Crafting Resistance

The Art of Chilean Political Prisoners

The University of East London hosted the exhibition, which was co-curated by Jasmine Gideon, Birkbeck, University of London and Gloria Miqueles, Chilean Ex-political prisoner.

Crafting Resistance challenges the idea of political prisoners as 'passive victims' which fails to recognise the degree of agency many prisoners retain despite the horrific circumstances they endure. During the military dictatorship of General Pinochet in Chile (1973-1990) hundreds of political prisoners were held in concentration camps throughout the country. In a number of these camps, prisoners organised themselves and crafted items from the very limited materials and improvised tools available to them.

The exhibition brought together a collection of these artefacts and reflected on their importance in relation to sustaining the mental health and wellbeing of those incarcerated. These artefacts are now testimony to the mental endurance of all those who were political prisoners under the Pinochet regime.

Tate Lives

North Woolwich and Silvertown

North Woolwich became an important transit point for tourists and a leisure destination in its own right. The railway arrived in North Woolwich in 1847. The trains connected to steam boat services which went to holiday resorts along the Essex coast. Travellers could stop at North Woolwich for refreshments or stay the night at pubs and hotels.

Day trippers were also attracted to the Royal Pavilion Pleasure Gardens (1851-90) at weekends and public holidays. They were built by the proprietor of the Pavilion Hotel. The gardens included a variety theatre, rifle gallery, maze and a ballroom that was advertised as being large enough for 3,000 people.

The North Woolwich Gardens were the last pleasure gardens of their kind to survive in London. In the 1880s there were plans to develop the site for building, but a campaign was launched as a breathing space for health and exercise in a now industrialised area.

The campaign raised enough to buy the land and it was given to the London County Council in 1890 and renamed Royal Victoria Gardens. The gardens were completely redesigned and included a swimming pool, tennis courts, bowling green and bandstand.

1847 – Stratford to North Woolwich railway line opens

1851 – Royal Pavilion Gardens opens

1880 – Royal Albert Dock finished

1881 – Lyle and Sons established

1887 – Tate Institute opens

1889 – Woolwich Free Ferry opens

1912 – Woolwich Foot tunnel opens

1917 – Silvertown Explosion

1921 – King George V Dock opens

1924 – Lyle Park opens

1933 – Tate Institute sold to later become a public library

1953 – 2003 Tate Institute used for sports and social activities

1968 – Royal Docks Learning and Activity Centre established

1981 – Royal Docks closes for cargo handling; pub closures follow

1984 – Ferry Festival established

2000 – Thames Barrier Park opens

2016 – Craftory repair Tate Institute

The Ferry Festival

One of our Tate Lives project outputs included the North Woolwich Ferry Festival. 

The Ferry Festival was a huge outdoor community event in North Woolwich and Silvertown from 1974 to 1986. It began in the mid-70s, at a time where the Royal Docks area was finding it hard. There was resentment that national and local governments weren’t doing enough for the area. Locals decided they needed a fillip for the community. The whole community came together with funfairs, stalls, sideshows and entertainment in Royal Victoria Gardens. Thousands came. All the pubs, churches, shops and businesses took part. All ages, genders and races enjoyed a special bond.

A journalist by the name of Colin Grainger said: “The festival saw everyone coming together to celebrate the unique nature of the “island” community in North Woolwich and Silvertown. It was by the people and for the people. It was the community’s way of showing that an incredible spirit existed in our area.

It ended as costs began to spiral out of control. However, for years people have talked in glowing terms about the stories of the festival, and social media groups have led to those stories being repeated online.

International Womens Day

International Womens Day

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2019, UEL Archives highlighted the achievements of the Dutch athlete Fanny Blankers-Koen in the 1948 London Olympic Games. Our exhibition cabinet highlighted the achievements of Blankers-Koen as being the only woman to date, to win four gold medals in a single Olympic Games.

Fanny Blankers-Koen first represented the Dutch Olympic Team at the Berlin Olympics of 1936, finishing sixth in the high jump and competing in the Dutch 4 x 100m squad that made the final only to come last. At the humble age of 18, she considered “her most memorable achievement of the games lay in getting Jesse Owen’s autograph.”

By the time of the summer Olympics of 1948 in London, Blankers-Koen was 30 years old and a mother of two.

Her success in winning four gold medals in a single games is only matched in Olympic history by Jesse Owens in the 1936 Munich Olympics and by Carl Lewis in 1984 (LA Olympics)

Franny’s success in the 1948 London Olympics are detailed as follows:

  1. Gold in the 100 metres.  Fanny achieved the fastest qualifying time of 12.0 seconds, only to surpass this by winning the gold in the final with a time of 11.9 seconds, beating the British athlete Dorothy Manley into second place.
  2. Gold in the 200 metres. 1948 saw the first staging of the women’s 200m race and Blankers-Koen’s margin of victory – 0.7 seconds ahead of British athlete Audrey Williamson, was the largest ever achieved by either a male or female athlete at the Olympics.
  3. Gold in the 80 metre Hurdles.
  4. Gold in the 4 x 100 metre Relay, running the anchor leg, and overtaking the British, Canadian and Australian teams in the process.