Fifty years of Bangladesh Independence celebrated in Tower Hamlets

Bangladeshi celebrations. Pic: Faisal Akram

To mark the 50th anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh a series of cross-cultural events are being held throughout Tower Hamlets.

The Freedom and Independence Theatre Festival is a month-long programme of performances, exhibits and curated talks being held in the borough to celebrate the arts and cultural traditions of Bangladesh, as well as the Palestinian, Rohingya, Somali, Vietnamese and local East End communities.

Mukti, a performance that tells the story of several women involved in the Liberation War of Bangladesh, will be shown this weekend. Showni Das, choreographer of the production, told ELL she is glad the festival has expanded to include other cultures. “This festival, being called the Freedom and Independence Theatre Festival, belongs to every single community.”

“London is a very multicultural place and it creates opportunities for theatre makers, dancers or actors, actresses, singers, from all communities to be able to take part,” she said. “I think war is something that a lot of countries have been a victim of, and a lot of people can relate to it.”

50 years of Bangladesh independence. Pic: Tower Hamlets Council

Our Journey from Vietnam to Tower Hamlets is a short play and dance that chronicles how refugees escaped the country using a small fishing boat in the 1980s and how they settled in the UK. Writer Quan Tran told ELL he sees the festival as an opportunity to raise awareness about what he describes as a “minority of a minority in Tower Hamlets”.

“We [the Vietnamese community] have been very quiet in Tower Hamlets for many years,” Tran said. “In the 1980’s the British government they only accepted 20,000 people from Vietnam…and we are not allowed to settle in the same place we have to settle everywhere in the UK.”

As a result, Tran believes it was challenging for Vietnamese immigrants to connect with one another and develop a large presence. Tran hopes the play will help people learn more about Vietnamese culture and their presence in the UK.

In a statement about the event, John Biggs, mayor of Tower Hamlets said: “We hope that as many people as possible, from all backgrounds, will join us in commemorating this important anniversary through a range of opportunities to explore or discover the significance of 1971 to Tower Hamlets past and present.”

The festival is already in full swing. A variety of plays, film screenings and art exhibits will be held until November 28.

With 10 days left in the festival, ELL has compiled a list of shows and events to help residents take advantage of these seasonal opportunities before they are gone.

Shows and events:

1. Learn how refugees escaped from Vietnam to Tower Hamlets in a new short play Our Journey from Vietnam to Tower Hamlets

When: Saturday, 20 November | Doors 7pm | Show 7.30pm

Where: Brady Arts Centre | £10/£8 concessionary

2. Discover the role of women in the Liberation War of Bangladesh through this theatre dance – Mukti

When: Saturday 20 November | Doors 7pm | Show 7.30pm

Where: Brady Arts Centre

3. Enjoy Palestinian arts and culture in Ahmed Massoud’s latest production- Ummsiyah

When: Sunday 21 November Doors 7pm | Show 7.30pm

Where: Brady Arts Centre | £6

4. Reimagine the future of Somali in this new Afro-Futurist play – Future 001 Xuriyo

When: Friday 26 November | Doors 7pm | Show 7.30

Where: Brady Arts Centre | £10/£8 concessionary

5. Follow the story of UK factory worker who returns Bangladesh and become a freedom fighter – Seize the Freedom

When: Saturday 27 November | Doors 7pm | Show 7.30pm

Where: Brady Arts Centre | £10/£8 concessionary

The complete event program can be found here.

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