Roger’s history work

Roger Mills’ first experiences in oral history were at Centerprise, working voluntarily on The People’s Autobiography of Hackney. During the 1980s he helped organise the hugely popular Exploring Living Memory events held at the Royal Festival Hall, highlighting the roots-level type of history that Roger specialises in.

Roger has been described as a ‘street historian’ (partly because he has spent the last few years researching a single East London thoroughfare). The famous ‘Battle of Cable Street’ of 1936, when local people barred the way to Oswald Mosley’s fascist Blackshirts is the event that most people associate with that particular stretch. But it makes up only part of Roger’s book, Everything Happens in Cable Street. Other histories include those of local Jewish families before the breakout of the Second World War, the story behind To Sir, With Love (the book and movie), the Basement Writers and the school strike that created them, the making of the groundbreaking Tunde’s Film with a cast of local non-professionals, the story behind the painting of the giant mural commemorating the Battle, and the street’s infamous ‘red-light’ years.

Roger was an assistant editor of Rising East The Journal of East London Studies. In this role he commissioned, edited and carried out interviews for a wide range of articles on history, the arts and the diverse cultural activity of the area. He has a fascination with what might be termed ‘outsider’ and ‘forgotten’ histories and his long-term association with East London has provided him with a wide range of contacts.