Sharof Uddin

Houses in Parfett Street were not good

Interviewed on 9 March 2020, at Stepney Community Trust
By Kamrul Islam, Community Participant

In 1969 at the age of 14, I arrived in the UK from Bangladesh. I came to stay in East London. I got married in Bangladesh in my 20s and my family joined me here in 1980.
I attended school for two years before starting to work in tailoring. I experienced financial difficulties. I came to live in 54 Parfett Street in 1983 with my wife at a 2-bedroom house with my parents and siblings. Before I had lived in Hanbury Street. Later, I moved to 24 Parfett Street.

I wasn’t aware of the place before moving in but found the majority of the people on the street were squatters. Around 55% of people were Bengalis and the rest white.
The conditions of all the houses in Parfett Street were not good. Most houses were old and damaged. People thought they will not live there for long, hence they were not willing to do any repair. Most of the people were friendly and I am still on good terms with some of them. My children attended Swanlea School and Canon Barnett School in Tower Hamlets.

Among the squatters, there were two white men, Terry and Steven, who suggested creating a co-op titled Sylhet Housing Co-op and I got involved. There were many empty houses, but most of them were filled by squatters. There were around 30-40 houses at that time. They held regular meetings. Once we agreed on how much rent we wanted to pay, the Co-op submitted an application to the council in 1985 for funding to rebuild the area. They responded positively and offered a grant. We used it to rebuild the houses.
My squatting life came to an end after we started paying rent. We were widely connected with other organisations in East London and had good relations with the people of other religions.

I had one daughter and two sons while squatting. They had some difficulties in their studies because of the squatting. But they were able to complete their education and are working now. I worked in the tailoring sector at that time.

One incident that I remember well is that one day while I was at work my son got injured outside our house. Workmen put up scaffolding to undertake some work on houses in front of our house. A part of the scaffolding fell down and my son got hurt on his head. This was very shocking for me.

We used to buy our groceries from Bengali shops in Brick Lane. At that time, there were few supermarkets. The Ramadan or Eid was not like now. There were not many mosques like we have now in Tower Hamlets. The Bengali people couldn’t fast in Ramadan because they used to work long hours. Compared to that time, people are more religiously conscious now.

People used to work a lot during those times. But now, not many people work. There were no drug issues before.