Exhibition traces history of anti-racist movements in Whitechapel and Brick Lane

Blood on the Street. Pic: Bethnal Green and Stepney Trades Council

Photographs showing anti- racist movements in Whitechapel and Brick Lane, are on show in Tower Hamlets.

The exhibition – Blood on the Streets – is running at the Brady Arts and Community Centre.

The murder of Altab Ali in 1978 was a: “significant turning point” in East London’s race relations and the Bengali community’s involvement during this difficult time.



photography. Pic: Daniele Lamarche                                                                                                                                          A series of images captured by Daniele Lamarche.

Photographer Daniele Lamarche works as a researcher with the former Greater London Council’s Race and Housing Action Team.

They deal with issues like attacks on racial minority communities within Tower Hamlets.

Chapter from a diary. Pic: Daniele Lamarche                                                                                                                           

This photograph shows a page from a girl’s diary, where a family of ten were constantly attacked in their home in Stepney.

This page reads how a family were sitting in their living room, when a cement bolder was thrown through their window.

Lamarche told Eastlondonlines: “I took pictures of the young girl keeping a diary because I wanted to show it’s not just the broken window, it’s what stays in your head afterwards that is powerful and more damaging”.

She hopes to do research into racial health and map out the borough to show where attacks are taking place.

Somalian lady holding split door. Pic: Daniele Lamarche

The image shows a Somalian lady holding her door frame, which was broken by regular racist attackers.

Lamarche told Eastlondonlines: “I heard these racial attacks happen, but I didn’t think they happened to Somali people.”

My Bengali neighbours said they had troubles when they were young, but I had no idea”.

She included images of women in her work, she said she noticed many of the other photos were pictures of angry men in the streets and felt this was limited.

Lamarche was asked to speak to a group of Somalian people last year, during a heritage project and spent years being “called out by families surrounded by skinheads”.

She said: “They would call up and say, ‘please the police aren’t coming, we’re being attacked, we need help’ and we would look at each other and think, what would we do against 20 skinheads, but we would go.”

Another image taken in Stepney Green. Pic: Daniele Lamarche.

Lamarche told Eastlondonlines she printed her images onto wooden blocks to make it a little bit more interesting rather than being on a piece of paper: “I thought it needs a bit of diversity and was curious to try something new that I haven’t done before.”

A series of protests. Pic: Tom Learmonth.

These images taken by Tom Learmonth; a freelance photojournalist, involved in the anti- racist movement in the East End, shows a demonstration against racial violence in 1978.

Protestors marched behind Altab Ali’s coffin demanding police protection for the Bangladeshi community.

It had been described as one of the biggest demonstrations by Asians ever seen in Britain.

There were also multiple visual art works created by Dan Jones, a resident of Tower Hamlets for 50 years, illustrating the struggle in the borough.

As well as an artist, Jones had also been a Trade Unionist and Social Worker.

Protest on Brick Lane. Pic: Syd Shelton                                                                                                                            

Syd Shelton, member of the Rock Against Racism team, explained how he became a photographer.

He told Eastlondonlines: “After being disappointed with the abstractness of my painting career and its separation from my political views, I became involved with urban aboriginal people.

“They set up what became the first land rights grab in Australia, at an inner-city housing cooperative in Redfern which became known as ‘The Block’.”

Shelton was instantly hooked as he found being a photographer made you a subjective witness of the world, rather than an impartial observer.

He said: “I quickly became involved with Rock against Racism and photographed many of its activities and the events which drove it, in an autobiographical way.”

He has always seen photography as a graphic argument, visually fighting for a point of view and continues to use imagery to argue for the way he sees the world.

Procession behind Altab Ali coffin from Whitechapel to Whitehall. Hyde Park, London W1, 14 May 1978. Pic: Paul Trevor.

The image shows a demonstration captured by Paul Trevor; photographer and Brick Lane resident.

Tower Hamlets protest. Pic: David Hoffman

This image shows a protest in Tower Hamlets against racism and fascism.

David Hoffman, an independent photographer, specializing on racial and social conflict, explained the image to East London Lines: “The march was organised in defence of the Muslim community. The racist English Defence League (EDL) had claimed it would invade Tower Hamlets to disrupt an Islamic conference

“But the strength of the response saw the EDL abandon its plans”.

More information about the artists and their work is available on the Tower Hamlets Arts website.

Leave a Reply