Tag Archives: Stepney Words

Sisters

Poems from 3 schoolgirl sisters from Stepney Words II, 1973.

I am different from my sisters,
I am the tallest of them all,
I am 4 ft 11 inch, but the tallest don’t forget.
I have got the same eyes, nose and mouth though
But not the fattest even yet.
I have got longer legs than them.
The people stop and look
Even the teachers can’t tell the difference,
My name is Pat, don’t forget.

Yet even my family cannot tell.
When I walk down the street, I think how
The people must feel,
Of how they wished to be us.
To me I am different, to others I am not,
But some of them say ‘yes I know them.’
But really they don’t, all the same.

Pat Conway

I am different from my sisters
I am the prettiest of them all.
But I’m only 4 ft 10 1/2 inches tall
And I think that’s the lot
I walk the same
I talk the same
And people stop and stare.,
Thy’ll never find the difference
Only from what I’ve put there
My nan can’t tell the difference
But she could if she tried.
The only problem is though,
I don’t really know why,
As I go walking down the street
I get a funny feeling
That the people all around me
Will never stop staring.

Barbara Conway

I have got two sisters,
I’m the smallest of the lot,
I am only 4 ft 10 ins,
I’m the smallest of the lot.

I amthe smallest of them all,
I am different from them all,
People stop and stare, and say,
‘Look at them over there’,
Even my own family can’t tell us even yet
They say ‘Who are you’, I say ‘Susan –
Can’t you tell us yet?’

Even my own sister gets us mixed up
She says ‘Come here Barbara’,
I say, ‘I am not Barbara I am Susan.’
I don’t really find the answer to what this problem is,
To me we are different
To all other people we are the same,
I just cannot find the answer, why they can just not tell,
When we go down the street on our way to school,
Everybody always stops and stares
I have a funny feeling no one is there at all.

Susan Conway

Pictured are the Tagg triplets, aged 8, from Leytonstone; Dorothy, Iris, and Myra.

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George Lansbury’s Dream Of Poplar

George Lansbury (1859 – 1940) was a socialist politician who represented Poplar in the East End. He was jailed in 1921 with 30 fellow councillors for the Poplar rates revolt.
His granddaughter is Murder She Wrote actress Angela Lansbury.
Chris Searle is the teacher whose Stepney Words anthology led to the school strike in 1971. This poem is from his 1980 collection Red Earth.

George Lansbury’s Dream of Poplar

In our beloved triangle
Midst cut and docks and Lea.
I dreamed a future happiness
Of the people strong and free.

There’s not much grass in Poplar,
The soil is pressed by stone,
But earth made rich by the flowing Thames
Has a wilful people grown.

Our riches are our people,
The jewels are in their eyes.
Their hands have built a city
And their work made a future rise.

The times we marched together,
Striking evil at its root!
We sang, spoke and persuaded,
Seized power from the brute.

The people of the spreading world
Share our doorsteps now,
Our massive strength must forge a life –
One blood, one love to sow.

To own those things we always made,
To organise our power,
To plant new work in dying docks,
Strike the workers’ eternal hour!

Fifty years after I still dream on
And the mist clears over the Thames.
The vision still embraces my heart
And sends the past in flames.

In our beloved triangle
Midst cut and docks and Lea.
I dreamed a future happiness
Of the people strong and free.

Chris Searle

The Fourth Quarter – Chris Searle

From Mainland, 1974
Chris Searle was the teacher whose sacking for publishing his pupil’s poetry sparked the Stepney school kid’s strike in 1971.

The Fourth Quarter

From the cocoon breaks the monster,
The world lets him breathe again,
His poison falls back in the memory,
He breaks the day, the noon darkens.

Now is the fourth quarter:
The century ends that promised us equity.
The winds sweep through the branches,
The leaves rustle with warnings.
The crosses clank on the national flag,
Their clangs make the sound of marching iron.

To the beat of chauvinism and voracious nostalgia
The fascists reassemble.
Their white slogans wave in our streets,
Their scientists move to prove their prejudices
With synthetic fact, designed for genocide.

The beasts are rampant in Chile:
Their allies move in the British cadres,
Planning their hatred in army words –
Now is the calling,
The time of dithering is done,
The here, the now, the us!

We, who have lived the guise, beguiled by security,
Fooled by the affluence of the skin,
Know the facade drops away, reality tightens.
We, who have waited this calling,
We the readers, the rockers
We the teds, the demonstrators,
We the banners, the mods,
We the marchers, the skinheads,
We the hippies, the hooligans,
We, the waiting generations,
The diverted ones, the untried ones,
The pawns of mode, the children of welfare:
Throw away your shades, move with your brothers –
The time of dithering is done!

Chris Searle

melisser

Chris Searle – Stepney Schoolkids Strike

Chris Searle is the teacher whose publishing of poems by his pupils led to his sacking and to the kids then going on strike and marching to Trafalgar Square to demand for his re-instatement.

This poem about the kids is from his 1974 collection Mainland.

Strike Of Words
(Stepney, May 28th, 1971)

Anyone can write a poem, I still hold that,
But you children, sharply organised,
You made your words strike,
The words of your class march,
Past middle-class poet-cynics
Shaking their heads, declaring
‘Poetry can do nothing,
It makes nothing happen’.

Yes, their poetry can do nothing,
Morosely making nothing of the world,
But yours, wed to the march
Can take it over.

Priests who lived for learning shackles
And dullards hanging on to power
Saw their enemies in you, in us,
And with your shouting, loyal words
You blew them over with your poetry.

These children made me what I am,
Their words carved me out a new mind –
I work to make myself
Worth the winning.

Magnificent children,
Sons and daughters of
The future’s implacable equity:
I am in love with your clarity
I am in love with your Class.

Chris Searle

Stepney 71