Silk River

Tower Hamlets Interview Transcript

Ruksana and Geraldine talk about the work of ‘A’ Team Arts


Interview by Elizabeth Lynch
Production by Mike Johnston
Transcript by Jane Ford
Run time: 3:04


Kazi Ruksana

Hello, my name is Kazi Ruksana I am the Arts Officer for Tower Hamlets Council and the Artistic Director for A Season of Bangla Drama.

I went to Mulberry school which is what the school was named after and there was a place where you just sat under when you were hot and it shielded you when it was raining. So, I guess, in terms of the Mulberry tree, it was a very special place and it was almost like when we were in school, every single girl in the school was almost doing a pilgrimage to the tree.

I was in Mulberry School, ‘A’ Team Arts worked with Mulberry school at the same time. 20 years later I am working with ‘A’ Team Arts very closely as my colleagues. Often we may talk about the projects that ‘A’ Team Arts have worked on and what happened in Mulberry School and I’ll kind of pip my voice going “I was there but I didn’t know you”.

So the amazing work that A’ Team Arts do, certainly, it’s working with young people, it’s giving opportunities to young people, it’s giving a safe space to young people to do arts and express themselves, but from a young person’s point of view it was the starting point of actually accessing arts so let’s break the glass ceiling of East End working class kids doing arts.

Geraldine Bone

Hello, I am Geraldine Bone, I’m the artistic director of ‘A’ Team Arts in Tower Hamlets and we are standing in the fantastic art room at The Brady Centre which is our base.

We have worked a lot with girls in the art room so also one of our aims is to work with boys on textiles. In fact, if you look at the area and the way the rag trade has grown up in the area with the Bangladeshi community is that a lot of women would be working on clothing at home. They would have an industrial sewing machine in the living room and everybody in the family would be contributing towards making whatever it was – including the boys.

So you often find that there are boys in the area who are very adept at using sewing machines and then it is more a part of their lives than you may think. So when you get boys coming they actually, from the tailoring point of view, from the pattern cutting point of view, they know about it but the trouble is they have been at a very low level of that production. Whereas what we are encouraging young people to do – male and female – is to look at how you can become part of what is leading on that fashion industry. You don’t have to be sitting in your house just sewing seam, seam , seam, seam. You can be designing it. You can be doing your catwalk show. You can be going to CSM, you can be going to London College of Fashion and you can be a fashion leader rather than someone who’s in a sweat shop.

I suppose that’s really our ethos around why we do this kind of work with young people and how we’ve developed it over the years.


Thank you to Geraldine and Ruksana for taking the time to speak to us.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Tower Hamlets Council, ‘A’ Team Arts, their staff and partners for the planning and facilitation of the Tower Hamlets walk.

Tower Hamlets and ‘A’ Team Arts have worked with:

Tower Hamlets’ youth arts provider, ‘A’ Team Arts, has been working with young people in the borough for 38 years. They employ specialist tutors in all art forms and run regular youth arts sessions at their base at the Brady Arts Centre in Whitechapel, as well as in other youth settings across the borough.

‘A’ Team Arts admires the ambition of the Silk River project and think it will be a way for the participants to learn about their heritage, to mix with other people from different faiths and ethnicities, as well as learning a new skill and developing themselves as artists.