National Recording Project

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Detail from: Memorial to 158 Squadron by Peter W. Naylor, 2009

Gateway to Altab Ali Park

Summary

Type Building , Building

     Ornamental wrought iron gateway arch at the entrance to the park. A black tubular framed arch, Bangladeshi in style, is decorated by interwoven bands of orange-coated metal wrapped around and interwoven through the tubular framed structure.
     'An ironwork arch is to be built . . . Stepney Neighbourhood has agreed to spend £8,600 putting up the memorial in St Mary's Gardens. Mr Ali, a 24 year old machinist, was stabbed in the neck as he returned to his Reardon House, Wapping home in May 1978. Labour controlled Stepney has commissioned Welsh artist/blacksmith David Petersen to carry out the work. "Stepney Neighbourhood decided to provide the arch not only as a memorial to Altab Ali himself but also to recognise the turning point in the struggle against racism that his death marked" said a spokesman'.(1) The artist was approached by London Borough of Tower Hamlets and members of the Bangladesh community who had seen his work. Not knowing very much about the culture he said he would do the work only if they taught him something about their history. He visited the local mosque and spent time with both elderly and young in the community. A friend of his, who was a photographer, had spent a year in Bangladesh and also supplied much of the background information. The design was originally to include railings and gates but the project ran out of money. The design had to be submitted to English Heritage as the pillars by the archway are listed. They asked for the design to be modified allowing only one bolt to be attached to each pillar. It was hand forged in Wales. The final design was based on Bangladeshi architecture and European Perpendicular architecture, a marrying of two cultures, the new community in the area and to represent the original church of St Mary's which had stood on the site. On the opening day the children in local primary schools made hats in the shape of the arch and carried red carnations and walked through the arch; part of the Bangladeshi culture is to pass through an arch at all important events e.g. marriage and death. Thus the Altab Ali arch is regarded as symbolic to the local community. A photographic history of the project was mounted at the Whitechapel Art gallery by Tom Learmouth.(2)
     Altab Ali was a local Bangladeshi who was murdered in a racist attack in 1978.

Contributor details

Contributor Role
Petersen, David Artist
Petersen, David Blacksmith

Element details

Part of work Material Dimensions
Archway/gate Wrought iron and steel 630cm high

PMSA recording information

Reference Region
TH047 UEL
General condition Good
Surface condition
Structural condition
Vandalism
Road Whitechapel Road
Precise location Entrance to Altab Ali Park, formerly St Mary's Gardens
A-Z ref 83 Wb 43
OS ref TQ342814
Date of design January-September 1989
Year of unveiling 1989
Unveiling details 1 October 1989
Commissioned by London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Stepney Neighbourhood
Duty of care London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Listing status Not listed
At risk? No known risk

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