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Whitechapel’s Brady Club secrets uncovered in an old attic after 60 years

PUBLISHED: 12:00 24 April 2018 | UPDATED: 13:50 24 April 2018

Former members of the Brady clubs in Whitechapel looking through old photos and memorabilia from the 1940s to 1970s. Picture source: London Met Uni

Former members of the Brady clubs in Whitechapel looking through old photos and memorabilia from the 1940s to 1970s. Picture source: London Met Uni

London Met Uni

Old photographs and memorabilia about the Brady youth clubs that defined the Jewish community in Whitechapel and Spitalfields which lay hidden in an attic for 60 years have been uncovered and are going on show.

Exhibition of 600 photos and memorabillia of Whitechapel's former Bardy clubs discovered in an attick go on show on May 2. Picture source: London Met Uni Exhibition of 600 photos and memorabillia of Whitechapel's former Bardy clubs discovered in an attick go on show on May 2. Picture source: London Met Uni

They tell the story of ‘the Brady’ over a period of 40 years up to 1970 and were discovered in boxes in an attic last year and handed to the Met University’s Sir John Cass School of Art in Whitechapel where the exhibition is to be staged.

The ‘Brady’ expanded in the 1950s and 60s with voluntary services including a crèche and parents’ and pensioner groups, with up to 1,000 people turning up every week.

“There are 600 photographs from 1943 to 1970,” explains Dennis Bonley from the Bradians Trust. “We have identified 70 per cent of the people in the pictures and maybe 70 per cent of the places where they were taken.”

Dennis, a former Brady boy himself and later club manager, has invited former ‘Brady girl’ Beattie Orwell—who at 100 is one of the last living veterans of the 1936 Battle of Cable Street—to open the two-week exhibition next Wednesday.

Another former Brady boy, Lionel Saffer, from a family of 12, recalls his time in the post-war East End in 1952: “Someone said I should go to the Brady Club and it gave me a family of hundreds and the friends I knew then and still have today.”

The ‘Brady’ was founded in 1896 as the first Jewish boys’ club in Britain, in a building in Durward Street, off Brady Street, which also hosted Saturday morning children’s synagogue Sabbath services for a time in the 1950s.

Manny Robinson, who went to the boys’ club from 1949 to 1951, said: “We would leave school, come home, grab something to eat and our whole life really did revolve around the club.”

The girls’ club opened in 1921 half-mile away in Hanbury Street, the art deco building now home to the Brady arts centre.

Former Brady girl Gloria Newman recalls: “Being at Brady was just an amazing life for us. I was from a family of 11 children and we couldn’t afford anything. The club was our life.”

The ‘Brady Clubs East End Community’ exhibition opening May 2 at Sir John Cass School of Art in Goulston Street, off Whitechapel High Street, runs until May 18, open Monday to Thursday 12-8.30pm, Friday and Saturday 12-4pm, free entry.

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[East London Advertiser senior reporter Mike Brooke, who grew up in Whitechapel, remembers going to ‘the Brady’ after school as an infant while waiting to be picked up by his mum after work!]

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