Q&A: My Newham - Eastside Community Heritage’s Francis Ball discusses Newham’s history and the north south divide


Francis Ball. Picture: EASTSIDE COMMUNITY HERITAGE - Credit: Archant

October is Black History Month and, for the first time in 10 years, Newham will be officially celebrating the occasion. Eastside Community Heritage, which archives the memories of Newham’s residents, is running a number of exhibitions to mark the event.

What’s your connection with the borough?

Eastside Community Heritage started in the ’90s as part of the Stratford City Challenge.

We were founded to preserve the memories of Newham residents at a time when there was lots of regeneration.

What’s the best thing about working or living in the borough?

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Our mission is to collect “hidden histories” – stories from people who might not otherwise have a chance to make their voices heard. Newham is a fantastic place to work in this respect, as the diversity means there are so many different experiences for us to document.

What one thing would you change?

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It can feel like there’s a division between the north of the borough and the south. It would be great if there was more of a sense of connectedness between the two, and more opportunities for people to come together.

Use three words to describe the area.

Diverse, vibrant, ever-changing.

Who is the most inspiring person you have ever met?

Eastside Community Heritage has conducted more than 4,000 oral history interviews, so it would be impossible to pick just one. However, we’re constantly inspired by the sense of humour that many older people reflect back on their lives with.

What new law would you introduce if you were the prime minister?

It would be great if small venues, community centres, and arts spaces received a level of funding in proportion to that given to the large cultural institutions. It’s becoming so much harder for people to access exciting cultural opportunities on their doorsteps.

If you were the editor of this paper, what issues in the borough would you focus on?

Newham is always going through big changes, in terms of demographics but also in terms of the built environment around us. Eastside Community Heritage would focus on how new developments are accessible – or not, as the case may be to local residents.

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