bethnal Green Ventures

Written by Daniel O’Mahony

You can have all the technology in the world, but you can’t beat the post-it note. On a rainy Tuesday morning in November, hundreds of these colourful paper squares cover the walls of a large open-plan office near Chancery Lane, playfully pockmarking the whitewashed walls and providing a welcome contrast to the grey misery of the weather outside. Long rectangular tables populated by MacBook Pros fill the wide space, laptops manned by serious looking men and women staring intently at their screens, a row of furrowed brows that silently speak of intense concentration. Even if you hadn’t a clue where you were, you’d know immediately that this is a place where ideas happen. But for all the digital organisers and cloud data-storage, these ideas still find themselves written down by hand and tacked up in scraps on the walls; physical reminders in a digital world. As Lily Ash Sekula tells me, by way of explanation: “Yeah, we’ve definitely got some post-its.” Sekula is showing me around the offices of Bethnal Green Ventures, a seed accelerator program for tech start-ups, in which she is a partner. An unheard-of concept a decade ago, seed accelerators are now major players in the world of start-up investment; you might not, for example, recognise the name Y Combinator, but since 2005 the Silicon Valley based program has presided over and


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Even if you hadn’t a clue where you were, you’d know immediately this is a place where ideas happen. facilitated the growth of Internet success stories such as reddit and Dropbox. Even for those new to the world of start-up investment, the concept is relatively simple. Budding entrepreneurs apply for places on programs at regular times throughout the year, with those successful receiving investment money to work with and a period of full-time mentoring and support (usually three months); in return, the program gets a fixed equity stake in the new company. With BGV, it’s a £15,000 stake for 6% equity. Sekula readily admits that BGV mimics the Y Combinator model - but there’s a fundamental aspect of the program that sets it apart. Rather than simply hoping to chance upon the next Twitter (and ride the wave of a multi-million dollar IPO), the program’s biggest prerequisite is that applicants ideas

must tackle a social or environmental problem through technological innovation - like the post-it notes adorning the walls, they’re trying to leave a tangible mark. BGV’s website puts this criterion in no uncertain terms; they’re after “people who want to change the world using technology.” BGV began life in 2010, at the Young Foundation building in Bethnal Green, named after prominent 20th century social reformer Michael Young. Starting off “more like an

after work club,” according to Sekula, the program managed to secure funding last year from a number of sources, including Nesta, an independent charity that promotes innovation for social gain, and Nominet, a funder of “tech for good.” After spells back at the Young Foundation and the Google Campus in Shoreditch, in January BGV moved into their current space at the Nesta offices in Chancery Lane. While it’s possible to imagine operations such as Y Combinator in quite clinical terms - incubating batches of start-ups at a time, hoping that one or two will hatch big – everything about the BGV program seems to be underpinned by that ultimate goal; making the world a better place through tech. Previous examples of BGV investments include companies like Dr Doctor, an appointment scheduling app for NHS patients that’s already in use at University College London Hospitals; and GoodGym, an app that gets users to harness energy used during exercise to carry out helpful tasks in the community, such as running over to visit an elderly person living alone, instead of burning up the treadmill. Perhaps BGV’s biggest success story to date is Fairphone – “a seriously cool smartphone that puts social values first,” according to the company’s website. From the materials used to working conditions during production, every aspect of the Fairphone aims to be as ethical and responsible as possible. The idea has obviously struck a chord with some; as of early November, over 20,000 units had been purchased through the company’s website, amounting to around 5

million euro in sales. “Working at BGV was delightfully useful,” Miquel Ballester, head of Fairphone’s Product Strategy, told me via email, adding that it was “a great space with a whole bunch of other entrepreneurs that are there to change the world.” According to Lily Sekula it’s a good time to be doing this kind of public-spirited innovation in the UK, as there tend to be stronger investors interested in social returns on this side of the Atlantic.

Bethnal Green Ventures are making a real difference to socially minded entrepreneurs. The program currently boasts a success rate of around 50%, referring to groups that are still involved and working on their product after the program’s end. A half and half split sounds underwhelming, until you consider the unpredictable nature of startup businesses, and the type of ideas being developed - i.e. socially-led products, as opposed to obvious money-makers. Not every start-up takes off from the ground, and there are surely great ideas that have never seen the light of day; with BGV, Sekula says the aim is to provide “the first thing that people need to turn it [their idea] into a business.” In September, the cohort of summer 2013 held their demo day: a chance to pitch their ideas they’d been working on for the previous three months to an audience of

potential investors. One of the companies pitching that day was Fluency; a “learning platform and skills marketplace getting young people into work.” I chatted with Fluency founder and CEO Sinead Mac Manus on my visit to the BGV offices (although the program culminates with demo day, teams are given a further three months of office space to continue developing their product, just without additional funding from BGV.) With selfassured and rapid speech she told me about Fluency, and detailed the innovative ways in which it planned to match up technologically ‘fluent’ young people with employers. When asked about the program, she cited the investment as the most crucial help that the BGV program provides: “for a lot of other start-ups it’s hard to get traction and attention, because there’s so many people out there trying to launch something.” I asked whether Fluency had managed to secure additional funding since finishing the BGV program; for the first time in our conversation, Mac Manus lowered her voice - they hadn’t yet, she admitted. But then, almost immediately, she was back up. She might be into her savings at this point, she told me cheerfully, but that comes with the territory. It’s never easy starting your own company, especially when you have lofty ambitions of changing the world. Bethnal Green Ventures are making a real difference to socially minded entrepreneurs seeking to turn innovative tech solutions for problems into reality – and into viable businesses. l


Self Publishing:

A Love Story Bridging The Gap or Rending The Rift Written by Kingsley Reuben

As part of my adventure looking into the world of art and self-publishing I got to meet some very peculiar individuals; a swearing chef with a taste for art, a break dancing fox, a secret society I happen to stumble across which turned out to be a humble writers group, a class of super eager creative writing third year university students, an evil ‘Artificial Intelligence’ which builds websites, an Avengers type group of writers working on a seasonal magazine, New Amazon-a multitude of probably 8 million fan girls and I embark upon a challenging league of writers scribbling to the death… In this chapter I revisit at 6 months of actively using self-publishing implements in order to describe just how good, bad, or plain interesting they were to me and will be to you should you chose to use them. I also lugged around a writers manual with names of agents and publishers in hope of sending a piece of work off. I never got round to it, all this elf-publishing was supremely intriguing and when done very well, exceptional… Once upon a time, I wanted to write a book. Little did I know I hungered for a jewel many have sought to attain and did not obtain, blood sweat and tears in vain. Yet after an unexpected journey I arrived at a treasure trove full of sites and services that fulfilled my heart’s desire, kept me believing and working and not tire. Read on reader, a romantic tale awaits of the publishing world, the authors in them and their fates.,, Lulu. com,, and On the surface they sound like 8 bit computer gaming sites and at least one of them sounds like a rain forest but on closer inspection they are prime examples of the websites that are springing up from the fertile ground of the internet to change the face of the publishing world as we know it for better or for worse. We all know who authors are, they write, novels, plays, they playwright for theatre and almost all of them compose poetry (even I do) but how oh how do they get on the publishing ladder on the first place to present their works of art to the general public in every WHSmith, Foyle’s and Waterstone’s that blesses the high street with their presence?


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Once you’ve written your book or literary work of art it’s more than important it’s practically mandatory that you acquire an agent. Without an agent you aren’t going anywhere. These are the guys and gals who will be pitching the idea of your book to every Tom, Dick and Harry in publishing. Unsolicited pieces of work just don’t get a look in. Editors won’t look at your work without an agent. So how do you go about getting an agent? You have to write a letter pitching yourself and your work in what shouldn’t be more than two pages and there are various

Once you’ve written your book or literary work of art it’s more than important it’s practically mandatory that you acquire an agent. guidelines that an aspiring published author must stick to in order to even be taken seriously. Think UCAS for writers. It’s a personal statement of sorts with a sales twist for good measure. One thing these agents don’t want to hear is ‘It’s going to be the next Harry Potter’ along with a whole laundry list of offensive abominations that can switch them right off and trash your pitch into their shedder. Covering that list will take too long but what won’t is telling you what many aspiring authors turned fully fledged authors have decided to do in the face of the

saturated market and the deflating reality of probably becoming famous when your dead. They’ve discovered the internet. In what feel like some sort of Capitalist dues ex machina, these self-publishing options have rescued these ailing authors-to-be and got them onto the ladder…for a fee of course. Self Publishing sites are many and growing. Why? Because it’s good economics. People will never stop wanting to become authors and let’s face it Fifty Shades Of Grey was no piece de resistance of modern literary works but its getting its own film. Self Publishing sites such as for a measly fee of £400 minimum will publish your works via a print on demand service. Not only that, your work is put into the library of congress in America, and is featured on online vendors, such as Amazon, Banes and Noble, Kindle, Google books and so on. If publish your work, you have full control of designing the cover if you wish as well as the size of the book even down to the quality of paper and whether you want it in hard back or not. With the laws of supply and demand working here I don’t see a downside unless were talking about quality of books being published in which case you’d have a point. They aren’t all great books being published. Then again not everyone is trying to be a Shakespeare, some people just want to see their idea and hold it in their hands-with self publishing they finally can. However, this is only the story of print on demand versus traditional publishing. We have a chapter yet to speak of- the giants of the internet that are taking the publishing underground by storm and are making a ‘killing’ if you will. The plot thickens.

A prime example of people harnessing the machineries that be, to create a work of art without a traditional publisher.

It was an irritating day on Linkedin and I questioned its usefulness until I stumbled across a remark someone left about book publishing. was the website that I had discovered that night. A humongous world of publishing is taking place online like some parallel universe, ever present but seemingly undiscovered until now. Smashwords is like a Tesco self-service, if you know what you’re buying you can check in and check out in a matter of minutes. Your Microsoft document can be converted into nine different eBook formats that will satisfy your phone, kindle, tablet or computer. What’s more is they make your book available to online vendors such as amazon, Waterstones, Whsmith, etc, and you even get to upload your own book cover. There’s never been a more DIY publishing service. For a more rigorous approach but without the publishing options that allow Smashwords to sell their books or give them away for free, is basically the premier league for budding authors. You submit your story, wait 6 weeks for a panel to deny or accept you into the little leagues of ‘aspiring author’. Once in this category (if you’re successful of course) you have to rake up the approval of five different ‘Juke Pop authors’ and get their stamp of approval via ‘endorsement’ (think Linked In endorse button but with higher stakes). Once you’ve achieved these five endorsements you are promoted to juke Pop Author. You even get a sticker to prove it, no lie. This sticker can be put on your website or blog as a testament to your clout a fully-fledged warrior o the pen. That’s not all though, the real challenge begins when you are in the league. Every chapter you write gets votes from readers. These votes determine your position in a league of thousands.

The top thirty get cash rewards along with a following that can be wielded to sell books on other sites like, Smashwords or if they have their book published on a demand service. Amazon have a similar DIY grotto running and they have a stamp of approval from Penguin who have taken the initiative and began buying self-publishing upstarts left right and centre. If self-publishing does take over the world of traditional publishing, it’ll most likely have a penguin behind it. A vivid example of this success is the book ‘A Faithful Look At Bethnal Green’. The book is an ode to the area of Bethnal Green showing off all its beauty and diversity. Blurb much like is a self-publishing engine but is even more suited to photographers looking to compile their pictures into an anthology of visual bliss. The book explores the area, its art hubs and its people in a range of multifaceted snippets with pictures to put a face to a statement. The whole book is a serenade to the area proving truth in the words ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. One would never know it was a self-published work of art, and it loses no clout because it is. Natalie Clarke is the author of the whole book on and is a prime example of people harnessing the machineries that be, to create a work of art without a traditional publisher. Natalie and her team have a whole series of books which are available online. This poetic acclamation of Bethnal Green is a testament to selfpublishing, a clear sign that it is bridging the gap between works of art and the people who adore them rather than rending the rift ever wider. l


Abdou Oscar Cisse, ‘ The Woodland ’ jewellery collection.


Winter Edition 2013

The Creator of

The Woodland Written by Amrit Matharu

Every story a beginning – Abdou tells us about his Bethnal Green brainwave… The models for The Woodland collection were hand selected by the designer himself in a way that stays true to the jewellery’s foundation. The models are in fact street models; passers-by and locals who were spotted during Cisse’s considerable time in Bethnal Green, who were chosen to demonstrate the versatility of the jewellery and establish the real heart of its message.

Abdou Oscar Cisse introduces his new innovative jewellery collection, The Woodland. After finding that the twentysomething-year-old did not enjoy his architecture course at university, Cisse set out his new ventures. Deciding not to throw away his three hard working years of university, Cisse finished his degree in architecture at De Montfort University, Leicester. The idea to start up a jewellery collection arose from the great amount of unused material he found himself lumbered with at the end. Cisse used his creativity and imagination to put the scrap pieces to use. Thus The Woodland was created.

Growing up in London, Cisse is able to express the city’s diversity in his jewellery collection through the mixture of jewellery available and the many ways it can be worn. The collection is available for both men and women of all ages. Cisse sought advice from his girlfriend who helped cultivate the female designs, and took pride in providing what women like to wear and what they look for in a statement piece of jewellery. The Woodland collection is renowned for its signature primitive carvings and triangular shapes. The inventive new collection is available to buy from ASOS Marketplace and through the official website, l

Coming from a creative background, Cisse used the inspiration from his parents’ handmade drawings and pottery to come up with the signature Aztec design to his collection. The bespoke jewellery is made from wood hence the iconic name, The Woodland. However while the name most obviously reflects the material of the products, the collection’s title has a deeper and personal meaning to its creator. In particular Bethnal Green, where The Woodland was manufactured. The clash of metal chains and limited palette replicates the urban lifestyle of the city, whereas the name provides the suburban background to some of London’s greater locations, such as Cisse’s hometown in Sydenham – Known for its woodland scenery which contrasts to Bethnal Green.


G. Kelly Pie Shop Written by Tiziana Oliano

people old and young from all walks of life digging into pies.” Currently the menu offers Pies hand-made in the traditional way: Traditional with fresh British beef, Vegetarian with soya mince and onion filling, Chicken and Mushrooms, Fruit Pies and Fruits Crumbles. Other items include Mashed Potatoes, Parsley Sauce and Kelly for Jelly! for quality jellied eels. For a taste of the Kelly flavors, you can head down to the shop on 414 Bethnal Green Road or at the one on 526 Roman Road or, for a out-in-the-open occasion, to the Roman Road Market, one of London’s oldest street markets, where the shop sells their foods on Tuesday (9.00-16.00), Thursday (9.00-16.00) or Saturday (9.00-17.30). The feeling you get when walking inside, being greeted by a warm, “Good morning, dear”, is that the place hasn’t changed over the years and you can still breath in the same athmosphere that was around when it first opened. Often enough people decide to stop for a bite because this shop stands out among the modern restaurants and fast foods. William, who just recently discovered the place, says that he feels like he’s “in a 1930s reenactment without the acting.”” The décor of the shop is made of iron tables and portraits of local boxing heroes and the familiarity that has made customers come back for as long as fifty years. Some of them have been so loyal that they were around when the shop first opened with eels being sold alive in the streets, and are still there today to keep tasting the same genuine food they loved when younger. Michelle agrees that “it’s definitely worth checking out if just to see a bit of the old East End alive and snarling.”

It’s definitely worth checking out if just to see a bit of the old East End alive and snarling. The G. Kelly Pie Shop at 526 Roman Road has been owned for the last 23 years by Sue Venning, niece of the original Kelly who opened it in 1937. The first pie shop ever established by the Kelly family was founded in Bethnal Green in 1915 by Samuel R. Kelly who up until that


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point had been working as a tram driver. After getting injured on the job, he decided to invest part of his compensation money to open a business and he’s decision fell upon a pie and eel shop. He opened the first Kelly shop in Bethnal Green Road and run it with his wife, Matilda bringing up their kids in that same environment. It wasn’t unexpected when later on all their sons decided to open their own branches of the Kelly’s Pie Shop in Bonner Street (opened by Joe Kelly) and in Roman Road (opened by George Jr. Kelly). Later on, George, with his wife by his side, opened Pie and Eel shops in Bethnal Green Road, Broadway Market and Roman Road Market. The G. Kelly shop is part of the history of Bethan Green. During the years of the Second World War, Bill Kingdon, George’s wife’s brother, managed to get the Ministry of Food to keep providing them the shop with a quote of meat so that they could still stay in business, in this way the shop became a place where East Enders could go to eat pie, mash and have a hot meal after spending the nights in the shelters. After the war Bill purchased George’s shop and, after his death, his wife, alongside his daughter, kept running it; it’s the latter, Susan, the one still in charge of the Roman Road shop today. Nowadays, the one in Bethnal Green Road is run by Mark Kelly, and it’s in this one that the customers return to even years after having left the city. Many of the patrons are those who had once lived in the East End and stop by whenever they’re back just so they can have a taste of their past and childhoods. Tilly, one of the customers in line, says that she is “been coming to the shop since forever! This is my childhood!” while Jenny adds that the G. Kelly is one of her favourite shops because “there are

There are people old and young from all walks of life digging into pies.

The Streets Markets Along with the Roman Road Market, the East End offers a variety of food markets where you can find everything from the local food to the specialties from every corner of the world. Opened in 1890, the Broadway Market is one of the oldest markets in London which has been recently revived after several years of decay. It sells local farmer products along artist’s works and it thrives with shops, restaurants and galleries. You can shop for top-quality food at prices better than the supermarkets’. You can visit it on a Saturday where almost 100 stalls will welcome you from 9.00 to 17.00 or visit them at The Brick Lane Sunday Market is made of a lively miscellaneous of art, clothing and “foods of the world”. Here you can find everything from Maroccan’s couscous and cosine, to Thai, Spanish, Indian and

Turkish supplies. The Sundays are animated by street-art performances that will keep you company while you shop for foods or electronic bargains. You can find Jewish Bagel shops and Bangladeshi curry houses. The market runs every Sunday from 8.00 to 15.00. If you’re looking for a place where to buy vintage clothes and second-hand knickknacks, then the best place to go to is the Bethnal Green Road Market, opened on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday or to the Roman Road Market that offers good deals on fashion clothes, accessories and food along free parking and a variety of restaurants and cafes. l


oxford house Bethnal Green

Written and photographed by Zoe Michelle Archive from Tower Hamlets Library

When entering the small East London district of Bethnal Green, you are immediately surrounded by a sense of diverse culture. On first impression, it is filled with high-rise buildings leftover from centuries before and small family run shops and cafes. Not near enough Shoreditch to be a ‘trendy’ borough, but regardless, full of history and a real sense of community. Tucked away amongst the midst of the market on Bethnal Green Road, only if you are in the know would you have seen Oxford House Gallery, unless you’ve stumbled across it lost on the way back to the station (it happens to the best of us). Although quite a shame this intimidatingly large building is out of the way, once you do find it, you could then spend a while getting lost inside it too. Oxford House is a beautiful building, which almost looks like an oversized church from the outside. It was founded in 1884, and was used for a wide variety of activities; namely council clubs, local organisations and a community center. They do everything from 60’s and over zumba (work it) to karate lessons for toddlers (aww). Oh! has always been about bringing local people together and gaining a real sense of community throughout their activities.


Winter Edition 2013

The gallery hosts meetings for organizations such as Somewhereto_ who sometimes feature on Channel 4. Somewhereto_ are a helpful organisation that enable young people to find a place to do something they are passionate about; be it free running, performing arts or hosting their own exhibition. Another room available for hire, is the beautifully landscaped english style cathedral on the top floor, this venue is often rented out for things like model castings, used by A1 models, and this summer was used for musician Labrynth’s album promo photoshoot. The Director from 1981, David Clarke is said to have held the opinion that “there will always be a need for places which bring together a mix of people and activities because of their creativity.” Yes, well said David. This nature has been extended all the way to 2013 and has always been OH!’s main point of interest. This sense of community should be encouraged in all areas of London, and seems quite rare, especially in areas such as South London where community is almost a myth instead of a daily occurance.

There will always be a need for places which bring together a mix of people and activities. because of their creativity. Having the locals come and visit for different reasons gives Oxford House somewhat of a ‘town hall’ vibe, even at 8pm you can witness anyone from a family of four to a group of performing arts graduates exit the doors of OH!. In recent years, OH! has been particuarly focused on including volunteers and work experience students (we all know we should intern more, right?). Oh! focuses this mainly on fellow young people, by encouraging locals to help out in the gallery and subsequently try different roles they could possibly be interested in persusing in the future.

What’s coming up ? Put 2 and 2 together

4 December 2013 – 10 January 2014

Description Taking 2 artists and 2 local primary schools with children from 2 different year groups, we present a collaborative exhibition of art that is rarely seen outside of schools. In the groovy, hip hop and happening East End, we reveal the ingenuity, tenacity and freshness of children’s sharp-eyed creativity. Waiting Game 20 January 2014 – 31 January 2014 Description A new promenade, site-responsive performance for teenage audiences, inspired by the real-life experiences of London’s young asylum seekers. For school/group bookings: / 02077491123 Individual tickets (£8/£10)

Photograph by Zoe Michelle

Underground Art Sat, 1 February 2014, 11:00 – Fri, 28 February 2014, 12:00 Description Ross Ashmore has spent the last three years painting all of the 267 London Underground stations which he finished in June 2013 to coincide with the Anniversary of the London Underground. The paintings are created in an expressionistic style using heavy impasto oil paint on canvas. Ross is keen to display his work to the general public, as he believes that in the fast changing world in which we live, the public should have the opportunity to see a collection of work that documents the wonderful city in which we all share before it changes without realising.

These roles can include things like experiencing the duties of a CEO to assisting theatre productions in local productions. Taking part in volunteering doesn’t always have to be all work and no play, as you get to meet people of your age group, build your confidence and potientially invest in your career. Bazinga. So in conclusion, Oxford House is important to an area like Bethnal Green, as it brings everyone together - engaging them in not only visiting exhibitions, art pieces, but to also things totally random too like uh...ballet and chess classes, and lifes about trying new things so even if it’s not for you, check out the quirky cafe for homemade lasagne and ‘gourmet’ hot dogs. Places such as Oxford House play a vital part in bringing the community together and though that may not be entirely life changing, it’s quite nice all the same! l Photograph from Oxford House website


The (forgotten) Hours of an Other London Written by Nikolay Nikolov

Remember that mesmerizing book by Virginia Woolf Mrs Dalloway? “Mrs. Dalloway said she’d buy the flowers herself”, it starts, and slowly lures the curious reader into the consciousness of London’s early 1920s. If you one day decide to get a step closer to the microcosm of that English society described in the book, you may decide to retrace the steps of the various characters within, with their consciousness so gently and lightly mapped by the intrusive London cityscape. But the image that we get via the political ethnography of the city, and through it, the reflexivity of the individual characters’ self-consciousness, is a very specific one, marked by a direct binary relationship between establishment and anti-establishment; between normal and abnormal, between sane and insane. We connect with Clarissa Dalloway’s petty bourgeois hyper-sensitivity and sense of self-loathing and we juxtapose it to the authoritarian psychiatric discipline and its relationship with the shellshocked Septimus Warren Smith. It’s a fascinating critique of British culture and identity. But it’s limited and exclusive.

left and right into the small alleyways, I was immediately reminded of another world. Only one-hundred-and-thirty years ago, these alleyways and tiny capillaries off the broad Bethnal Green Road were home to one of the largest influx of immigrants (mainly Russian-Jews) and formed London’s poorest slum. In fact, just a few streets down, where the London Fruit and Wool Exchange Building now stands, is where Dorset Street, the most notorious of London streets, once was. In a Daily Mail article of 1901, Dorset Street was described thus:

Let me present you here with an alternative identity of London, lost in the fog of the dominant narratives at the time. It’s a wellknown fact that for many writers, forming a narrative about a space and place tends to have a very direct political dimension; or in the words of author John Freeman “it is about making visible a history, a sensibility, which history has repressed or occluded”. It’s about providing a language, archaeology of a world and a subjective existence that has remained silent.

This forgotten street, this forgotten world of street walking, poverty, smallpox outbreaks, and death, is but a thirty minute walk from the route of the characters within the novel of Mrs. Dalloway; furthermore, no more than 15 years separates the lives of the subjects at hand. What is fascinating is that, in many ways, nothing has changed from the world of Mrs. Dalloway in 1924: Big Ben is still here to remind us of our mortality, our past, and the institutions its chimes represent (or whatever interpretation one may chose to defend with regards to Virginia Woolf’s utilization of the Centre of London architecture). We still associate with the common existential crises of the middle-

Here we have a place which boasts of an attempt at murder on an average once a month, of a murder in every house, and one house at least, a murder in every room. Policemen go down it as rule in pairs. Hunger walks prowling in its alleyways, and the criminals of tomorrow are being bred there to-day…

A history of chaos, unreason, lack of hygiene, population control, surveillance, and surplus.

So I decided to recreate my own little reflexive map of London, turning my gaze east of Mrs. Dalloway’s sentiments. I started at Bethnal Green Road. Looking


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right? Well, apparently not exactly. To quote Ronnie Kray’s recollection of this in his autobiographical My Story: They were the best years of our lives. They called them the swinging sixties. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were rulers of pop music, Carnaby Street ruled the fashion world... and me and my brother ruled London. We were fucking untouchable...

to upper-middle class identity, such as relating to a sense of meaning, belonging, sexuality, etc. Where we are is where we have always been. But step outside that invisible worldly barrier and you enter a world of the unknown, living and existing in parallel to the history we most often choose to acknowledge. A history of chaos, unreason, lack of hygiene, population control, surveillance, and surplus. A history buried right there, underneath the Fruit and Wool Exchange Building. We all know of the Jack the Ripper mythology, and just across the street from the invisible Dorset street, I see the famous ‘Ten Bells’ pub, formerly known as ‘Jack the Ripper’ pub. The name was altered after it was agreed that it is indecent that a public house should be named after a murderer. But it is more than that – changing the name is a form of silencing the reality and locality of an entire historical narrative. Jack and its surrounding ripperology are mythical to us today, despite the fact that they were but a direct reflection of the social conditions of a London than we never knew. London at the turn of the century – a battle between madness and reason – between order and chaos, modernity and antiquity. The final push of the industrial revolution via urban redevelopment. I decided not to enter the ‘Ten Bells’ as I was lured further east down Whitechapel Road, eventually nearing our imaginary boundaries of Bethnal Green. As I write this, I am sitting in the nowfamous ‘Blind Beggar’ Pub, an architecture illusory of the common tale of progressive continuity through the ages, as well as the hidden interruptions and discontinuities of the given linearity. Based on the famous ballad of the same name, “My father,” she said, “is soone to be seene, The seely blind beggar of Bednall Greene That daylye sits

begging for charitee; He is the good father of pretty Bessee,” which tells the story of a man who lost his sight in the Battle of Eversham in 1265, and which was revived by Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, published in 1765, the pub gained particular notoriety and popularity two-hundred years later. The pub, in effect, marks another fascinating moment in the history of Bethnal Green. In 1966, that Kray twins gangster infused decade, Ronnie Kray shot and killed George Kornell in the pub. The twins were so vicious that despite the numerous witnesses, no one seemed willing to testify. That pub and that year, 1966, mark the year of the untouchables. It’s the symbolic symbiosis of the lawlessness from the turn of the century with the lure and zest of modern capitalism and business. Today, it’s just another landmark, a renovated pub with a good selection of lagers and ales. People go there not to remind themselves of the Kray twins’ existence, but to dissociate with such times. Their identity and reality is a Hollywood myth to us. Whereas it’s Mrs. Dalloway’s reflexive inescapably upper-class London that most often resembles the mood and atmosphere of post-World War I Britain, I think it is safe to say that it’s The Beatles and The Rolling Stones that absolutely usurp the post-World War II culture and give a much needed voice and platform of expression for the large postwar intergenerational identity gap. For me, London in the 1960s – is a young Mick Jagger rocking out to Muddy Waters covers in a stuffy East London(ish) make-it-yourself bar. No-one really imagines a Frank Sinatra meets The Godfather scenario of men in long black three-piece suits gathering on the West End jazz scene to talk the talk with other renowned gansters. No – it’s drugs, sex, and rock and roll,

We ruled London… But which London? Who rules London now? We ruled London… But which London? Who rules London now? As a flâneur attempting to walk the streets back in time, I am constantly reminded of the deep and repressive divide between the temporal and the spatial. What I mean is that time disconnects space from its past functions and imposes a dominant identity on it. For e.g. today Bethnal Green’s contemporaneity is: student life, eccentric and fashionable young and semi-young people, and of course, ethnic diversity. Participating in the city-scape around me and attempting the remember every face that passes me by, I cannot help but notice, that, in essence, the streets, shops, buildings are overwhelmingly reflexive of those faces – they are microcosms of the current dominating identities. Yet, we still remember The Rolling Stones, they will always be in fashion. Somewhere along the way, however, we forgot our top-hats and Cuban cigars and left the years of Swinging London to the historians. And within this discontinuity, within the urban fabric, one can immediate sense those discourse that have been subsequently silenced. And so, dear readers, I hope these few lines have taken your imagination East of Mrs Dalloway’s so self-loathing decision to buy flowers and back from ‘Sympathy of the Devil’. I have attempted to illuminate a humble archaeology of a fascinating lineage of Bethnal Green’s Other history. It’s a world from which we are forever disconnected and a world buried right there under the Fruit and Wool Exchange Building. But as I prepare to (finally) exit the ‘Blind Beggar’, the irony of the metaphor suddenly hits me as I am lured back down the path of history which no longer seen. From Jack the Ripper to the Kray Twins and back to the Ballad, I offer you a tale of the forgotten hours of a Bethnal Green. l


Singh Street Style Written by Amrit Matharu

22-YEAR-OLD Pardeep Singh Bahra, from Dagenham shows us all that a turbanned Sikh man is as fashionable as the next. Founder of the Singh Street Style blog and photographer, Bahra has been featured by India’s edition of world famous fashion magazine, Vogue and national UK newspaper, The Guardian. Having taken the world by storm, Singh Street Style certainly puts the turban on the map in the eyes of the fashion world. Designers such as Chanel’s Karl Largerfield have caught on to this chic culture trend, with Baptiste Giabiconi featuring a white turban embellished with a diamond brooch worn in 2012. However the turban, also known as a Dastar or Pagh in Punjabi – the language of its origin, represents more than a fashion statement. The turban is a symbol of the Sikh faith. During the contemporary age of Sikhism, the turban was worn as a form of representation for the Khalsa identity (baptised Sikhs). Today turbans are an important part of the Sikh faith that is recognised as a uniform serving as a reminder to Sikhs to fight tyranny and stand up for justice no matter what their race or religion. Bahra explains that the Singh Street Style blog captures Sikh males in their suave attire to show that “we Sikh people can be just as fashionable as anyone else”.


Winter Edition 2013

“I want people from every different culture and background to look at the photographs and think ‘WOW your style is as inspirational as it would be for anyone in the fashion industry!’” The blog began as a personal platform for Bahra to post his own stylish looks which grew rapidly as posts introducing close friends were also featured. Attention from people all over the world grew online as fans began sending Bahra their own looks. Outfits that grabbed Bahra’s attention were considered for the blog and thus Singh Street Style was born. Upon asking Bahra “who are you particularly proud to say you have photographed?” the Westminster English Literature graduate replied, “Fauja Singh”. Fauja Singh, 102-year-old world record marathon runner, retired earlier this year having run several worldwide marathons in his lifetime. “The thing about him [Fauja Singh] is that he’s not only important in the Sikh Community but he’s also important in the sports industry. Not only do people within the Sikh community respect him, but people like David Beckham, Michael Jordan and all the legendary sportsmen respect Fauja Singh as a global icon.”

Singh Street Style has over 10, 000 followers on Instagram alone. Bahra’s attempt to see the turban recognised within the fashion world has been acknowledged all over the world. Recently Waris Ahluwalia was chosen to be the face of designer clothing label, GAP’s “Make Love” campaign on New York billboards, and the company’s official Facebook and Twitter profiles, in quick response to racist graffiti against the Sikh model replacing “Make Love” with “Make bombs”. Bahra comments Singh Street Style is an attempt to change the racist assumption that an Asian man with a beard is a terrorist. Earlier this year in June 2013, two thousand people took part in a spiritual procession to mark the reopening of Harley Grove Bow’s Sikh Sangat Gurdwara. A horrific arson attack destroyed 75% of the temple including several sacred Sikh books. The congregation walked through London’s Mile End, Stepney Green and Bethnal Green to celebrate the restoration of their holy place of worship. l

We Sikh people can be just as fashionable as anyone else.

The Iron Lady Rests Her Fist… Written by Lea Fessahaye

The Iron Lady. The name itself sounds so powerful and demanding, carrying its own gravitas virtually nothing coming in its way. A fearless female taking the bull by the horns. As was famously said ‘if you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman’. Margaret Thatcher was just like marmite you either loved her and her money-making mind or hated her, perceiving her to implement a draconian philosophy that was based on selfishness.

It sounds rather radical especially as Thatcher was firm with shutting down the trade unions. - including that of the coal miners who loved their jobs and believed their industry preserved communities. David Hopper general secretary of Durham Miners Association stated”… Our children have got no jobs and the community is full of problems. There’s no work and no money and it’s very sad the legacy she has left behind…’

Her divisiveness was apparent in working class Bethnal Green. During a 1964 political speech in the area one woman challenged her, saying “You and others who think we are still living in an affluent society should come with me around some places in Bethnal Green.” And after Thatcher’s resignation a message was scribbled on the walls of the Bethnal Green Tube station, reading `Mrs. Thatcher has resigned from no. 10. Thank God!.´ Although it has been a few months since her passing, it is still interesting to look at the legacy Thatcher has left behind, not only in Bethnal Green but in the rest of the country.

This is proof the emotional scars and hate still exist as strong as ever. Evidence of this could be seen after the news of her death. Brixton residents had a street party and the website “Is Thatcher Dead Yet” portrayed a big black bold YES and stated this lady’s not returning.

When Lady Thatcher came to power a new concept was orchestrated, known as the New Right or Thatcherism. Lady Thatcher adopted neo-liberalism and neoconservatism i.e. a liberal approach to the free market and capitalist economy and a conservative approach towards morality, maintenance of law and order and society in general. The approach was largely obtained from the US and involved deregulation with privatisation of industries such as gas, telecommunications and electricity generation etc. There was disengagement and an abolishment of a perceived dependency culture as failing companies would not receive state help seeing they could not compete in the world markets.

Without society and community all hope is lost and all life’s goodness will slowly fade away like a kite lost amongst the clouds… But it springs to mind that Lady Thatcher was a human being and not a emotionless machine as her nickname suggests…She was like any other person and as author Michael Foley suggested ‘addressed the public with charisma’ and considered herself ‘one of us’. Overcoming political obstacles such as the 1984-1985 miners’ strike, the Brixton riots 1981 and taking the prominent role of commander-in-chief sending a military task to reclaim the Falkland Island. Surviving the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton at the 1984 Conservative party conference where she and her husband Denis Thatcher were almost killed. Instead of letting this trouble bring her down she boldly stated ‘this lady’s not for turning’. In the film: The Iron Lady, a film inspired by Thatcher’s life story, you see Margaret Thatcher’s eyes gleam with hope like a light house listening to her father’s speech ‘what is the life blood of any community? Its business. We on this island are strong and self-reliant. We also believe in helping each other and not by state hand-outs. Never run with the crowd Margaret. Go your own way…’ The scene explains Thatcher’s famous speech where she stated there’s no such thing as society, only individuals and families. This was meant to help

people become independent and proud of themselves. Thatcher probably felt the strategy had worked on her as she believed in herself enough to become the first female prime minister making a prestigious mark in history taking an impressive presidential strategy in her three terms… You can admire her for that, but on the other hand it should be stressed that the prime minister, whom everyone looks to for inspiration and help in creating a secure community cohesion, should never make an announcement convincing the British public there is no such thing as society. I feel that without society and community all hope is lost and all life’s goodness will slowly fade away like a kite lost amongst the clouds… Is there any point in living if you cannot help others and see them smile? Her no society speech contradicts her first speech at Downing Street referencing the ‘Prayer of Saint Francis’ on being elected ‘Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope. ‘ One thing is certain Margaret Thatcher still remains a controversial figure even after her death and it is not precise what her legacy is. What remains definite is that she introduced her own ‘-ism’ and encouraged business in the UK. Some people say she brought together the nation encouraging growth while others say she divided the nation even further. Although she always denied being a feminist, what is certain is that she has encouraged many women to prosper with ‘girl power’ and will remain in the heart of the House of Commons and British Politics. Even Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who was against her policies, but stated about her‘’ She drew the lines on a political map that we here are still navigating today.’ This shows that no matter what party you’re from or support she did have some sort of effect in your ideology and in society in general. l -R.I.P Baroness Thatcher


Ask the Team

What is your new years resolution?

Clare Timmington



Magazine Co-ordinator


Designer & Writer

To continue to travel and explore new places around the world, and to do all that while saving for my own house!

Eat less cake... or more, can’t decide.

To maintain my exercise plan into the new year. Also to try new things such as cooking and photography.

Chenyun Zhang

Jay Juggapah





1. find a good job 2. enjoy life more 3. give more, ask less 4. strike balance in every aspect.

Stick with becoming a graphic designer and don’t give up!

To remember to focus on positive energy for a healthy mind, body and soul, even in the darkest of times. amarettosworld.


Tiziana Oliano

lydia scheuermann



Designer, Writer

To get a job and take more photos.

My resolution is to take more chances and stop dwelling on the past.

Live your life, how it comes to you.

Daniel O’Mahony

Shijia yu

Zoe Michelle



Photographer & Writer

To really get my head around Pinterest….

Try to always keep hopes alive, forgive more but remember the choices of saying No,

Stop over thinking and dwelling on unimportant things, travel more and do more for others,


Winter Edition 2013

Get Involved!

Are you aged 16-25? Got something you’d love to tell people about? Why not write for our magazine? We’d love to hear from you!Send a covering letter and 200-300 word example of your writing to Amber at For more information go to

Kingsley Reuben


David Ruddock



My resolution is T o work hard, pray harder and love hardest.

MY news years resolution is to borrow my mums address book and start sending everyone birthday cards. zero.html

Nikolay Nikolov

Misa Mesarovic

Jessamyn Witthaus


Next year I want to become less nocturnal as I’m missing too much daylight and time with people who run on a more normal schedule.

Nick Krause




To dedicate time to take a road trip across the US and retrace the steps of the Beat Generation.

Drink an Aussie, a Polishman and an Irishman under the table in one sitting. And then send my liver on holiday.

Improve on and produce more articles for blogs and magazines!



Amina Ali

Rahul Rose

Miriam Ostermann



To continue to explore new places in the world, grow, and enjoy life.

To read more widely, and keep up to date with current affairs.

To stop watching bad American television shows.


miriamostermann.wix. com/miriamostermann

Acknowledgements Gabriela Villafradez


Alex Courtenay Brown


Tammy Ryder


Gwen Tugushi


Lea Fessahaye



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