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Students hop on down to Kent

Civic Engagement Fund 2015

Civic engagement fund

UEL staff and students travelled to Kent to create a multi-sensory exhibition to celebrate the history of hop picking at the old Hopper’s Hospital.

A team of 14 people associated with UEL spent a week at the old hospital, now a charity-run residential centre, researching the history of hop picking and talking with ex-hop pickers from east London. The exhibition featured pictures of the ruined hop-picker huts in West Kent where thousands of labourers from east London used to stay for a few weeks each year to bring in the hop harvest. 

Students were trained in oral history interviewing, digital recording and sound editing. Over the course of the project, they processed 17 interview recordings, digitised a large number of diaries and records from hospital staff and helped mount the exhibition, which attracted over 100 people the day it opened. 

Their interview subjects included residents from Tower Hamlets Community Housing, who were given a coach trip to the hospital and hop gardens to talk with students about their hop picking experiences. Recordings of the interviews were used to create sound installations that accompanied the photography exhibition.

“The students were amazing and worked until midnight to produce the exhibition. Our charity partners said they were impressed by their dedication and hard work, said Dr Toby Butler, a UEL senior lecturer and the project's leader. 

“We have established a major partnership with a local charity and the students have gained invaluable experience of real-world exhibition and event management,” he said.