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Education and history


 

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The Oral History Project

The Bethnal Green Memorial Project (www.bgmemorial.org.uk) has collected and preserved records relating to the Bethnal Green underground shelter disaster of 3rd March 1943, and its aftermath.

This oral-history project, directed by Dr Toby Butler, and worked on by a large team of volunteers from 2013 to 2015, recorded over 30 interviews with survivors, and witnesses and relatives of those who died, and digitised documents and photographs from the families of those who were involved. It is archived at Bishopsgate Institute Library. The project was also deeply involved in making the history of the disaster more widely known by means of talks and a pop-up exhibition – both still on offer.

The project was based at the University of East London and funded generously by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The work was in close partnership with the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust and the Bishopsgate Institute, with additional support from the Raphael Samuel History Centre and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

Resources, including for schools, can be downloaded at www.bgmemorial.org.uk. There is a schools teaching pack, online archives including oral history interviews with survivors and rescuers, and a published book, available to read on the project’s website. The book with a CD can also be obtained from the Ideas Store in Whitechapel, Bethnal Green Library or the charity office (info@stairwaytoheavenmemorial.org). The project also produced an audio trail – a walking tour of the memorial including clips from survivors. This can be heard or downloaded from the project’s website. It can also be borrowed from Bethnal Green Library free of charge, for use while walking around the memorial sculpture in the park next to Bethnal Green tube station.

Schools pack and audio trail

On Thursday 9th July 2015, despite the tube strike in London, the University of East London organised a launch at the side of the Memorial. This was to announce their schools pack which was then sent to all schools that wanted to learn about the tube disaster.

They also launched a new plaque close to the memorial, on the railings looking down towards the stairway on which everyone died. This plaque explains how to download the memory-scape audio trail to listen to when walking around the memorial. You can download the APP or you can hire audio units from the library nearby, which is opened again after a recent refurbishment.

Harry Paticas, an architect from Arboreal Architecture, had worked hard to produce the plaque so it is in keeping with the memorial – in the same unique Bethnal Green font. He unveiled the plaque with our patron, Tommy Walsh.

The recordings made by the oral history project (see above) are vital for future generations to know what happened on that fateful night and afterwards. To have this historical gem of recordings has been something that we would never have been able to do ourselves, so we are extremely grateful to all of those that have been involved from the University of East London in the Bethnal Green Memorial Project and of course to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the grant for them to do this.

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Extracts have been incorporated into the memory-scape audio trail so you will be able to listen to them when walking around the memorial. Tommy Walsh did the voice-over for the trail which gives it the authentic cockney background to the memories.

Schools pack can be downloaded and viewed at www.bgmemorial.org.uk

Photographs

Bethnal Green tube station entrance in 1943

Bethnal Green Tube station entrance in 1943.
Copyright: Tower Hamlets Archives Bancroft Road Library.

Bethnal Green Tube station showing handrail being installed.

Bethnal Green Tube station showing handrail being installed.
Copyright: Tower Hamlets Archives Bancroft Road Library.

Bethnal Green tube station used as a bomb shelter

Bethnal Green Tube station used as a bomb shelter.

newspaper cutting

newspaper cutting

Olive Woolnough, one of the child victims.

A floral tribute to Olive Woolnough, one of the child victims.