Newham Heritage Month 2024 to celebrate the borough’s historic and influential places and spaces, from medieval abbeys to Kubrick sets, Beatles gigs and beyond

Friends of abbey gardens

The June festival will explore the borough’s fascinating heritage sites, from 12th century mega monasteries to 21st century subculture skate hubs

This June, over 75 free events will celebrate the fascinating places and spaces that built Newham's heritage, from medieval abbeys and ancient mills to world-famous skate spots, via Cathedrals of Sewage, activist sites and underground radio stations. 

Encompassing everything from the site of the Beatles’ first London gig to the pioneering radio station that helped create the UK Grime scene, Newham Heritage Month will celebrate the theme of ‘Places and Spaces’. It will showcase Newham’s rich and diverse heritage through a dynamic programme of free live events including film screenings, exhibitions, workshops, talks, tours, and more.  

Returning by popular demand for a fifth year, the festival, organised by Newham Council and funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, presents 78 free events taking place in dozens of venues right across the borough throughout June. The programme is created by Newham’s community, for the community, about the community.

Previously unheard stories will be brought to light and preserved for the future, including unique personal testimonies from local people who worked with the legendary Joan Littlewood in Newham, revealing a new dimension to the revered theatre director, and the remarkable history of influential underground radio station DejaVu FM, which paved the way for the UK’s famous Grime scene. 

Traversing nine centuries of fascinating local history, festivalgoers will be invited to explore the grounds of St Mary Magdalene Church in East Ham –  the oldest Norman church in London still in weekly use; step inside the rare 18th century House Mill – the largest tidal mill standing in Britain; and investigate the site of the Victorian Beckton Gasworks – once the largest gasworks in Europe, which subsequently found fame as a music video and film set for creatives including Stanley Kubrick and Oasis.

‘It’s a London Ting’ tells the inspiring and extraordinary story of the Stratford Centre as the epicentre of the London roller-skating community from the 1980s until the late 2000s. Filled with shoppers during the day, by night, it became a dazzling DIY hub of skill and innovation for young people who wanted to hone their craft; styles of skating originating here went on to influence the skate scene around the world, and its legacy can still be seen across TikTok today. East Londoners can immerse themselves in this joyful world, as artist Marilyn Fontaine invites locals to don skates and learn how to roll.

Newham Heritage Month will reveal the borough’s astounding natural heritage, with a range of projects celebrating Newham’s green spaces, from micro allotments to vast medieval estates and everything in between. West Ham Park celebrates its 150th anniversary this year; while previously the site of a botanical garden, FA Cup football matches and home to the likes of Samuel Gurney and Elizabeth Fry, since becoming public, the park has touched many lives. ‘Park Lives’ will create an art trail in the park to celebrate its history.

Black and White image of West ham park Newham heritage

Paddling, West Ham Park

Running seven kilometres through the heart of the borough, the Greenway is the embankment which covers the Northern Outfall Sewer from Joseph Bazalgette’s famous ‘Cathedral of Sewage’ at Abbey Mills (the festival also offers a rare chance to see inside the spectacular pumping station). Built as a response to cholera outbreaks and pollution in Victorian times, the sewer today runs underneath a footpath and cycleway flanked by nature. ‘The Greenway: From Super-Sewer to Wildflower Walk’ will explore the space’s history through an eye-opening guided photo tour.

While an intriguing gravel pit is all that remains visible of the epic original 12th-century Stratford Langthorne Abbey that once dominated the landscape of Newham, ‘The Great Gate’ project will take east Londoners back into medieval times on the site of the monastery gardens, with workshops inspired by producing, growing, and making that took place at what was once the largest abbey in Europe. Turning to domestic garden spaces, east Londoners will be invited to dig into the heritage of allotments in Newham with painting and drawing workshops from ‘Up The Allotments’.

The line-up will also reveal the history of ground-breaking inclusive education in the borough that found fame around the world, celebrate the stories of migrants and refugees, and trace the places and spaces in Stratford that hold significance for the LGBTQI+ community to create a “living archive” of documentaries, oral histories, and photographs.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s grant, made possible with money raised by National Lottery players, will support the development of a heritage offer that embraces and celebrates the diversity of Newham, London’s youngest borough. 

Stuart McLeod, Director of England - London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

“We are delighted to continue our support for Newham Heritage Month, made possible thanks to money raised by National Lottery players. We hope people will get involved and share the stories of their heritage, to highlight the living history and energy of this borough. We believe that investing in heritage means investing in the community it belongs to and it has the power to connect communities, to share their sense of pride and to value heritage for everyone now and in the future.”

Newham Council Councillor Rohit K. Dasgupta, Deputy Cabinet Member for Equalities, Social Justice and Culture, said:

“This festival is a celebration of our diverse heritage and culture, a wonderful opportunity for us to explore and appreciate the true essence of Newham. It is a chance to uncover hidden treasures and learn what makes living here so unique and special. 
“This month of events will help preserve the history of our borough for generations to come. 
“I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to take part and embrace this festival and what it has to offer. With over 75 free events in June, there is something for everyone to enjoy and experience.”

The 16 projects featuring in the 2024 festival thanks to community grant funding are:

  • Act Up! Newham – Built for Inclusion: The creation of Cleves school and how Newham became famous for inclusive education
  • Applecart Arts – Ladders of Learning from Cradle to Grave
  • Cameye Arts CIC – Footprints of LGBTQI+ Humans in Stratford
  • Discover Children’s Story Centre – The Magic Library
  • Fairbairn Hall RTM Limited Company – Fairbairn Hall Stories: 1887 – 2024
  • Fight For Peace – The Blue Box in Newham: Home of Champions
  • Friends of Abbey Gardens – The Great Gate
  • Keith Martin – The Greenway: from super sewer to wildflower walk
  • Marilyn Fontaine – It’s A London Ting: how Stratford Centre influenced the international skate community
  • Maryam Huq – Minted: A short history of the Trebor Works
  • Matt Ponting – East Ham Nature Reserve: A celebration of over 40 years
  • Park In June – Park Lives: West Ham Park gets personal
  • Rhiannon Armstrong - A flat through time: legacies of former McGrath Road residents told by those who live there now
  • Ruth Bell – The history of Katherine Road, from Red Post Lane to today
  • The New Black Film Collective – Newham School for the Deaf
  • Thomas & William McLucas – Post-post-industrial: An archival installation of development around the Beckton Gasworks
Boxing match fight for peace for Newham Heritage Month

Fight for peace boxing match in the 2024 festival

Newham Heritage Month events line-up is now live at The full programme will launch on 1 June 2024. Book now for all the events and activities, including the launch party, which will take place on 1 June at Plashet Park, 325 Plashet Grove, London E7 8QR.


Published: 15 May 2024