Project update November 2020

One name has dominated the headlines this month, and we couldn’t be happier that that name is Mary Wollstonecraft! Thanks for the decade-long efforts of the Mary on the Green campaign there is a sculpture to Mary’s legacy on Newington Green. There have been many views shared, criticisms and debates on the sculpture – and it has been fascinating reading people’s responses.

As is the case in many social justice movements, the work to share Mary’s legacy can be carried out in many different ways. There is now a sculpture, a soon to be renewed Stewy mural on the side of the Meeting House, a fabulous bust from sculptor Jenny Littlewood, educational programmes in collaboration with the Wollstonecraft Society and Hackney Museum, and the other fantastic work by scholars, community groups and artists – and more. There are many, many ways which we can celebrate Mary (and we are already planning her birthday party for next year!)

There’s a lot of work on the project that you don’t see, from planning to organising to meeting new people and organisations. We wanted to share more on one particular project, with local charity Minik Kardes.

This work with Mini Kardes was born out of the need for Turkish and Kurdish parents to have an online space to practice their English whilst in lockdown. The reasons for the parents wanting to do this was to improve their English skills, be able to help their children better with their homework and not lose their English skills whilst being stuck at home in the lockdown with their Turkish speaking families.

As Amy had taught ESOL before, we were able to offer informal learning sessions every week which were based on speaking skills, conversation and confidence-building. These sessions ranged from being very practical (like practising reading train timetables) to things like discussing feminism in Turkey and Britain – inspired by Mary Wollstonecraft. This then lead to some of the learners coming to the Meeting House in October and visiting to learn more about the area and its history. This strengthening of the relationship has also led to Minik Kardes offering to translate some of our materials into Turkish to help us engage with the local community. They have also asked for other services, such as workshops to help people learn more about British culture, and workshops for parents and staff about how the British education system works. We have partnered with Newington Green Alliance to deliver this.

As well as that we are really pleased to announce that the Meeting House will re-open in January for tours in the New Year. Many thanks to all our wonderful front of house, events and tours volunteers for making this happen. You can now visit on Mondays (self guided with our new audio tour) or on Tuesdays and Thursdays, led by our expert tour volunteers. Don’t forget to check out the Black Germany exhibition upstairs while visiting the new bust of Mary.

Charles Bradlaugh (1833–1891

As ever we have had a host of newly-researched and expertly-written blogs on many aspects of the Meeting House and the local area’s radical history, too. We will soon be announcing some of the events which you can attend in person or online from the New Year. We’ve had fantastic take-up for our events on the project so far and we really hope to see you at a few in the future. From a free online discussion group about feminism and women’s history to more events with The Black Exchange, we hope there is something that will pique your interest.

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