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The Changing Island Photographic Exhibition at Café Vert in George Green’s School


Yesterday I was delighted to attend the opening of “The Changing Island” photographic exhibition taking place in Cafe Vert at George Green’s school. This is part of the school’s  Heritage Lottery Funded project celebrating 40 years on this site and the history of George Green.


‘The Changing Island’ photography project involved students from the school working with well-known photographer Mike Seaborne. The students  were introduced to the idea of using old photographs taken by Mike in the 1980s to explore the past and re-photographing certain locations to produce a ‘Then and Now’ comparison.


Looking around the exhibition it became clear that the project had provided an opportunity to the students to illustrate how many of the old industries on the river front have disappeared to be replaced by residential developments.  Change has been a constant theme on the Island for the last 200 years, however although buildings may disappear, there of echoes of the past all around us if you know where to look.


It was also pleasing to see many local residents turning up to the exhibition and sharing their memories with the young people. With less extended families living on the Island , communication between the young and old is vitally important for local knowledge to be handed down.


The exhibition is just one of many initiatives looking into the history of the Island at the moment which builds on the many projects of the last 30 odd years. Contrary to popular belief, there are not that many people who record the changes happening around them. Mike Seaborne’s photographs of the 1980s are one of very few records of change on the Island  in that turbulent period. Hopefully the exhibition will encourage more young people to record the changes around them for future generations.



Island History : George Green’s School Days – A Living Legacy

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In recent months, I have written about some of the many initiatives looking into the history of the Island. The latest initiative is an exciting project being undertaken by George Green’s School, they have been awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to enable a group of young people from the school to investigate the school’s links to local history connected to shipbuilding, the docks, and the development of Docklands.

Laurence, Samuel, 1812-1884; George Green (1767-1849)

Laurence, Samuel; George Green (1767-1849); National Maritime Museum

The young people will learn research skills by exploring the Island History Trust collection at Tower Hamlets’ Local History Archives and visiting the National Maritime Museum which holds material connected to George Green and his family. Students will take part in activities such as photography with well-known photographer Mike Seaborne, and be trained in oral history interviewing by Eastside Community Heritage. They will produce an exhibition of photographs, a book and an exhibition of images and text. National Maritime Museum curators will also provide them with a workshop on how to create their own ‘pop up museum’. The project will form the central theme of two large scale public events and exhibitions in the Autumn, where young people and the local community come together to exchange ideas and memories and celebrate the local heritage of this unique part of East London.

Dixon, William, 1775-1830; View of Mr Perry's Yard, Blackwall

Dixon, William; View of Mr Perry’s Yard, Blackwall; National Maritime Museum

George Green was an interesting character who was an apprentice at Perry’s famous Blackwall yard which built and repaired many of the ships owned by the East India Company. In 1796, Green married Perry’s daughter and gradually took over parts of the company. In the 1820’s , George Green founded a line of popular passenger sailing vessels to India and Australia, known as the Blackwall frigates and became involved in the whaling trade. He made a considerable fortune and retired in the 1830s to undertake philanthropic works which included almshouses, sailors homes, a chapel and schools, the first George Green’s School was founded in 1828 in East India Dock Road.

Callow, H. J.; The Blackwall Frigate 'Maidstone' at Sea

Callow, H. J.; The Blackwall Frigate ‘Maidstone’ at Sea; National Maritime Museum

This year George Green’s School, will be 40 years old on its current site on the Isle of Dogs. The project will celebrate the history and heritage of the school with young people  making connections with members of the local community and ex-pupils to collect personal memories of the school, both at its current location on the Isle of Dogs, and on its previous site in Poplar.

If you went to George Green’s School when it was in Poplar or on the Island and would like to share your memories, the project would like to hear from you.

For further information you can contact Jane O’Sullivan at George Green’s School via email at josullivan@georgegreens.com or telephone 0207 967 6032 ext 527

E14 Book Launch at George Green’s School – 30th May 2015


Part of the task of writing a blog like Isle of Dogs Life is to undertake a great deal of research and to read many of the fascinating stories associated with the Isle of Dogs. It is through the stories of people’s experiences that allows you  to gather insights about the past.

Recently I was made aware of a project that seeks to develop people’s storytelling skills by helping them to get know their community; its history, its achievements and the issues that matter most to people.

The project has been developed by Queen Mary, University of London as  a leadership development program for people who live, work, or study in the E14 postcode of Tower Hamlets. The program was open for everyone regardless of ages, nationalities, cultures and backgrounds.

Part of the project was to produce a book of some of the stories the group had gathered. The book is titled E14: Our Stories (Stories of hope from an East London Postcode). The launch of this book celebrating the achievements and local heroes of communities from the E14 postcode of Tower Hamlets will take on Saturday 30th May  at George Green’s School from 12-1:30pm.

The launch is an  opportunity to  learn about the project, meet some local heroes and enjoy food and drink from different cultures. There will also be copies of the book available to take away on the day.

The scope of the project  includes the personal development of the participants but looks at ways to make positive change in the local community.

It is remarkable the way that the interest in local history and history in general has grown in recent years.  There is many reasons for this, however you usually find in times of rapid changes there is a tendency to look back to make sense of where we are going. Looking into a history of a particular location also tends to give you a sense of perspective, for those who think times on the Island are bad now, may want to read about the Distress of the 1860s or the experiences of those who survived the Blitz.

It is also worth remembering that Charles Dickens wrote about his visit to the Isle of Dogs, Joseph Conrad wrote about the docks, more recently Peter Ackroyd and Iain Sinclair have featured the area,  the E14 group are following a long tradition of storytellers to want to tell the story of this fascinating piece of East London.

If you would like to find out more about the book and the project, why not attend the launch on Saturday 30th May from 12-1:30pm at George Green’s School, Manchester Road, Isle of Dogs, E14 3DW