Food lives Podcast (1200 x 600 px)



In 2022, community researchers from Wen and the University of Sussex co-produced a Food History Tour of Tower Hamlets as part of the Food Lives project (itself part of a larger inter-university research project called FoodSEqual and led by Reading University). 

Over three episodes, community researchers Sajna Miah and Shazna Hussain, and Sussex University food and feminist specialist, Dr Elaine Swan, take us on a journey through time and racial and ethnic spaces, with insights into the food systems of the past and present day. 

The tour takes in Watney Market, Cable Street, the original site of Café Rio, Wombat’s City Hostel, Wilton’s Music Hall, the former dairies and sugar factories of Wellclose Square and Swedenborg Gardens, and ends in an urban orchard in the heart of the St George’s Estate.


Episode 1 – Food Lives, Tower Hamlets and the role of the Community Researcher

In our first episode, Elaine explains how the tour came about and its connection with a wider project, FoodSEqual, looking at food systems across the UK. Sajna and Shazna share more about the vital role of the community researcher and we get a flavour of what to expect from the tour and the next few episodes. 

Episode 2 – Part One of our Food History Tour: Watney Market, the Cable Street Mural, Café Rio and Wombat’s City Hostel.

In episode two, we begin at bustling Watney Market, the founding place of J Sainsbury’s, and discover its valuable culinary contribution to communities past and present. We move on to Cable Street where we learn more about how the humble wooden spoon played a significant role in the campaign for justice. We visit the original site of Café Rio which provided comfort and familiarity for new immigrants and finish at Wombat’s City Hostel gaining an understanding of the importance of these spaces to food and community along the way. 

Episode 3 – Part Two of our Food History Tour: Wilton’s Music Hall, Wellclose Square and Swedenborg Gardens and Orchard.

In our final episode we start at the beautiful Wilton’s Music Hall where Elaine explains more about its original food-related purpose. Shazna and Sajna then take us back to the time of the former dairies and sugar factories that dominated the area. We take in Wellclose Square and learn about the historical importance of Swedenborg Gardens and finish the tour at an urban orchard in the heart of the St George’s Estate where we learn how it serves the community today.  




About Food Lives project

Food Lives is part of a 5-year research programme funded by UKRI and led by University of Reading, FoodSEqual. Food Lives Tower Hamlets is run by Wen and University of Sussex and is taking place on the St George’s Estate, Shadwell. The project looks at the role food plays in our lives and the importance of history, culture and heritage to our food habits.  



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