Our High Street

Alongside the Panorama of photographs and information, the Building Exploratory has been working with communities who live, work and play around Bow Road. We have been hearing and recording their reminiscences, stories and opinions of this remarkable part of east London. The 'Our High Street'.

You can explore these interactions with High Street 2012 on this “Our High Street” page. Look out for the “Our High Street” star throughout the Panorama, to identify where these interactions take place with specific buildings.

You can also add your own “Our High Street” perspective, by voting for your favourite building, or by sending in images or text to .

The project was awarded a Transformers grant through the Olympic Lottery Distributor, which was funded by The National Lottery and managed by the East London Business Alliance

Olympic Lottery Distributor ELBA


Bangladeshi Grandparents Group

The Bangladeshi Grandparents Group live in Bow and come together once a week to share food and take part in various activities. Most of the group moved to England during the 1980s and have been living in the area for 25-30 years. 

Our High Street explored the group’s impression of how their area has changed and developed over time and looked at the impact the London 2012 Olympics has had on the area.

The Building Exploratory organised two visits to the Church of St Mary Stratford at Bow for the group, which gave them the opportunity to explore a building which has remained almost timeless in the face of the all the change around it.

This was the first time many of the group had ever visited a church. The group also participated in an intergenerational session, where they in turn brought their grandchildren to see the church.


Young @ Art

The Young @ Art group meet at Bromley-by-Bow centre. They are a creative group, who visit the centre to take part in arts activities. As part of the Our High Street project, the group took a ‘virtual walking tour’ of Bow Road, exploring the buildings and history of this historic high street.

One member lived on Bow Road, and many reflected on how it has rapidly changed as a result of the Olympics. The group then expressed their reflections, experiences and memories of Bow Road creatively by creating collages.


Poplar Day Centre

The Building Exploratory worked with a group of people who visit Poplar Day Centre.

In their first session the group explored maps and resources that looked at different buildings along Bow Road, and then took part in a virtual walking tour of the area. The tour used video footage, photographs and web resources to explore the street, the aim was to make our tour of Bow Road accessible to older people who were unable to participate in the walking tour. The resources also stirred memories and the group’s enthusiasm for their local area and they were eager to share a lifetime of knowledge of Bow Road.

After this initial exploration session, the group also explored Bow Road through a creative activity designed and facilitated by the artist Andrea Sinclair.

Andrea's session focused on multi-sensory experiences of the rich and diverse architectural heritage of High Street 2012. The session began with object handling, using architectural fragments such as tiles, bricks and terracotta mouldings to evoke the buildings along the high street and encourage reminiscence and discussion.

Participants then used a simple image transfer technique to transfer collaged designs, which they created using architectural details from buildings along High Street 2012, on to rectangles of fabric. These rectangles were later sewn together to form a beautiful quilt capturing their interaction with High Street 2012.


Neighbours in Poplar

Artist Jo Grant engaged a group from a charity called Neighbours in Poplar with St Mary-at-Bow Church on High Street 2012, giving participants a unique experience of this ancient place of worship. In the session, Jo used modern technology to enhance the viewing of the church, and encourage a creative exploration of the fabric of the building.

Jo used a live feed camera on a tripod connected to a laptop computer to allow the group to zoom in on architectural details high on the ceiling and see them at more convenient angles. The group then directed Jo to zoom in on other details such as the stained glass window and the sculptural features on a war memorial. The second activity saw the group using a selection of torches and coloured lights, which they used to “paint” the interior of the building, highlighting and accentuating interesting features and textures. The session allowed participants to engage in an inclusive, unique and memorable creative process not normally associated with a “church visit”.


Market Stall and Walking Tours

With the help of the Panorama volunteer team, and in the blazing sun, the Building Exploratory took to the streets in May and June 2012, hosting stalls in Whitechapel Market. We spoke to over 500 people, asking them to name their favourite building, to describe High Street 2012 and to tell us a secret about it. These perspectives from people who visit the high street regularly provide a deep understanding of the experience of the high street in 2012, at a point when the area is rapidly changing.

Tours of the area’s “significant’ buildings were also conducted. These began at the Ideas Store Whitechapel and took in some of the people’s favourite buildings including Trinity Green Almshouses, Whickham’s Department Store and Genesis Cinema. The tours also explored the restoration of the historic shop fronts on Mile End Terrace, which form part of the more extensive High Street 2012 improvement works.


Langdon Park Secondary School

Langdon Park Secondary School is situated a short walk away from Bow Road. The Building Exploratory worked with 50 Art and Design GCSE students to engage creatively with the Road. During workshops at the school and along Bow Road, students had the opportunity to work with a professional photographer – Will Robson-Scott – to learn new portraiture photography skills. They experimented with composition, linking people to the architectural environment, and the effect of different poses. The students also worked with Graphic Designer Sam Baum of the company Studio Baum. With Sam the students explored marketing and design, before visiting Bow Road to explore the design and architectural features of the street. Students were surprised to find the enormous range of typographies visible along Bow Road, and also looked at the ways in which pixel graphics could be created from the window arrangements on different buildings along the street.


St Pauls Way Trust School

Thirty students at St Pauls Way Trust School participated in Geography workshops to explore their personal interactions with High Street 2012. Students mapped out their personal geographies by creating GIS maps to document their relationship with and use of High Street 2012. Students also visited the Queens Building at Queen Mary University, to explore how this building represents the way the area has changed through its history.


Peoples Favourite Buildings

We’d like to know which building is your favourite along the High Street in our Panorama. Vote for your favourite by visiting https://sites.google.com/site/thepeoplesfavourite/



Please send in images or text with your own interactions with High Street 2012 to add to the “Our High Street” gallery.