Nine-month celebration of Bangladesh to mark 50 years of independence

A nine-month celebration of Bangladeshi history, arts and culture has begun, to mark the 50th birthday of Bangladesh, formerly known as East Pakistan.

Beginning on 26 March 1971, following a declaration of independence, modern day Bangladesh was forged out of a conflict which concluded on 16 December 1971.

Celebrations lasting 265 days, the same length as the war of independence, are being coordinated by Tower Hamlets Council, working with Bangladeshi artists, the National Portrait Gallery, the Council’s Local History Library & Archives, and residents.

We are proud that our 2011 English alumna Sabiya Khatun is a Citizen Researcher on the Bangladesh 50 Years project.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said:

“Here in Tower Hamlets, our community is strong. Diversity is one of our greatest strengths and we are proud of the role that the Bangladeshi community plays in making our borough such a vibrant and exciting place. We can look forward to celebrating the best of Bangladeshi culture throughout 2021.”

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs

Highlights from the nine-month celebration include:

  • The ‘Bangladesh 50 Years’ project led by the National Portrait Gallery as part of its Citizen UK programme, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Art Fund and Canary Wharf Group; working with the Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives, includes:
    • A new, large-scale public art commission to be installed at Idea Store Whitechapel, devised by artist Ruhul Abdin with local residents (pictured above).
    • A series of free online events exploring the local connections and impacts of 1971 on the Tower Hamlets community
    • An online exhibition documenting the year-long project exploring this fascinating history
  • ‘Liberation through a Lens’, which tells the story of the struggle for independence using ten iconic images covering the period 1970-71.

Her Excellency Saida Muna Tasneem, High Commissioner for Bangladesh said: The Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh is a significant milestone for our nation. It also marks the fiftieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and the United Kingdom. The Bangladesh High Commission takes enormous pride in the contributions made by the expatriate Bangladeshi community during our independence and their warm welcome to Bangladesh’s Founding Father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the historic Borough of Tower Hamlets. I thank the Honourable Mayor of Tower Hamlets and the Bangladesh Community for making the High Commission a part of these monumental celebrations.

Councillor Sabina Akhtar, Cabinet Member for Culture, Arts & Brexit, Tower Hamlets Council said: “Tower Hamlets is the spiritual home for many British-Bangladeshis. I’m humbled to be marking the occasion of my country’s birth from the perspective of my other home. I look forward to celebrating the best of Bengali culture and exploring what it means to be British and Bangladeshi in 2021.”

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All Things SED Editor

I am the Web and Marketing Administrator in the School of English and Drama. Amongst my various roles, I run the School's website ( and its Twitter feed (@QMULsed). I also manage the running of the School's Open Days and draft promotional materials.

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