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Volunteers wanted for research project delving into 1980s closure of old Millwall Docks

PUBLISHED: 11:25 16 June 2016 | UPDATED: 12:53 16 June 2016

The scene in 1985 when campaigners protesting at Millwall Docks closure took the battle onto the river [photo: Mike Seabourne/Isle of Dogs Living Archive]

The scene in 1985 when campaigners protesting at Millwall Docks closure took the battle onto the river [photo: Mike Seabourne/Isle of Dogs Living Archive]

© Mike Seaborne. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission

An appeal has been started for volunteers to help dig up facts and memories about demonstrations in east London in the 1980s when the old Millwall Docks were being shut with mass redundancies and protests on the Thames.

The stunts included an ‘armada’ sailing from Millwall Docks up the Thames to protest at Parliament in 1985 (pictured above).

The Protests of the 80s project is building up to a public exhibition on the turbulent era on the Isle of Dogs.

But it needs volunteers from the East End to train to be interviewers and researchers in the community to talk to those who remember the protest movement in the 1980s and the upheaval to community life when the Millwall Docks closed.

“This is a chance to get involved in the community,” project manager Rib Davis said. “It’s an opportunity to find out about local history on the Isle of Dogs and to learn how to do research.”

A two-hour session on how to plough your way through archives is being held at Tower Hamlets Local History Library in Bancroft Road, Mile End, on June 24, followed by all-day oral history training on June 25.

The Isle of Dogs Living Archive group is getting almost £10,000 for the project from the Heritage Lottery Fund to delve into the turbulent era when the India & Millwall Docks were closed down to make way for today’s massive Canary Wharf business district, following earlier closures of the London Docks at Wapping and Royal Docks at Silvertown.

Project director Woody Morris said: “The history of protest on the Isle of Dogs is unique with the famous sheep protest, the ‘death of a community’ march, the stunt at Westminster Bridge and the Docklands Armada on the Thames showing the strength and imagination of the community.”

The controversy over the docks closure led to protests to Parliament to try and prevent what was seen as destruction of the community and the East End’s working class.

Protesters even led a herd of sheep into the headquarters of the London Docklands Development Corporation, as well as the Thames ‘armada’ protest.

The exhibition is being organised later this year on the Isle of Dogs at St John’s community centre, George Green’s School and Docklands sailing club. Anyone interested in the Docklands story who wants to join the free archive training sessions on June 24 and 25 can contact Rib Davis on 07947-523756.


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