Welcome to Bangladesh@50


As we have lived through Covid-19, the importance of community has never been more obvious.

Here in Tower Hamlets, our community is strong. Diversity is one of our greatest strengths and we are proud of the role that the Bangladeshi community plays in making our borough such a vibrant and exciting place.

This year marks 50 years since Bangladesh was established as an independent nation after a traumatic civil war.

We hope that as many people as possible, from all backgrounds, will join us in commemorating this important anniversary through a range of opportunities to explore or discover the significance of 1971 to Tower Hamlets past and present.

The Bangladeshi War of Independence was a foundational moment for thousands of East Enders even though none of its battles were fought here.

At the turn of the 1970s, as war loomed back home, Bengali communities across the UK lobbied and protested in support of the independence struggle.

Most were post-war economic migrants who had arrived here from a country then called East Pakistan, but many had arrived in Britain prior to 1948 as citizens of colonial India.

Following the war, as the 1970s progressed, Bangladeshi residents in Tower Hamlets experienced rising poverty and discrimination and were often subjected to violent racist attacks. But the independence struggle was fresh in the memory, and the East End’s Bangladeshi diaspora fought back.

A strengthened, buoyant community identity was forged, and a powerful anti-fascist and anti-racist resistance movement was born.

Brick Lane was established as the heart of Bangla Town and from the famous curry houses to the cultural and economic contribution the Bangladeshi community has made it’s helped shape the East End and we want this rich history to be passed on to future generations.

Beginning on 26 March, we have 265-days of events, exhibitions, performances, and activities taking us through to 16 December 2021, otherwise known as Victory Day, and the end of the conflict.

Initial highlights from the 265-day celebrations include:

  • The ‘Bangladesh 50 Years’ project led by the National Portrait Gallery as part of its Citizen UK programme, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Art Fund and Canary Wharf Group; working with the Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives, includes:
    • A new, large-scale public art commission to be installed at Idea Store Whitechapel, devised by artist Ruhul Abdin with local residents.
    • A series of free online events exploring the local connections and impacts of 1971 on the Tower Hamlets community
    • An online exhibition documenting the year-long project exploring this fascinating history
  • ‘Liberation through a Lens’, which tells the story of the struggle for independence using ten iconic images covering the period 1970-71.

For full details of this and future events visit our listings page, which will be updated regularly, and join us in celebrating Bangladeshi arts, culture and history.

Don’t forget to send us your stories using the hashtag #Bangladesh50