Even before THAP, the E1 Festival was a huge, annual celebration of East End life. Initiated by the Junior Football League, it offered a long weekend of music, theatre, dance, play activities for kids, a beer tent and the famous ‘Drunken Pram Race’. See Jenny Barraclough’s film of the event here.
THAP initiated and took part in dozens of similar community events, supplying bookstalls, writing workshops and performers. It was among the first local groups to organise multi-cultural literary events, conferences and performances.
Painting of the E1 Festival by Dan Jones.
View from the stage at the E1 Festival.
During the 1980s, THAP, with the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers, was a mainstay of the annual Exploring Living Memory Festival. Local history work and publications came to the fore in this exhibition, bringing together dozens of reminiscence groups. The first event took place in the South Bank’s Royal Festival Hall and was supported by the Greater London Council.
Cover of ‘Exploring Living Memory’ catalogue.
THAP also organised its own more localised, East End Yesterdays, at the huge premises of the defunct ‘Wickhams’ department store in Mile End. Hundreds of people, some who had moved away from the area decades ago, returned to look at photographs, watch films, study historical documents and listen to lectures about the East End of old.
A play, The Battle of Cable Street, received a reading with the author Simon Blumenfeld in attendance and the legendary actress Anna Tzelnicker spoke of her life in Yiddish theatre.
Queenie Duggan at the East End Yesterdays history exhibition at Wickhams (Harrods of the East) at Mile End Waste.
Decades before the current interest in ‘immersive’ events, THAP was staging themed programmes, such as the revival and reappraisal of the 1962 East London based film, Sparrows Can’t Sing, directed by legendary Theatre Workshop founder, Joan Littlewood. The screening, at a cinema in Mile End, was attended by the film’s writer Stephen Lewis and its star, Barbara Windsor.
Flyer for ‘Tongues in the City’, a conference that debated the complexities of translating poetry.
Special events, using theatrical skills, have been built around book launches, author signings and writing competitions. Collaborative events took the project to The Community Translation Project, Tongues in the City conference at the Kobi Nazrul Centre in Spitalfields, featuring London-based poets Stephen Watts and Leah Thorn, and further afield to the Slaughterhouse Gallery in Smithfield Market for the Granta launch of Iain Sinclair’s, Lights Out For The Territory.
Poster advertising the launch of Iain Sinclair’s ‘Lights Out for the Territory’ at an exhibition in Slaughterhouse Gallery, Smithfield, 1997.