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King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla visit the Bangladeshi community in Brick Lane

The Royals were greeted by Tower Hamlets schoolchildren on their visit to honour the borough’s Bangladeshi community who played a role in the anti-racism movement of the 60s and 70s. 

Hundreds of schoolchildren had the morning off and waited patiently in the freezing cold to meet King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla as they visited Brick Lane in East London today (Wednesday, February 8).

Young school children from across Tower Hamlets could be heard singing ‘God Save The King’ and were waving union jack flags as the royals approached.

The King and The Queen Consort began their historical visit by meeting with residents who played an important role in the anti-racism movement of the 1960s and 1970s to the backdrop of music from Sohini Alam, a British Bangladeshi singer.

Their majesties were invited to plant a tree in memory of Altab Ali, who was stabbed to death in a racially motivated attack in 1978. The Bangladeshi textile worker, aged in his 20s, was walking home from work when he was brutally murdered by three teens in St Mary’s Park (now Altab Ali Park).

The visit was led by Tower Hamlets Councillor Abdal Ullah and Ayesha Qureshi MBE, who together formed the British Bangladeshi Power and Inspiration organisation, which was set up in 2012 to celebrate leading figures from the British Bangladeshi community.

Speaking outside Brick Lane Mosque, Ms Qureshi MBE, who helped bring the 2012 Olympic Games to London, said the royal visit was a very poignant moment for the British Bangladeshi community because a lot of the older generation lost their lives to Covid-19.

She said: “This year marks the 45th anniversary of [Altab Ali’s murder] we wanted his majesty to come here in recognition of that time and recognise the community that we have lost. [Around] 70 to 80per cent of that generation have been lost to Covid-19 and we wanted something in recognition where we still had people here from that era.”

Ms Qureshi praised The King for his support and understanding during the visit and admired his commitment to multiculturalism.

She said: “What this demonstrates is his majesty The King is very in-tuned to the communities of this country and wants to reign in a way that is inclusive and supportive of these communities.

“The fact that he has come here today is very demonstrative and he listens to people’s concerns and is willing to take them on board.”

The royals then stopped to take a look at the Banglatown arch and the new street mural in Brick Lane called The Land is Calling.

They then headed to Graam Bangla Restaurant on Brick Lane and met with women involved in the British Bangladeshi Power and Inspiration organisation, before finishing their visit by attending the Brick Lane Mosque and meeting with more community members including the Brick Lane Funeral Service Director and the President of the East London Central Synagogue.

Cllr Ullah told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We’ve been more than happy and ecstatic given the amount of time [The King] has given us and the crowd that has come out.

“We are truly happy and I hope this now brings a positive light to see all the children from Wapping, coming from all the different schools in the borough. It’s been absolutely delightful.”

The Royals continued their tour by visiting the University of East London in the afternoon, where they celebrated the university’s 125th anniversary and opened the hospital and primary care training hub which is on site.

If you enjoyed this article, see our photoessay of Queen Elizabeth in the East End.

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