A statue of a Greek Olympic athlete holding a discus


The 2012 London Olympics

Where else can we start with this feature but the 2012 Olympic Games? From 27th July until 12 August 2012, Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Park hosted London’s third Olympic Games.

The Games were officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen before the epic Danny Boyle-directed “Isles of Wonder” opening ceremony began. A host of British musicians and celebrities took part in the stunning ceremony, including Daniel Craig, Rowan Atkinson, Frank Turner, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Mike Oldfield, the London Symphony Orchestra, Dizzee Rascal, Arctic Monkeys, and Sir Paul McCartney. The opening ceremony took Stratford into approximately 27 million living rooms and raised its profile nationwide.

Around 10,700 athletes took part, with 79 countries winning at least one medal; gold, silver or bronze. The 2012 London Olympics was, at the time, the largest multi-sport event ever to be held in the United Kingdom, and a spectacle which will be remembered in East London history.

The Church of St John the Evangelist

Stratford’s church features an unusual three-stage tower. Built as a chapel of ease in the 1830s, it gave residents a place to worship which was close to home. The church has played its part in East London history in more ways than you’d expect. 

Antonio Brady, the naturalist and reformer, is buried in the churchyard. Born in Deptford and educated in Lewisham, he died at his home in Stratford in 1881 and was buried in the graveyard at St John’s.

The church’s crypt was used as an air-raid shelter during World War II and provided safety for the community even after the church suffered bomb damage. 

The churchyard is also home to a memorial to the Stratford Martyrs. They were a group of Protestants who were burned at the stake by Queen Mary in the 1550s for their religious beliefs. The event was a big draw at the time - carvings on the memorial depict people being burned alive, with a crowd of people watching the “entertainment”. 

Theatre Royal, Stratford 

Joan Littlewood was the founder of the Theatre Royal in Stratford, and she ran it with her partner Gerry Raffles until 1974. You may not have heard of Joan before, but she’s famous for sitting on top of rubble in front of the theatre when it was threatened with demolition. Joan saved the theatre, and her actions will go down in East London history as it still stands today. 

The bronze statue, named “The Mother of Modern Theatre”, stands in almost the same place as Joan sat all those years ago. Erected in 2015, the statue was created from a photograph taken of Littlewood taken during her protest. You’ll find the statue (and the theatre!) at E15, Theatre Square, Theatre Royal Stratford East.