Stories From the Quarter is a National Centre for Writing project, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund. It aims to document and celebrate the stories of the vibrant and diverse communities that live and work in Norwich.
The first edition of our Stories from the Quarter project has a special focus on Norfolk’s thriving Bengali and Sylheti-speaking communities, and over the last year we have collected 14 oral history interviews from community members: including those associated with the mosques, hospitality, transport and NHS professionals.
Through this project, Norfolk school children and local residents will be taken on a journey of discovery and intrigue into the vibrant and diverse communities that have lived and worked on King St and Magdalen St and surrounding areas. From the medieval merchant trader, Robert Toppes, who built Dragon Hall, to Linda Jones, who lived at the old bakery in the 1960s, to Wali Ullah, Magdalen Street’s Spice Valley restaurant owner.
Download the Stories From the Quarter map
Explore the lives of Bengali and Sylheti-speaking communities living and working in the Cathedral and King St Quarters of Norwich.
Follow the walking trail around Norwich UNESCO City of Literature and scan the QR code at each marked location to hear a first-hand account of the lives of residents: their memories of migration, of growing up as second and third-generation Bengalis, and of how Norwich has changed over time.
Experience Stories From the Quarter online
Tap the images to hear and read the stories from each location.
With special thanks to Mahbubar (Mash) Rahman, Shagufta Sharmeen, Ummay Honi Lethe, Access Creative College, Jason Wick at Goat Pen Studio, and Colin Fraser.
Inspiration for Stories from the Quarter came from the King St Community Voices project, 2011, which collected over 50 interviews from those who remembered living and working on King St throughout the 20th century. These are publicly available in the National Archives at the Norfolk Record Office. This new collection of Bengali oral histories will also be housed here once complete.
Thank you to the Dragon Hall Volunteers who helped us reconnect with the King St Community Voices collection, trained the school tutors and taken oral history interviewees on a tour of Dragon Hall.
I do think this is a great platform for us to be noted as part of Norfolk’s history… I think it’s a wonderful idea in that [people will] understand that Norfolk is not just a place of history but it’s also a cultural place.
Throughout June and July 2022, five Norfolk primary schools took part in a three workshops series that saw over 240 children exploring Dragon Hall’s medieval past, King St’s life as a bustling mid-century high street and Magdalen St’s present-day identity as a popular restaurant area. The tutors, Avani Shah and Amanda Addison, led classes through a series of activities including creative writing, drawing, exploring objects, listening to oral histories and independent exploring.
Thank you to participating schools who produced some fantastic creative writing: Magdalen Gates Primary School, Hemblington Primary School, Mulbarton Primary School, Sprowston Junior School and Colman Junior School.
Listen to the poems written by these students
Improving the cultural capital of our children is something that is vital to the primary experience. Teaching children to draw inspiration from their local environment is a fantastic skill as well.
Meet the facilitators and writers
British Bangladeshi Shagufta Sharmeen initially trained as an architect. Her stories have appeared in Wasafiri, Asia Literary Review, City Press and the Speaking Volumes Anthology Not Quite Right for Us. Two of her stories were published in Massachusetts Review and Adda magazine in autumn 2022. Currently, she is working on a nonfiction piece exploring the impact of changes in urban cityscapes.
Shagufta was the youngest recipient of Bangla Academy Syed Waliullah Award (2018) for outstanding contribution in Bangla literature. Her short story ‘Sincerely Yours’ was longlisted for the BBC Short Story Award 2021. From a record number of entries, her short story ‘What Men Live By’ was shortlisted for Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2022 and her short story ‘In the Soup’ was shortlisted for Creative Future Writers’ Award 2022.
Avani Shah’s writing has been shortlisted for the Guardian 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize and the Words and Women prose competition. In 2017, she won the Word Factory Apprentice Award. She holds an MA in Creative Writing – Prose Fiction from the University of East Anglia.
Avani has extensive experience leading creative workshops for children. She is delighted to join NCW for the Stories From the Quarter project.
Amanda Addison is an author and teacher who believes in the power of stories as a window on the world, and a mirror to see ourselves.. She uses objects as inspiration for writing, such as Lorina Bulwer’s stitched artworks in her novel Laura’s Handmade Life. Boundless Sky, her Carnegie medal-nominated children’s picture book, tells the story of a bird flying halfway round the world looking for a place to nest, and a refugee girl’s journey to a place of peace. Where are you really from?, her adult novel, is a story of family secrets and biracial heritage. Website
A huge thank you to National Lottery Heritage Fund for making this exciting project happen in our fine city.