Ground-breaking new Cockney Heritage Festival celebrates the East End’s unique past

The East End’s first borough-wide festival celebrating Cockney language and culture will be taking place on July 18-27.

Organised by the Cockney Heritage Trust and Tower Hamlets Council the festival was developed in response to media reports that traditional Cockney idiom and cultural heritage is dying out.

The festival will explore Cockney identity among East Enders past and present through over 50 events, including street parties, archive film screenings, exhibitions, reminiscence workshops and children’s and family activities.

Festival highlights include ‘Cockneys: Dead or Reincarnated?’, a panel debate exploring the rumoured demise of Cockney featuring Stepney-born musician Jah Wobble, and a book reading from Eddie Johnson, former landlord of the celebrated Two Puddings pub in Stratford.

Jeff & Mick Geggus from the Cockney Rejects will introduce their film East End Babylon.

Exhibitions range in subject from the life of local street markets to hop picking. Children will get a chance to make a ‘Pearly’ memento at the Museum of Childhood and a number of tea dances and sing-alongs hosted across the borough from Victoria Park to Chrisp Street Market will be open to all.

The festival will culminate with a good old fashioned ‘knees-up’ at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club with traditional musical performers and dancing into the small hours.

It is hoped the festival will enable local residents and the wider public to reminisce, explore, learn about and enjoy the many facets of Cockney cultural heritage. The festival is being designed for the enjoyment of all, whether they identify as Cockney or not, and most events will be free of charge.

The festival line up has been devised by Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives with the help of community partners and the borough’s Idea Stores, libraries and learning teams.

Cockney-inspired artwork by students will be on show at Idea Stores across the borough.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman said: “I am delighted to present a prestigious line up of activities celebrating the East End’s Cockney heritage.

“This July the council in partnership with the Cockney Heritage Trust and a range of community partners has programmed a diverse range of events with something to interest everyone.”

Cllr Rania Khan, cabinet member for Culture added: “This is a fantastic way to pay tribute to the East End’s fascinating Cockney culture and heritage. Why not try your hand at Cockney rhyming or enjoy a traditional Cockney fare such as pie and mash and jellied eels.”

Ray Sparra Everingham of the Cockney Heritage Trust said “Cockney culture has been proclaimed ‘brown bread’ (dead), but our festival sees it alive and well! This collective effort from across the borough represents the biggest celebration of Cockney heritage the East End has seen in a generation. We invite you to join with us in exploring our heritage, meet up with old friends and have some fun along the way.”

The festival launches at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives on Thursday 18 July with traditional Cockney food and drink, stalls hosted by local history groups and short film screenings.

Look out for the printed programme in an Idea Store near you or download it online at and

June 4, 2013