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Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Friday, 1 October 2010 17:50 UK
Sharing Stratford's stories - life before the Olympics

With so much focus on the future of Stratford and the build up to 2012, is there a danger life before the Olympics might be forgotten? BBC London's Olympics Reporter Amandeep Bhangu went to meet the locals collating a legacy of people's history.

Joan Lowe and Claire Days
Joan Lowe with organiser Claire Days

"We've been through it all - the Blitz, factories opening up then later closing their doors on us, and the closure of the docks, all adding to the hardship in east London."

Joan Lowe has lived in Stratford for most of her life and although she turns 81 next month she remembers vividly working in the old Yardley's factory in the 1960s.

"You wouldn't think it from the photos, but Yardley's used to stand pretty much where the Olympic Stadium is now.

Those were the good days but it was a different world; now a forgotten world."

A forgotten world

I was there when Stratford went from gas to central heating overnight but to this day I can still remember the filth and smell of the gas works
Michael Pitt

It's this "forgotten world" which the charity, Eastside Community Heritage, is hoping to uncover and record for posterity.

A series of workshops allow locals to share their stories of Stratford, specifically the history of the Olympic Park site which has disappeared under the sporting venues and new homes being built there.

'Stinky Stratford'

These days Stratford is synonymous with the Olympics.

But as event organiser, Claire Days, explains it has come a long way from its reputation as 'Stinky Stratford':

"The Olympic Park was a hub of industry in east London from the mid-nineteenth century.

"The introduction of the Metropolitan Building Act of 1844 prohibited noxious trades within the city limits of London, forcing them to set up factories just outside.

Michael Pitt
Michael Pitt is a local history enthusiast

"It was the number of noxious trades that moved to the area that gave rise to the name of 'Stinky Stratford'."

With the name, however, came many opportunities for employment and in addition to Yardley's, there was Berk Spencer Acids, Jenson and Nicholson Paints and Clarnico's.

These companies gave life to the communities that grew up around them, not only providing employment, but often entertainment and sports events as well.

A love for local history

Michael Pitt is a former worker at Gas Lights, which was also once located on the site of the Olympic Park.

"I was there when Stratford went from gas to central heating overnight but to this day I can still remember the filth and smell of the gas works.

"That's what I love so much about local history: listening to other people reminds you of your own experiences and you connect with it in a way often you can't connect with the bigger national and international picture."

John Golding also attended the Olympic Park Reminiscence session at Stratford Library.

"Like Joan and Michael, I've lived and worked here for most of my life.

"Although there's been huge change, it's nice to see the old landmarks like the town hall and church sitting next to the modern buildings and shops on the high street because Stratford has a lot to be proud of."

Marathon in east London?

And it's this local pride that has been dealt a blow by speculation that Olympic organisers (LOCOG) might hold the Olympic marathon in central London rather than the original promise of it running through east London and finishing at the Olympic Stadium.

Although no final decision has been made about the marathon route, it was a hot topic of discussion with the locals present at Stratford Library, as reported on BBC London 94.9's Drive programme.

Fridge mountain
A mountain of fridges as photographed by Michael Steel in 2004

Olympic Park Reminiscence

As well as tapping into the communities that lived and worked in the area over the decades, Eastside Community Heritage is also interested in people's recent memories of the Olympic Park site.

A photograph taken by Mike Steel in 2004 captures how a mountain of fridges once sat on the site where the Aquatics Centre has now been built.

The collection of personal testimonies, photographs and memorabilia will form part of East London People's Archive located at the University of East London - which holds over 1000 oral histories as well as a large collection of films.

Eastside Community heritage will be hosting their next session at the Viewtube Classroom, in Stratford, on Monday 4th October between 2-4pm.





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