From Autumn 2022 to Spring 2023 we presented the ‘Our Journeys’ StoryTent project, offering an opportunity for parents from seven local primary schools to explore and share the experience of migrants’ journeys to Tower Hamlets.



Working with our Heritage Partner Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives (THLHL&A), Associate Artists Terese Hare Duke and Jakia Khanom and Programme Producer Tracy Barbe, we created a programme with two focuses:

  • Sharing the heritage and experience of our participants’ journeys, by creating an ‘Our Journeys’ StoryTent for use as a school resource for pupils and their families, as well as being exhibited locally.
  • Connecting people through sharing stories, fostering a sense of belonging and wellbeing.

Participants came from a diverse range of backgrounds and life experiences, from migrant communities or those who had found themselves drawn to Tower Hamlets as a place welcoming to families of mixed heritage. People identified as coming from Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Kosovo, Sudan, Morocco, Russia, Scotland, India, Devon (with a husband from Zulu South Africa), Pakistan, Canada, Liverpool (with a husband from Turkey), Uganda, Australia and Somalia.  

Alongside personal histories, we used archival objects and documents relating to the diversity of Tower Hamlets, its textile trade and its migration histories to prompt further discussion. 

Learning from each other’s journeys, the group created the ‘Our Journeys’ StoryTent. Stitching, embroidering, drawing, painting and printing together created a space to discuss and illustrate each person’s rich and varied journey to the area. The contributions to the StoryTent show many common threads that bind together members of the community who might otherwise never have met. 

We had parents that we felt would benefit from meeting other local people and stepping out of their comfort zone to develop their confidence, and in some cases English. Some have experienced trauma in their lives and even after coming out of the pandemic many had been very isolated and lonely leading to in some cases mental health worries. Many of our families live in temporary and overcrowded situations and are looking for spaces to spend time in, outside of the home.
Due to the various backgrounds and personal journeys our families took to come to the UK, it was something that interested me in getting my families involved as it was a way for them to share their story whilst meeting other families and learning about other cultures/traditions and also as some of them are new residents in the UK it naturally brings about loneliness. I felt this programme would help curb some of that loneliness.
Parental Engagement Staff in School

Autumn 2022 – A Taster Session


We opened the course with a taster session featuring a presentation from THLHL&A on migration stories in the borough. During this session we looked at the Huguenot silk weavers who arrived in Spitalfields in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Jewish rag trade formed in the late 19th and 20th centuries when Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe found employment in the East End, and the rise of the Bengali sewing industries in the latter part of the 20th century.

Alongside history, the talk considered how embroidery and printing could be a way to begin sharing and creating. Each of the 17 participants stitched a small piece inspired by fruit and foods that they identified with their journey. Even better, refreshments from Turkey, China, Morocco and Bangladesh and fruits from the home countries of participants brought a taste of home to the session.

I think Tower Hamlets has a very rich textile history going centuries back, so I think this project is special because we are celebrating our diverse heritage now using a method of recording, ie. sewing etc, that is part of the fabric of the history of the area.



I found it interesting learning about some of the history of all the different people coming and going in and out of this part of London over hundreds of years.
The introduction to the project was really interesting and the food was a thoughtful touch for inspiring our fruit drawings. Keep up the good work!

Winter and Spring 2023 – Workshop Sessions


Across February and March of this year, we welcomed 12 regular participants to eight workshop sessions to create the StoryTent. To provide some initial inspiration, we started the series with a visit to THLHL&A, to explore their collections and themes around historic migration, including persecuted groups seeking refuge in London and the experiences of economic migrants looking for work and a better life. These inspired the group to share their own experiences, with participants encouraged to bring in objects, documents or pictures that resonated with their history. Many of these items are now represented on the tent whether through paintings, embroidery or heat transferred images.

Access to the local history and heritage collection allowed participants to get a wider understanding of the borough’s history as well as their own in relation to Tower Hamlets (and beyond). Participants engaged with heritage material and discussions openly.



The project linked historical heritage and archival material with an individual’s personal sense of heritage and belonging. It developed a shared understanding of our sense of place and identity. It also highlighted the sense that the majority of group members or their parents had come on some kind of a migratory journey to Tower Hamlets.
Associate Artist
Visiting the THLHL&A and looking at artefacts gave meaning to their own heritage. The group shared their own significant objects, documents and personal stories, realising this was their own ‘archive material and oral history’ to illustrate their personal journeys and sense of identity.
Artistic Co-Lead



In the ensuing weeks, the group experimented with different textile techniques and embroidery styles, taking cues from traditions including Kantha from Bangladesh. They painted their personal journeys and significant objects onto calico and created fabric collages, made heat transfer prints of significant parts of our journey, made stencils and prints of artefacts special to us and added text to describe. As the final workshops approached, the embroidery became a labour of love for many participants, who took their creations home to complete detailed and meaningful illustrations of their family identity.



Discussions around shared histories of imperialism, civil unrest, war and colonisation were handled with sensitivity and empathy. Participants were encouraged to share their stories in a way that was safe, confidential and with support and respect from one another. Being able to use creativity as a form of expression was noted as a particularly useful vehicle and ‘therapeutic’.  

I learnt that there were many Chinese people living here and that the first Chinatown was in Limehouse. I feel pride that Chinese people have made some contributions to Tower Hamlets and I feel grateful that with modern technologies, my life in a new country is much easier than for those Chinese people in the old days.
This experience made me think about the future decades from now and how I as an individual will be part of Tower Hamlets’ history.



Together we investigated archival objects and documents relating to the diversity of Tower Hamlets and the significance of the textile trade in migration histories. The StoryTent was constructed from the framework of a gazebo tent, with calico panels created and decorated with embroidery patchworks and other textile technologies illustrating our personal stories of migration to Tower Hamlets.



As we embroidered, collaged, drew, painted and printed we got to know each other through sharing new skills and enjoying many universal and poignant conversations. 

The Final Session


For the final session we held a workshop to consider how the StoryTent could work as a resource for schools. We looked at making it more interactive by posing open-ended questions to include on the tent that would support its use as a resource with children in primary schools. 

Key words included: Identity, Home, Belonging, Community, Family, Heritage, Place, Friendship, Culture and Memory, while questions to help children reflect included  ‘How do you make a community?’ ‘What’s important to your family?’ ‘What sort of place makes you feel like you belong?’



After the private view and exhibition in our building during April, we’re now looking forward to the StoryTent becoming a place to prompt the recollection of  memories and personal histories. The resource has become a multipurpose space, shared with local schools and potentially showcased at THLHL&A in the future.

I felt a sense of belonging, as I was given an opportunity to share my journey and who I am as a person. I felt that my culture and my story was given importance and acknowledged, and this made me feel really valued.



…Also given a sense of confidence and pride in their accomplishments – which they can show to family and friends. My mums have developed self-confidence and, I believe, self belief.
Parental Engagement Staff in School
Sharing stories also helped everyone appreciate each other’s views, which helped foster a sense of belonging to something larger, and their own cultural heritage.



Find out more about our programme of creative activities and opportunities

‘Our Journeys’ StoryTent was funded by Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Journey has just begun! The StoryTent is now traveling around Tower Hamlets and beyond, sharing the stories of the participants and gathering new ones along the way. Thus far, it has journeyed to school fairs and community days. You can follow the journey here as the StoryTent travels to a local space near you!

If you are interested in having the StoryTent at your school or community space, please contact our Schools and Film Education Coordinator at

Thank you to our group participants who are parents from the following local Tower Hamlets primary schools: Virginia, Christchurch, William Davis, Harry Gosling, Cayley, St Paul’s and Bangabandhu.