East: the place where stories gather…

About the project

East invites people resident in or linked to Tower Hamlets to join and share some of the stories brought together by the Eastend’s rich, diverse history of immigration. Working in collaboration with storytellers Shamim Azad and Sef Townsend, along with theatre-maker and musician Paul Burgess, and supported by local organisations Bishwo Shahitto Kendro and Daedalus Theatre Company, this project not only celebrates the cultural variety of London’s East End but also some of the many tales that people across the world have in common. The project has so far principally been funded by Arts Council, England.

There are three strands to our work:

The East Community – our lead professionals provide support to a group of people living in or connected to East London, helping them develop their storytelling skills and providing performance experience. We’ve performed at A Season of Bangla Drama, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s SPOKE season and Boi-Lit. We also meet to share stories and songs over food. Let us know if you want to get involved!

The East Archive – this is an online archive of stories and songs from people living in or connected to East London. You don’t have to be part of the our East Community to add your story or song. Just give us a shout and we can discuss your ideas and how to film you.

The East Three – the three professionals that lead the project can be booked to do storytelling sessions and workshops. They run a regular storytelling tent at Tower Hamlets Council’s A Great Day Out in Victoria Park and have appeared at various other events, as well as running holiday workshops. Get in touch if you’d like to book them.

Here’s some of the East storytelling group with guest speaker/storyteller Rez Kabir, as well as lead storytellers Shamim Azad and Sef Townsend.

How East came about…

The East group of community storytellers first shared their work at Rich Mix in February 2014 as part of National Storytelling Week and SPOKE, a programme of spoken word for East London supported by Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in collaboration with Apples and Snakes.  They were also featured the same year in two cultural events: East End Golpo Bola and Boi-Lit (Bangla literature festival), also at Rich Mix. This followed a series of workshops in which Shamim, Sef and Paul providing coaching and helped created a group performance.

The group then developed their work further, before featuring in A Season of Bangla Drama in Tower Hamlets in November 2014. This took place at Queen Mary, University of London, and consisted of packed schools’ performance and workshop, followed by an evening public performance with food.

Due to the great enthusiasm of its members, the East has continued to meet, share stories and songs over food, and perform publicly, and has gained some further Arts Council seed funding to develop the various strands of its work, including the East Archive, an ongoing online archive of their stories and songs. They have run workshops for Tower Hamlets at Brady Centre and a storytelling tent several times in Victoria Park. And the project leaders are now developing ideas for taking East’s methods into schools and community centres.

Plenty to look out for…!

Our three lead artists at A Great Day Out, Victoria Park, 2016.

Photos from our first performance at Rich Mix can be seen here.

If you are interested in getting involved, if you have any queries, or if you would like a press release, please get in touch.

Here’s the Facebook Page for the project – feel free to like us!

Here’s one our legendary sharings… of stories, songs and food!


Over the different stages of this project we’ve had support, both financial and in kind, from various organisations. Thank you to them all!