The Hackney Society and Hackney History have  launched a new publication containing 113 brief illustrated biographies of women from Hackney’s history who lived or worked, were born or buried in today’s borough. Drawn from widely differing backgrounds, none of these women is still with us but their stories cover five centuries and show us how times have changed for women and for Hackney.

Written and designed by Hackney women (including our very own Lil Warren who wrote of Edith Cavell), the book has been produced in collaboration with Hackney History (Friends of The Hackney Archives).

You can order from The Hackney Society here


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The Elizabeth Montagu exhibition QUEEN OF THE BLUES has now been installed at Dr Johnson’s House and filming has begun to create an online Virtual Version for 2021.

Because of new restrictions Dr Johnson’s House will not be open to the public until Spring 2021 and we will keep you updated.

When the museum is able to open the community made work will be on display for a whole month!

In the meantime you can find our Audio Documentary about Elizabeth Montagu here.

HACKNEY DISSENT – Book Now Available

This collection of poetry and images was produced by participants in the HACKNEY DISSENT community research project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

You can either download Hackney Dissent Book of Poetry and Images or for a hard copy, complete the form below.

This segment of the two year project BLUE CIRCLE OF DISSENT looked at the life and work of Mary Wollstonecraft and the subjects of dissent and radicalism.

There were workshops, activities and trips delivered in partnership with Hoxton Hall Youth Arts and Dr Johnson’s House.

Groups of 8-11s, 12-16s and the Joelle Taylor workshops for over 18s looked at the legacy of dissenters that have gone before and what dissent means to us now, investigating through Drama, Debate, Movement, Poetry and Art sessions.

The project also included watching and discussing the graffiti artist STEWY’s Mary Wollstonecraft documentary. This saw the beginning the “bunting” that would be realised as an installation and several of the pieces are also included in the book.

There were performances of the poetry and display of artwork and information installations at Hoxton Hall and Dr Johnson’s House and some of the poets also appeared in the documentary made by our Digital Outputs Team and directed by Lil Warren also called HACKNEY DISSENT.

Available on YouTube.


HACKNEY DISSENT – Documentary (captioned)

Stewy, Wollstonecraft and Graffiti

If you would like a hard copy of HACKNEY DISSENT or more information please complete the form below:

Continue reading HACKNEY DISSENT – Book Now Available


On 4 December this year, we again laid flowers at the monument in St Martin’s Place, London to mark the birthday of Edith Cavell. (Flowers are also laid every 12 October by the Royal London Hospital to mark the day of her execution in 1915).

It was eerily quiet in London’s West End and as Edith’s favourite hymn, Abide With Me was sung, we remembered her contribution to nursing, her faith and her bravery.

Lil Warren was invited to write a short biography of Edith Cavell as part of a collection of 100+ women from Hackney’s history being compiled for a future Hackney Society/Hackney History publication. (see below).

Edith Cavell 1865 – 1915

WWI nursing pioneer and iconic woman of courage

“Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone.”

These are the last words of Edith Cavell before she was executed in Brussels, 12 October 1915. The striking George Frampton monument to her in St Martin’s Place, London (adjoining Trafalgar Square) also bears this simple but powerful statement.

Edith Louisa Cavell was born in Swardeston, Norfolk 4 December 1865. (The family name is pronounced to rhyme with travel not hell). A religious, Victorian, middle class upbringing included attendance at the progressive Laurel Court school in Peterborough where Edith began working with children and became fluent in French.

At that time opportunities of employment for “gentlewomen” were scarce and Edith took a series of governess posts, lastly with the Francois family in Brussels. She returned to England to nurse her seriously ill father and when he recovered, decided her vocation was to be a nurse.

Her training began at the London Hospital, Whitechapel (now known as The Royal London Hospital) under the formidable Matron and contemporary of Florence Nightingale, Miss Eva Lückes. Edith qualified in September 1898. By November 1903 she was appointed Assistant Matron at Shoreditich Infirmary (now St Leonard’s Hospital in Hackney) where she had a great deal of supervision of wards and opportunities to teach the nurses training there.

Still looking for promotion to Matron in a British hospital in 1907 she had the good fortune to be recommended by the Francois family to a Belgian surgeon, Dr Antoine Depage.  She became Matron and teacher at the Berkendael Institute in Brussels and pioneered professional nursing, previously tasked by nuns. One of her nurses, Mademoiselle Boheme wrote of Edith:

 ‘Her clear, grey eyes were direct and searching in their gaze. Her voice was low, agreeable and cultured; her French was fluent….I formed the impression that everything around Edith Cavell, the atmosphere of her room, the neatness of her attire, her attitude and poise, and the words she used, all conveyed her characteristic efficiency, thoroughness, serenity, kindness.’

On 3 August 1914 Germany declared war on France and invaded Belgium. Britain declared war on Germany for attacking Belgium’s neutrality. In September 1914 Edith could have returned to England. She chose to stay. She nursed the wounded of all nationalities and surprisingly the German authorities did not intern her as an enemy alien.

For the next year, unbeknownst to her nurses, she became part of the escape network which helped Allied soldiers to safety via Holland.  She was closely watched by the secret police and on 5 August 1915 was arrested. On 10 August she was accused of war treason. At her court martial on 9 October she was condemned to death.

At dawn, 12 October she was taken to the Tir National and tied, blindfolded, to the execution post. At 0700 the firing squad opened fire. She died instantly.

Her legacy to nursing will endure as will her qualities of humour, unselfishness, commitment to duty, faith, bravery and her love of others. We will not forget.

A downloadable BRUSSELS AT DAWN PDF (with foreword by Jonathan Evans from the Royal London Hospital Museum) available on our Resources page. https://unityartslondon.wordpress.com/Resources/

Featured image at the top of post by Michael Cheetham of the stained glass window at St Olave’s Church, Hart Street, London.


QUEEN OF THE BLUES has been created by Unity Arts and our community and shows responses to the life, work and letters of Bluestocking, Elizabeth Montagu. This event is part of the project BLUE CIRCLE OF DISSENT and has been funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

This exhibition will be installed in collaboration with Dr Johnson’s House. And will be available as a Virtual Exhibition in 2021.

Later in 2021 you can also book slots if you wish to visit in person but please take into consideration current Covid-19 guidelines http://www.drjohnsonshouse.org/visit.html

Queen Of The Blues by Derek McLuckie created remotely in Scotland

Queen of the Blues was the name given to Montagu by Samuel Johnson and the pieces that are displayed have been created during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The artwork, 3D installations, audio, photographs and information panels came out of online workshops, heritage trips in pairs and one to one socially distanced meetings with the researchers and artists.

Our thanks to Dr Johnson’s House for their support and the loan of their original Elizabeth Montagu Letters and portraits of Montagu and Johnson for this installation. The museum were also hosts and partners to our Hackney Dissent project last year and have made this event possible by welcoming us as their first virtual exhibition.

We are so happy to be back.

The audio documentary Queen Of The Blues can be found here

The documentary Hackney Dissent can be found here

For more information contact



The image at the top of the post is Blue Lady Of Dissent and will appear in the exhibition.

This is a painting  of Elizabeth Montagu coming out of online workshops and created by Jayne McVeigh during lockdown.


As we remember Mary Wollstonecraft throughout September here is a wonderful interview with Professor Anna Birch about the life and legacy of the author of A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman.

Professor Anna Birch Interview

Anna has been a great supporter of Unity Arts and here she was in  April on Newington Green last year giving a talk at our Hackney Dissent event which was celebrating Wollstonecraft’s 260th Birthday.


As she mentions during the film her company Fragments & Monuments created WOLLSTONECRAFT WALKS APP  a great outside research activity during these strange times.

The interview was conducted by Ellen Gage one the researchers from the Heritage Team who is currently working on a paper looking at the travel writing of Wollstonecraft.

Ellen wrote a blog about the research, filming an interview process for us here Behind The Scenes With Anna Birch

The film was shot and edited by Neil Webster with the support of the Unity Arts Digital Outputs Team, including Christian Mahier-Smith and is part of our National Lottery Heritage Fund supported project BLUE CIRCLE OF DISSENT.


Newington Green Meeting House is now open to the public after extensive restorative build work. They are inviting the public to explore the elegantly renovated building and learn about the fascinating people and events that shaped its revolutionary history.

Richard Price

This also means there are opportunities to see our exhibition VINDICATION as a                        “live” installation! 


by Caterina Belo

Tours are approximately 30 minutes long and then you are free to explore the space, exhibitions and audio guide yourselves. The building is fully wheelchair accessible.

Please help them cater the tour towards your interest and needs of the group by answering all the questions when booking.

Live Tour Slots

VINDICATION – Mary Wollstonecraft Virtual Exhibition

During September, to mark the anniversary of the death of Mary Wollstonecraft, our National Lottery Heritage Fund supported

Virtual Exhibition



After a year of various events and activities these are responses to our participants’ research into the writings and letters of Mary Wollstonecraft.  Famously the author of A Vindication Of The Rights of Woman and a  radical, a dissenter and a champion of the education of girls.

STEWY work by Cerys Davies – Hoxton Hall Youth Arts

A Hackney Heroine who lived in Hoxton, had a school in Newington Green, worshipped at the Unitarian Church (now Newington Green Meeting House) and was married and first buried in Old St Pancras Church in King’s Cross.

Our first “public” event during the pandemic with a careful and socially distanced planning and setting up in August and filmed by Steve .

Many of the pieces have been created during the Covid-19 pandemic and come out of online workshops and one to one socially distanced meetings with the researchers and artists.

Our thanks to Newington Green Meeting House that have made this installation possible by welcoming us as their first 360 virtual event.

Before you take the VINDICATION tour you can find more detail on the artists’ work here

Click to access vindication-holding-booklet.pdf

And the Wollstonecraft Timeline here

Wollstonecraft Timeline

If you want to see the exhibition as part of a tour of Newington Green Meeting House book a slot here

NGMH Tour Slots


We are continuing to implement the online research, activities and events measure until September.

We have been busy however.

There have been submissions of responses to the An Essay on The Writings and Genius of Shakespear by Elizabeth Montagu

Here is an example from Priscilla Olympio

Phoebe Monologue – AS YOU LIKE IT

For more info in how to submit these outputs follow this link

Show Us The Genius Of Shakespeare – Elizabeth Montagu Study

We are continuing work on the preparation of STEWY installation at home and delivered paints, felt-tips, and hard copies.

You can download the PDF and we will collect the coloured in sheets after lockdown has been lifted and deliver workshops to complete the piece for exhibition.

Some of our participants made personal solo visits to Wollstonecraft sites on her birthday including laying flowers at her monument at St Pancras Old Church

We partnered with Newington Green Meeting House in their online Wollstonecraft birthday events and supported the launch of the new WOLLSTONECRAFT WALKS APP  by one of our heritage partners,  Fragments & Monuments, in collaboration with Scary Little Girls

We are continuing work on our digital outputs including the edit of the interview with Professor Anna Birch – supported by Neil Webster from Edwin Louis Fear Films. We have started the edit of the book of community produced poetry Hackney Dissent and the heritage booklet Blue Circle Of Dissent.

In addition we are building a YouTube channel containing ALL our filmed outputs over the last 10 years.

Unity Arts YouTube channel

If you need materials or support with your at home research or are new and would like to know more about this project, please contact us via the form below.

Newington Green Online Pandemic Memorial

From our neighbours at New Unity

A participatory online community memorial event to mourn losses from coronavirus in Newington Green will be held on
Sunday 31st May at 4pm
At this event, community members will be able to mourn individuals close to them and those from the wider community who have died from the virus. In addition, other losses and uncertainty caused by the pandemic will also be marked, including job losses and mental health problems.
To attend, register at bit.ly/NewingtonGreenMemorial
The link to join the online video event (through Zoom) will be sent the day before. Up to 500 people may attend and participate.
There will be readings, live music and more.
Bereaved people are invited to get in touch to arrange for the memorial to include a moment of remembrance specifically for their lost loved ones.
The memorial will be hosted by New Unity, a non-religious congregation in Newington Green.
All are welcome.