In honour of the 50th anniversary 1971 Bangladesh War of Independence, Toynbee Hall has developed a year-long programme that brings Tower Hamlets Bengali communities stories and experiences to the forefront of the anniversary celebrations.
Toynbee Hall has chosen to focus on personal stories and creative expression, placing value on these as knowledge as they offer powerful insights into this time and beyond. To nurture a space where people feel comfortable sharing their stories Bengali Poet and Storyteller Shamim Azad has joined the project as Resident Storyteller.
As part of the year-long programme, Toynbee will be running a Story Competition, inviting people to submit a story exploring the themes life in 1971, resistance, Story & Musical Performative Walking Tours and a monthly conversation series to share and reflect on British Bengali heritage.
Home to one of the largest British Bengali communities in the UK, it is vital that arts, culture and heritage programming reflect this, offering an authentic representation of the people living here. It is also important to acknowledge the significant role and impact of the 1971 war in shaping life in the East End, as Bengali people who migrated here post-war went on to challenge the hostile environment and lead the 1970s/80s anti-racism movement against fascists in the area. These two histories are interwoven and deeply connected and should be honoured as such.
Shamim Azad reflected that, “history and heritage make a huge part of our identity and how we view the world. This is why it is important to spotlight our personal stories. Exploring and understanding our past helps us to be more rooted in the present, show us on our way to the future.”
Shamim Azad will work alongside local musician Paul Burgess and Bengali heritage organisation Swadhinata Trust to deliver this programme.
Julie Begum, Co-Founder and Chair at the Swadhinata Trust said, “The Swadhinata Trust is proud to be working with Toynbee hall in delivering stories of ’71 for the Bangladesh 50th anniversary of Independence.’