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Aldgate Square Festival logo

​Aldgate Festival logo

In 2015 London Metropolitan Archives joined the project steering group committee for the Aldgate Square development activities in connection with the building of a new City of London Square in Aldgate. This new area creates a pedestrianised meeting place for the community and links rather than divides the main estates in the area. The project has focused on engaging with residents in the two social housing estates in the Portsoken and Aldgate wards of the city. It also aspired to bring them together with their bordering outer-city neighbours in Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets, Petticoat Lane, Spitalfields, Brick Lane and the inner-city workers of Lime Street. At the heart of this community project are immigrants and the migrant history of London’s East End. Maureen Roberts tells more about this exciting project and looks forward to the Aldgate Square Festival which is celebrating the launch of the new square 15-17 June 2018.

The activities which were developed to bring together and engage the communities include a public exhibition of historical photographs, titled Aldgate in Camera. Over seventy historical images were sourced from LMA, the Bishopsgate Institute, Guildhall Library, Tower Hamlets Archives, organisations, businesses and individuals. The images were selected by popular vote following an exhibition preview at the Artizan Street Library.

While the exhibitions were being developed and created, walks of the area were also advertised and workshops were held for the Exhibitions in a Suitcase Heritage Project.  A display of suitcases created through numerous workshops by residents of the City in these areas were displayed at LMA in 2017 in the Spring Arts Festival, called Word on the Street: Migration – Let’s Talk About It! (There is another chance to see Exhibition in a Suitcase at LMA as part of the Spring Arts Festival 2018 Word on the Street: Freedom! 11-30 May 2018.) LMA also had a family fun day attended by a Brownie group who curated their own suitcase exhibitions inspired by the community examples.

Guildhall Community Fair part of the Aldgate Festival

​Guildhall Community Fair part of the Aldgate Festival

The LMA Development team provided their expertise in grant application writing to assist with the submission of a successful HLF bid for the development of a community play which will be performed in the new square in Summer 2018. Claque Theatre invited members of the Aldgate community to share their stories and add their voices to develop a play which would celebrate the area as a cultural hub, a historical gateway and a treasure trove.

Jon Oram the director of Claque Theatre describes the various activities below.

“The process, like the product, is a kind of journey for the community. First there is an exhibition of enlarged Victorian and Edwardian photographs from the London Metropolitan Archives mounted on external walls close to the point of view of the photographer, juxtaposing, past and present. People will then be asked to bring their own photographs and memorabilia to create a community memory wall in the Libraries, share their stories and record them for posterity. They will get to keep one, and another will be archived at LMA. Then, through a series of workshops led by designers and professional makers, they can develop their stories to create personal exhibitions in a suitcase. The initial suitcases will be exhibited in small spaces and venues and in larger spaces as they grow in number. Meanwhile a volunteer research team will find corresponding local historical, stories, events and characters, that parallel the contemporary times and stories within living memory. “

It is these stories which are being used to develop the play excerpts which will be showcased during the festival weekend.

Festival events will run 15-17 June 2018.  The Festival’s grand opening is on Friday 15 June. Saturday 16th is the main fair day and the Development team with other LMA volunteers will offer family workshops in Kahaila/the Pavilion Café.  The weekend encompasses St. Botolph’s day and EID when the local community end their fast and go out for food and entertainment.

Further Information

The festival is being led by City of London in partnership with multiple organisations, including St Botolph’s without Aldgate, Kahaila Café, Sir John Cass Foundation Primary School, Canon Barnett Primary School, Toynbee Hall, Aldgate Community Events, Artizan Street Library and Community Centre, Mansell Street Estate, Middlesex Street Estate, Golden Lane Estate, The Aldgate Partnership, Arts Admin and Toynbee Studios, Cardboard Citizens, London Metropolitan Archives, London Metropolitan University, Tower Hamlets Council, Swadhinata Trust, RadhaRaman Society, East End Speed Histories, and Tower Bridge, amongst many others.

25 April 2018
Last Modified:
23 May 2018