Using tapestries to record history is nothing new, you just need to think about the Bayeux Tapestry and many other examples. However, many people would not know that some Isle of Dogs history has been recorded in this creative and decorative way. To find out more it will be worth making a visit to Bancroft Road to the Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives on Saturday June 1st 2019.
The Friends of Island History Trust will be hosting an event entitled Island History Tapestries which offers a rare opportunity to view the Island History Trust tapestries which are a series of wall hangings, designed and created in the 1980s and 1990s by lifelong residents of the Island. The tapestries include 75 hand-sewn pictures depicting moments in the Islands history.
Identity, 1988. Exhibition Flyer, Chisenhale Gallery.
The general idea behind the tapestries was to provide some banners for the popular Island History Open Days which was run by the Island History Trust. However, many volunteers thought that undertaking some arts and crafts was a great way to combat the stresses of the modern day. The Island History Trust Tapestry wall hangings were considered a good example of community arts practice and were viewed at various venues around Tower Hamlets including the Chisenhale Gallery in Bow in 1988.
A photo of the Island History Trust group, including The IHT Curator Eve Hostettler and Ada Price, their first Chairwoman and Bessie Boylett the second, they are shown working on the second 25 panel wall hanging. (c) FoIHT/Bessie Boylett
The five wall hangings were created over a period of ten years at weekly group meetings starting in 1984. The first one is still held on the Isle of Dogs, in the history room at St John’s Community Centre in Glengall Grove.
Poster Image c) FoIHT/Ada Price
Each wall hanging is made up of 25 separate panels portraying the Island from its earliest history, right up to its present day. Hop-picking, a favorite working holiday for many an East Ender was a popular theme but the panels give a broad perspective of late nineteenth and twentieth century Island life from Islanders themselves. The wall hangings were always a popular part of the Island History Open Days held at the Docklands Settlement and were always packaged with care ready for the next time they were used.
Photo (c) Friends of Island History Trust/ Sav Kyriacou http://www.thamesdockers.org.uk/ History room portraits and first wall hanging made in 1984 on display in the FoIHT History room.
When the wall-hangings were complete, the IHT received a grant from Heritage Lottery, to take them to the Textile conservation Centre at Hampton Court. There they were repaired and provided with archival standard packaging. Bancroft Road was given the three larger tapestries and one that featured hop picking to safeguard on the closure of the Docklands Settlement in 2013 and they have been in storage with the frames and two files of material with photographs and information.
Photo (c) Friends of Island History Trust/ Sav Kyriacou http://www.thamesdockers.org.uk – Today’s volunteers celebrate the work of the Island History Trust as well as being involved in and supporting projects on the Isle of Dogs and further afield.
These tapestries and materials will be available to view on the 1st June and visitors will be able to discuss with the volunteers of Friends of Island History Trust of their own involvement with today’s Island community as they share the story of the Island History Trust and share their own memories and experience with today’s community.
With the rapid changes on the Island in the 1980s and 1990s, some residents on the Island knew the importance of preserving the history of the Island. This event illustrates that the Island History Trust and the Friends of Island History Trust often found and do find innovative and creative ways to preserve the history of the Isle of Dogs.
Many thanks to Debbie Levett, Secretary for Friends of Island History Trust for providing information and photographs about the tapestries and the event. If you would like to find out more about Friends of Island History Trust, visit their website at http://www.islandhistory.co.uk