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Ghandi's Kingsley Hall celebrates Heritage of Muriel Lester

PUBLISHED: 07:00 26 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:07 05 October 2010

THE historic Kingsley Hall where Ghandi chose to stay in the 1930s among the poor of London's East End rather than a posh hotel is celebrating its 80-year history. The centre founded by philanthropist sisters Muriel and Doris Lester put its archive on show to mark its heritage

By Mike Brooke

THE historic Kingsley Hall where Ghandi chose to stay in the 1930s among the poor of London's East End rather than a posh hotel is celebrating its heritage looking back on its 80-year history.

The community centre in Bromley-by-Bow founded by philanthropist sisters Muriel and Doris Lester put its archive on show last Thursday to mark its heritage.

Kingsley Hall is remembered for Gandhi's 1931 London visit to attend the imperial conference on India's future. He slept there as guest of Muriel Lester to meet the working class rather than stay in the West End as a feted guest of Ramsay MacDonald's Government.

But the place fell into disuse by the 1970s when community centres went out of fashion, until it was 'rediscovered' a decade later by film-maker Richard Attenborough, who used its facade as background in scene from his Ghandi biographic movie.

Campaigners then raised the funds to reopen Kingsley Hall. They paid homage to Muriel Lester on Thursday with an archive display of original diaries, letters, articles, photographs and records of activities. A new Muriel Lester website was also launched to share memories by anyone who has used the centre over the past 80 years.

"It is said Kingsley Hall will remain for a-thousand years," proud manager David Baker tells you. "Being here for countless generations more makes preserving its heritage especially valuable."

Muriel Lester, who died in 1968 aged 86, had come from a wealthy family, but chose to live among the East End's poor, a Christian socialist fighting to improve living conditions of the working class.

Kingsley Hall, which thrives once more to serve the East End, is her legacy she would be proud to see.

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