10 May 2010
Venue: Arts Lecture Theatre, Arts Building, Mile End
Revolutionary Christianity in Early 20th Century East London: From the People’s Palace to Kingsley Hall People’s House
Poverty was undoubtedly at the heart of the “social question” in Victorian Britain, but, as Seth Koven argues, wealth became a problem for idealistic men and women committed to living as they believed Jesus had lived. Tracing the shift from philanthropic institutions such as Toynbee Hall and the People’s Palace to Kingsley Hall, the first “people’s house” in Bow founded in 1915, Koven elucidates the genealogy of Christian revolutionary concepts of restorative justice and radical visions of community, the self and the social. The utopian ideals of Kingsley Hall, best known as Gandhi’s East London home in 1931, developed not as a flight from but an immersion in the gritty particularities of urban space and place. Koven’s analysis points to the enduring potential of religion and faith as sources of progressive visions of relations between rich and poor, men and women, black and white. His talk draws upon oral histories recently collected as part of a National Heritage Lottery project to preserve Kingsley Hall’s history.