When We Were Young installed in Tower Hamlets Family History Library & Archives in Bethnal Green. The installation features lines of laundry hung across the four pillars in the centre of the room.
When We Were Young

Additional Information

When We Were Young explores childhood memories of the Jewish East End. Inspired by an image of 1930s East London backyards, with lines of laundry hanging post to post, it captures the comings and goings of daily life. I am drawn to small occurrences we often overlook or consider irrelevant as we grow taller, like Alfred Marks’ childhood memories of the smell of rotten apples at Petticoat Lane, an unidentified woman recalling a man running with a cabbage knife from the Battle of Cable Street, or a memory of the uncomfortable uniform singers had to wear in Rose Henriques girls club choir at the Bernhard Baron Settlement building in Berner Street (now Henriques Street). These stories form a soundscape capturing a small part of what it was like to be a child in 1930s East London, memories that could easily be forgotten in years to come.

When We Were Young features oral history recordings from Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archive, with segments re-recorded by local children today. Members of the public were invited to write their childhood memories on the laundry, creating an installation that evolved over three months.

Materials: White clothes and sheets from local charity shops, washing line, washing baskets, dolly pegs, clothes props, carbolic soap, wind-up HMV Gramophone, 78 records 'Rita Marlow: My Childhood Days' and Mother Goose for Jewish Children, apple crates, washing baskets and children's toys (tiddlywinks, dominoes, 'East Ham' London bus, washing machine). Speakers by Ultrasonic Audio, custom audio player by Emily Peasgood, scent diffusers by Aroma Prime. Source Audio: LCS23, LCS62, LCS63, LCS64, LCS65, LCS69, LCS83, LCS84, LCS94, LCS95, LCS104, LCS113.

Commissioner: When We Were Young was curated by Tamsin Bookey and Nadia Valman and commissioned by Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives, and Queen Mary University.

Creative Team: When We Were Young was part of the exhibition Everything Is Different, Nothing Has Changed, alongside sound works by Alastair Levy and Syma Tariq. Sheet printing by Puck Studio. Installation team: Theresa Smith of Mooch and Sam Slattery. Voice actors: Alexander Ferguson, Elodie Arbiso, May Ducker-Harkins and Uthman Choudhury. 




Bethnal Green
United Kingdom