Brady Social

Brady Social • Brady Photographic Archive

This lovely image comes from the Brady Photographic Archive, a collection of hundreds of photos taken between the 1940s and the late 1970s at the Brady Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs in the East End of London. It shows one of the many ‘socials’ organised by the clubs. We love the whirling skirts caught in motion!

The first Brady Club for Working Lads, was established in 1896, in Durward Street, driven by Lady Rothschild and other wealthy ‘West End Jews’ who wanted to improve the social quality of life and help to Anglicise the ‘East End’ boys, who came mainly from East European refugee families, and whose lingua franca was Yiddish. In 1925, Miriam Moses established the Girls Club, and in 1935 the girls moved to the building in Hanbury Street, and in 1960 the Boys Club moved from Durward Street to amalgamate with the Girls club in the Hanbury Street building.

The clubs were very successful and as time progressed the range of activities on offer grew to include: a non-denominational Children’s Play Centre; an Old People’s Club; an Old Members Club; a Mother’s Club; a Parent’s Association; an Old Pensioner’s Club offering meals and outings; camps and holidays in Britain and abroad, including Sidmouth in Devon and Schwellbrunn in Switzerland, for all its young members; and a place in the country, Davidson House, Skeet Hill, Kent, which functioned both as an country outlet and a training centre. On a regular basis, The Brady Club provided amateur dramatics, sports and exercise, inter-club competitions, a camera club, scouts and guides troupes, access to arts and many practical training workshops. Indeed, by 1966 the Club was providing a huge range of opportunities for over 1,000 people a week in East London and was set to expand.

However, as the Jewish Community dispersed to North London, Essex and further afield, the club declined with the last youth members leaving in the 1970s when the Hanbury Street building was sold to Tower Hamlets Council, later re-opening as The Brady Arts and Community Centre. In the 1990s the original Brady Club moved to new premises in North London where some of the past members started to run activities for a new generation.

The archive of photographs is based on a cache of several hundred photographs that had been ‘lost’ for many years. The initial cache of photographs had been stored by journalist Hannah Charlton, who collected them while researching material for a project about the East End. They were stored in an attic, and forgotten about for some 35 years, but when Hannah rediscovered them, they found their way back to the East End and to Susan Andrews, Reader in Photography at the Sir John Cass Faculty, London Metropolitan University, who organised a small exhibition called ‘Nostalgia is Not Enough’ using some of the material at the former Cass building opposite the Whitechapel library.


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