The University of East London is an extraordinary University in an extraordinary place. Since 1898 we have had a longstanding commitment to our community as an ‘anchor institution’ which truly makes a difference to people’s lives — offering people opportunities for education and employment that they otherwise would not have had.
From our roots at the turn of the century — when John Passmore Edwards opened the West Ham Technical Institute and described it as ‘the people’s university’ — to the turn of the twenty-first century, our commitment to serve our communities in East London and to work in partnership with them has remained firm.
In short, engaging with our community (what is often referred to these days as ‘civic engagement’) is a crucial part of our DNA as an institution. And, in no small part, one could also say that the anthology presented here — EastLife: Life Writing from UEL and the East London Community — embodies that spirit of engagement, especially as it is realised here in partnership with our community.
In many ways, the memories and voices gathered together in this collection also remind us that East London has always been a place of extraordinary diversity as well as rapid change and transition — often a place of dislocation and displacement for some, but equally, a distinctive place, instilling a sense of pride and belonging for the people who live here.
Working together with their communities, the students from our creative writing programmes have effectively explored the shifting relationship between place, memory, and identity; often in an inter-generational dialogue which mediates between the past and present. In doing so, they have successfully evoked a rich sense of ‘lives lived’, but, by unleashing and empowering the stories of our elders, they also offer a way of re-thinking the city that will enrich the lives of East London citizens yet to come.
I hope you enjoy the collection.
Professor John J. Joughin
University of East London