Home and History Making in Tower Hamlets: Workshop with Morpeth School
Money For Nothing
Morpeth School's Year 12 History students visited the gallery on Wednesday 7th June 2023 for a workshop with artist Felix Melia and MayDay Rooms archivist Łukasz Risso. Together they explored community-led housing struggle in Tower Hamlets in the mid-1970s, and how unequal access to housing has shaped Tower Hamlets' communities and urban landscape historically and in the context of the acute ongoing housing crisis.
Following a screening of Melia's film Money for Nothing, the students and artist discussed what could be learnt from the film if viewed as a document of local history, as narrated by protagonist Tim Akister. A workshop led by Łukasz Risso, which focused on archival pamphlets produced by Tower Hamlets-based housing activists and community groups in the mid-1970s, opened onto questions about who gets to write history, and the legitimised, 'illegitimate' and shifting legal status of differing claims to a home – whether accessed as social housing, through private ownership or squatters' movements.
Negotiating differing opinions on how a right to housing should be taken up, students brought the archival materials into dialogue with the present. The group shared stories about family members who had participated in the London Bengali Housing Association march through the East End in 1976, protesting racist housing policy and the right to live locally in squatted accommodation, and first-hand experience of the Autonomous Winter Shelter, a squat in a disused Shadwell Convent opened by anarchist activists as a hostel for the homeless in 2022, which had been raided by police the previous week.
Curator Jessie Krish