Up Against It

‘1967: Up Against It’ explores the impact of the Sexual Offences Act (1967) passed on 27 July that year, and the 50th anniversary of the deaths of the borough’s most (in)famous gay couple, Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell, on 9 August.

Up Against It

Through the stories of well-known and some not so well-known gay men living in Islington before and after the act, this exhibition seeks to reflect the experience of men who could not declare their love freely and the difference the 1967 act made to them. Stories featured include those of Oscar Wilde, imprisoned at Holloway and Pentonville prisons, and record producer Joe Meek whose life, like Orton and Halliwell’s, also ended in tragic circumstances.

Collaged public library book covers created by Orton and Halliwell, a Halliwell collage and his newly acquired ‘World of Cats’ screen will be on display together for the first time. The exhibition further asks whether the sixth-month sentence the couple received for theft and malicious damage in 1962 was, as Orton asserted, “because we were queers.”

Join us for our Up Against it event on 17th October 18.00

Dates: Saturday 22 July to Saturday 21 October 2017

Opening timesMonday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday: 10am – 5pm. Wednesday and Sunday: closed

Banners for Islington!

The Hammersmith Banners currently on display in the museum reflect Britain’s response to the Spanish Civil War and the campaigns held here to recruit new members of the International Brigade, collect food, money and arms for Spain, and remember those who had died.

For our exhibition, our volunteer Susan, did a lot of research into the Islington story of the Spanish Civil War. We decided, working with banner-maker Ed Hall, to make a banner reflecting these stories. Ed Hall has made banners for trade unions and protest groups since the 1980s. See here for an exhibition of his work at the People’s History Museum in Manchester a few years ago.   

On the day of the workshop we first explored different banners from around the country, including many by Ed himself. We then looked at the Hammersmith banners and investigated Islington stories and decided who we would like to feature and how we would do it.

Learning about the Spanish Civil War in Islington; Bosco Jones from Finsbury who fought in the Spanish Civil War

Then we began to design our banner… planning and then drawing different elements under Ed’s guidance. During all our work we had really interesting discussions about the Spanish Civil War and what’s happened since.

Drawing pictures ready for our banner

We then stuck all our pictures together and rolled them up for Ed to take away. He will be making our banner to go on display in the museum very soon!

Our final banner and the team

Banners for Spain: fighting the Spanish Civil War in London

The Spanish Civil War (1936-39) was sparked by a military coup led by General Franco against Spain’s elected government. Britain decided on ‘non-intervention’ in the war, but people from across the world joined the International Brigades to fight the fascist-backed rebels.In Britain, an ‘Aid Spain’ movement sprang up to raise funds for food and medical supplies and to help refugees fleeing the war.

Islington Museum’s new exhibition tells the story of the Borough’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War, showcasing six newly conserved banners for Aid Spain, artefacts from the Marx Memorial Library’s archives and stories of the Islington International Brigaders.

The exhibition runs from May 5th to July 8th 2017 at Islington Museum, and is complemented by a programme of free events.

 

Firefighters in War

Today we were lucky to see some pictures of a children’s Christmas party at Clerkenwell Fire Station in December 1940. They were brought in by Jean Chapman, daughter of William Chapman, who served at Clerkenwell Fire Station during World War II.

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William Chapman was part of the Auxiliary Fire Service during the war, a vital service formed in January 1938. Fire Sub-Stations were set up across London in schools, garages and factories. Over 28,000 Auxiliary Firefighters were recruited to support the 2,500 Firefighters of the London Fire Brigade.

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Chapman was injured during his work in the war and hospitalised for a long time –he was unable to go back to the fire service post-war. These pictures show Jean at a Christmas party just before the beginning of the Blitz in earnest and was probably the last big party that happened during the war.

Islington’s Burning

London has had a turbulent and fiery history! It has been burned to the ground many times over in its 2000 year history and yet the London Fire Brigade (LFB) was only formed in 1866.

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From the destruction of St. John’s Priory, Clerkenwell in 1381, the impact of the Great Fire of London, to the tragic blaze at Smithfield Market in the 1950s, ‘Islington Burning’ uncovers the story of fire fighting in the borough and commemorates 150 years since the founding of the LFB. The story is told through key objects from the London Fire Brigade Museum Collection, original material from Islington’s museum, archives and other collections from across the capital.

Here are 5 of the amazing objects on display in the exhibition:

  • The original Vestry Minute Book from St Mary’s Islington from the time of the Great Fire of London

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Islington escaped the Great Fire as the wind changed direction. However many of the 100,000 people made homeless travelled north and camped out in Moorfields and Bun Hill Fields. This vestry minute book of the time records money donated to those made destitute following the fire.

  • An insurance plate from 18 Highbury Terrace in Islington

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Many people were bankrupted by the Great Fire. Fire insurance started to fill a gap in the market and included fire insurance brigades who would put out fires in insured buildings to reduce costs. This plaque showed that X was insured so that the brigade would know a fire should be extinguished

  • An original smoke helmet from 1900 to allow firefighters to enter smoky buildings

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This was the first real attempt to ensure firefighters could breathe when in smoke-filled buildings. It would be connected via a rubber hose to a set of bellows that would be pumped by another firefighter to drive air into the helmet. A rope between the two firefighters was used to signal for more or less air, or if there was a problem. Firefighters could only go as far as the hose would allow and had to place their lives in the hands of the bellows-pumper.

  • A German incendiary bomb from World War II

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Incendiary bombs were designed to set buildings on fire. Over 500 were dropped on Islington during the war. The Fire Guards’ job was to put these bombs out as quickly as possible to prevent fires spreading and raging out of control.

  • A 2016 print out from Islington Fire Station for their next job

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Today there are two fire stations in Islington –Islington Fire Station on Upper Street and Holloway Fire Station on Hornsey Road. This print out giving orders for the mobilisation of Islington Fire Rescue Unit.

Come to see the exhibition to find out more!

It’s Ours Whatever They Say

Roz Currie, Curator


Islington has less open space than any other London borough –its twelve adventure playgrounds are vital in providing a place for the children of Islington to play. This exhibition explores the story of the adventure playground movement in Islington. It was curated by Jordan James of Islington Play Association as part of the ‘PLAY, PAST, PRESENT AND IN PERPETUITY’ project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The exhibition includes banners made by the children of the playgrounds, archive photographs from the history of IPA, and a film reflecting the early story of the organisation.

There is also a den which all visitors to the museum have helped build, change and make their own…

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To find out more about Adventure Playgrounds in Islington please visit the IPA website or look on Islington Council’s website

The History of Martin Luther King Playground

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By Jordan James

In 1968 an Adventure Playground opened for a summer play scheme on some derelict land. It was a 10 acre site surrounded by a high corrugated iron fence, completely empty and unused and there was at the time nowhere for the children to play. The Greater London Council (GLC) gave permission to the parents to use the land for a summer play scheme.

martin-luther-kingChristian Aid agreed to help fund the volunteers on the scheme on the condition that the funding was matched. One of the play workers, Anne Power, approached the Martin Luther King foundation which was giving out grants to fund community projects in multiracial areas in the county. The foundation agreed to give the playground a grant as long as it was named after Martin Luther King -it has remained that way ever since.

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MLK’s banner made for the 2016 exhibition

On the first day that they opened their gates, hundreds of children poured into Martin Luther King Playground and TV camera crews arrived to interview the mothers. By September 1968 the GLC agreed to a permanent playground on a corner of the large 10 acre site. They also announced plans to turn the rest of the site into “Paradise Park“.

The corner the Adventure Playground had been given had a derelict Woodbine Tobacco Factory on it. In the Spring of 1969, with the help of prisoners from Pentonville Prison, the Martin Luther King Association members and parents started to do up the playground.

The playground was the first project that the Foundation had supported and so they brought Coretta King, the widow of Martin Luther King, to visit. She, her sister-in-law and two of her children spent time at the playground with the mothers and children. The playground was also visited by Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

To find out more about Adventure Playgrounds in Islington please visit the IPA website or look on Islington Council’s website

The Origins of Islington Play Association

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By Jordan James

Islington Play Association was created in the early 1970s, when a rumour spread through Islington’s Playgrounds that an “outsider” was going to set up a play association. A group of Islington locals got together and decided to create an Association of their own.

“…But meanwhile we had pre-empted him, we’d had a meeting we decided we’d set up a Play Association already. So I remember when he said I think we should have a Play Association one of us put our hand out and said actually we’ve already set one up. That took the wind out of his sails; we didn’t want to be set up by somebody else.”

Margaret Pitt talking about the decision to set up Islington Play Association

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In the summer of 1973 Islington Council went on strike. This gave IPA the chance to organise the play schemes themselves, working with local community groups and hiring summer staff. Play workers at that time were paid very badly and were often students interested in working in the inner city. Many didn’t have anywhere to live so the IPA had to provide accommodation.

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 “We needed somewhere for them to stay…. So I went down to the GLC Northern District Office down at Kings Cross and I said to the manager ‘I’m desperate I absolutely need a house to put up about twenty people’ so he said, ‘Let me see what I can do for you’. So he gave us this house in Stanmore Street, it’s now been demolished and it had cold water and electricity, it had an outside loo and we just put lots of mattresses from the PDSA which is Peoples Dispense of Sick Animals which was just beside Martin Luther King Playground in those days. Then we plonked them down there with some bedding and we left them to it, and I dunno it was a bit shocking really but some of them ended up working in play permanently so it can’t have been a totally ghastly experience.”

Margaret Pitt – talking about recruiting new playworkers.

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 From such beginnings the Islington Play Association has grown and developed. It now manages six of Islington’s twelve adventure playgrounds.

To find out more about Adventure Playgrounds in Islington please visit the IPA website or look on Islington Council’s website