On Tuesday 25 September the streets of Whitechapel resonated with the sound of songs last heard there more than a century ago.
Year 7 students from five east London schools, including Mulberry School for Girls in Shadwell, Central Foundation School for Girls in Bow and Oaklands School in Bethnal Green are exploring how Victorian Londoners protested against their pay and working conditions. They sing Victorian protest songs, make placards expressing demands and write their own political speeches and chants. On Tuesday 25 September they took part in a parade with musicians in the streets where east Londoners protested in the Victorian period.
Watch the video of the protest
Workshop organisers Dr Vivi Lachs and Dr Nadia Valman, from Queen Mary University of London, drew on their research on the wave of strikes that spread across East London in 1889 and the culture of song and oratory that accompanied it. ‘Singing songs helped raise the morale of workers who were enduring terrible conditions in factories and workshops, and brought messages of hope that collective action could bring about change’ said Dr Lachs.
The songs were sung in Yiddish, the language spoken by the Jewish immigrant population, who made up the majority of poorly paid workers in Victorian Whitechapel. ‘We hope that this project will give students a glimpse of east London’s rich local history of protest,’ said Dr Valman.