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Brick Lane 1978 exhibition

Ansar Ahmed Ullah:


A new exhibition titled Brick Lane 1978: The Turning Point will be open to the public to view from 10 June. The show explores the period and brings together seventy of photographer Paul Trevor’s images for the first time, alongside first-hand accounts of contemporary activists. It pays tribute to a generation of Bengali activists whose actions helped shape the struggle for social justice in the UK.

Altab Ali’s murder on the night of the May 1978 local elections in which 41 National Front candidates stood marked a turning point for the Bengali community.  That year young Bengali people mobilised in a community-led, anti-racist struggle which brought about a radical social transformation both locally and far beyond.

Local photographer Paul Trevor documented the dramatic events of the era in photographs, many of which will be on show for the first time in this exhibition. His photographs show how the local Bengali community endured racial abuse as a constant factor of everyday life and how they united to end violence and institutional racism.

The show is the culmination of a major heritage project led by Four Corners and Swadhinata Trust with a dedicated group of volunteers who have interviewed many people involved in these momentous events.

Julie Begum, Chair of Swadhinata Trust, said,  “It is important to commemorate Altab Ali Day to remember the racist violence the Bengali community faced in the East End of London and to celebrate the community’s united defence to defeat the evils of racism.”

Paul Trevor said, “They say a photo is worth a thousand words. But sometimes, as in this case, words are essential. This project is an opportunity to add the voices of those who made history to the images of that story.”

Carla Mitchell, Artistic Development Director at Four Corners said, “This history is highly relevant today, with an increase of racist attacks and violence making the headlines.  Thanks to National Lottery players, we will be able to ensure that this powerful heritage is made publicly accessible for a wide audience of current & future generations.”

The exhibition opens to the public on 10 June and continues until 10 September 2022. Admission is free and the opening hours are 11am-6pm, Tues- Sat, until 8pm Thurs at the  Four Corners Gallery in Roman Road, East London.

The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of talks produced in collaboration with Swadhinata Trust, Paul Trevor and the Altab Ali Foundation.