Out of the Blue – Unheard Voices, Different Stories

Highlighting positive and inspiring stories of diverse communities

Historic England’s ‘Everyday Heritage Grants: Celebrating Working Class Histories’ new grant scheme was launched by Historic England in 2022 to support community-led projects and further the nation’s collective understanding of the past..

The Out of the Blue – Unheard Voices, Different Stories project was launched in October 2022 and concluded with the Unity in the Community celebration event on 29th July 2023. We will continue to present on this page content gathered from the project when it is collated. Watch this space!

Historic England is funding a wide range of projects around the country through its Everyday Heritage Grants: Celebrating Working Class Histories, following an open call for applications in February 2022. 57 community-led and people-focused projects aim to further the nation’s collective understanding of the past, with a focus on heritage that links people to overlooked local historic places and celebrating working class histories.

“Heritage should be for everyone. I am delighted that we are able to provide funding for this project through our Everyday Heritage Grants, which will help to bring our collective and shared history back to life. These grants will enable people to tell their own stories, in their own way, and connect with others in their communities through a shared understanding of their local heritage.
The histories of castles and great houses and their inhabitants are well documented, but we know far less about our everyday heritage. From council estates, pubs and clubs, to farms, factories and shipyards, these are the places where most people have lived, worked and played for hundreds of years. We want to explore these untold stories and celebrate the people and places at the heart of our history.”

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England

As a former docklands area and centre for food production there is a proud working class history which is widely celebrated. This project set out to enhance this by uncovering a more recent multicultural picture of the area in the 21st century by revealing the contribution of people from around the world, who have come to live, work and establish businesses in the area.

We wanted to:

  • Show that local history is more diverse than is known and allow new histories and stories to be shared and appreciated.
  • Shine a light on the heritage and history of the Blue, at a time of immense change, and show a more inclusive and representative picture to illuminate and inform a more harmonious future.
  • Give local people from minority communities a better sense of belonging and ownership of the place they live.
  • Develop a better and more honest understanding of local working class history where all people’s contributions are respected and valued.
  • Give people a chance to build bridges and relationships based on empathy across their communities to understand what they share, and where they differ.
  • Give people the skills and knowledge to understand their history and present their own stories in a variety of ways.

We set out to collaborate with volunteers, partners, residents, community groups, and independent traders to uncover some of these hidden histories and support them to highlight their stories in a variety of ways. Over the duration of the project our participants produced videos, audios, creative artworks and a programme culturally inspired family orientated events which were held in Market Place. All content was guided by our collaborators and involved many different kinds of participatory activities exploring a wide range of cultures to inspire learning, awareness and understanding of the multicultural heritage of the local community. The events programme attracted thousands of new visitors to the area and brought people from all from different backgrounds together in a shared community experience.

A day of family activities including day of the dead craft tent, candy skulls decoration workshop and spooky family storytelling centred around learning about different Halloween celebrations from around the world.

A exploration of different folk dance traditions with Morris dancing from Brixton Tatterjacks and Black Swan, alongside Arts & Crafts workshops and children’s activities.

Learning about national birds with Jamaican/British artist and youtuber DJ The Explorer. Making and flying Origami birds, such Doctor Bird of Jamaica, the Robin of England and the Green Pheasant of Japan with Miyuki Kasahara. Visitors we also invited to take part in the inaugural World Hook-a-Duck Championship.

An friendly afternoon with the Southwark Irish pensioners project indulging in culture and traditions from the Emerald Isle including live music, storytelling and themed craft activities for all.

Connecting people with our local environmental action groups to learn more about the climate crisis and celebrate the Ada Salter Centenary. Helping people understand more about urban nature, plants and wildlife with Trees for Bermondsey, Bankside Open Spaces and Galleywall Nature Reserve.

Cultural festive activities and workshops celebrating togetherness and unity with arts & crafts to create people powered decorations to be displayed in the market throughout the festive season. International circus skills, street theatre, magic tricks, juggling displays, face painting, dance and much more.

A fantastic journey with the magic of storytelling for all at Big Local Works, transporting the listener to different adventures around the world with incredible winter tales from London Dreamtime, Ivana Lindgren, Vaishali Raithatha. Alongside Winter Story Illustration Art workshop for visitors to illustrate Winter tales at drawing workshops.

Christmas Karaoke singalong with comedian Alwin Solanky in between telling humorous stories about his memories as a refugee coming to live in the UK from Uganda in the 1970s and experiencing Christmas Decorations and Top of The Pops for the first time. visitors also got involved in making edible Christmas tree decorations.

Special event hosting Wassail, an ancient cultural tradition that celebrates the spring equinox by blessing the trees so that they bear fruit. Activities for all included making Crowns & garlands, Mulled cider and fruit punch, the human tree, followed by a Lantern procession to Rouel Orchard for Wassailing.

An afternoon of traditional Irish music, dancing, and culture organised by the Southwark Irish Pensioners Project sharing stories and memories of bygone days aided by home-made treats for visitors.

Experiencing Catalan culture with active workshops for to have a go in building human towers, a Catalan traditional dating back over 200 years. Arts tent with free activities for all ages, especially the young ones and for the hungry participants a community feast of Calçots with Romesco sauce, topped off with a finale of the awesome Castellers of London display.

A community tribute for all to celebrate the coronation of King Charles for all people to join in the celebrations with live music from the Unity Music Arts Team, Salsa dancing sessions, and ‘Royal family’ arts tent or all to make their own decorations from discarded plastic to festoon the market square and promote recycling and reuse.

Celebrating the rich history and diverse working community in South Bermondsey which has long attracted people from diverse origins seeking employment opportunities. Visitors explored a display from the Peek Freans museum, providing crucial insights into the history of the biscuit factory and its impact on the local community. Participants also got involved in creating their own biscuit, themed colouring activities and other fun-filled challenges.

Visitors were invited to take part in Harakeke Weaving workshops using Phormium; also known as New Zealand Flax, which was removed from Shuttleworth Park. People had a go and learnt about this ancient tradition of the Maori people. Skilled basket weavers led the workshops and guided the participants through this unique creative opportunity to connect with nature in a creative way.

An event celebrating the unique music, food, and culture of Okinawa, an island in Southern Japan that has its own distinct heritage. Visitors experienced a rich variety of performances and mingling with the Blue market’s regular traders there were an array of stalls run by the London Okinawa Sanshinkai and other retailers, selling Arts & Crafts, Cuisine and food products.

An event celebrating the finale of the Historic England funded Unheard voices, Different Stories project, featuring cookery, music and dance performances alongside creative arts activities, DJ workshops and educational displays around the Blue Market. All elements of the Unity in The Community day were themed on Windrush 75 and the valuable contribution of the Afro Caribbean community on popular and local culture.

Listen to some of the thoughts and feelings about the Blue, gathered at our engagement stalls held at the Blue Market………

As a legacy of this project we are still collecting and collating stories and if you feel you have an interesting story to tell and would like to contribute simply email us info@bluebermondsey.co.uk with the subject line – Out of the Blue Project. We will continue with ongoing and new legacy projects to include all input gathered.