Blue plaque celebrating migrant history to be unveiled at Tooting Market

A historic blue plaque celebrating migrant history in Tooting will be unveiled at the entrance of Tooting Market in September. 

Geoff Simmons, 59, organiser of the Summerstown182 community history project, is hoping to recognise the contribution of people from all over the world who have come to Tooting and made it such a vibrant community. 

The plaque will be placed at the market’s entrance on Tooting High Street, and an identical replica will also be positioned at the entrance on Totterdown Street.

COMMUNITY CELEBRATION: The blue plaque celebrating migrant history that will be unveiled at Tooting Market. CREDIT: Geoff Simmons

Simmons said: “In Tooting we’re celebrating migrants, and we celebrate them loud. 

“I’m very much aware how much migrant communities can add and it’s really important to say ‘we really appreciate you.’

“It’s lovely to think the plaque will be going up on the market and it’ll be there forever, acting as a permanent reminder of the people who’ve come here.”

According to the census in 2011, almost half of the people living in Tooting were not born in England. 

The many blue plaques across London also celebrate historical people who are predominantly white and indigenous, Simmons claimed.

As a result, despite the high number of migrants living in the area, minorities have often been underrepresented and left out.

Simmons wants to shine a spotlight on the crucial contributions of migrants in Tooting. 

He hopes this plaque will make people feel recognised and that the words inscribed on it will resonate with all members of the community. 

COMPETITION WINNER: Edward Mears’s words were selected to be on the plaque after he won a competition between local primary schools. CREDIT: Geoff Simmons

The message marked on the plaque is written by 11-year-old Edward Mears from Fircroft Primary school. 

His inspirational words were selected after he won the ‘Planet Tooting’ competition among local primary school students. 

Edward said: “I thought about Tooting as a whole and the words on the plaque were the first ones that came to me.

“I didn’t expect that I would win at all. I’m honoured to have it there and I feel special.”

Edward’s mum Laura said: “I’m from Albania and live in London, so the subject of migration is something that is very significant for us. 

“I was extremely pleased that Edward won and that it was also about migration.”

PLAQUE ON TOUR: The plaque is touring local community hotspots this summer. CREDIT: Geoff Simmons

Baron Deschauer, Manager of Tooting Market, said: “I’m exceptionally proud and honoured that the plaque is going on Tooting Markets.

“It recognises the market as the centre of the community and the importance of immigration in our society.

“I’m very pleased to be part of it.”

The plaque is currently on tour throughout the summer before it will be placed in its new home.

It will be unveiled on Saturday 10 September on Totterdown Street at 4pm. 

The occasion will be marked by a series of speeches, poems and special guests including Reggae musician Dennis Bovell MBE and Tooting Labour MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan. 

It was funded through crowdfunding, which raised £865, and donations from Simmons’ Planet Tooting guided walks. 

Simmons first became interested in local history about ten years ago, and started leading guided history tours around the area.

He has previously organised other plaques to celebrate local history, including a plaque for Reggae music performers who recorded at a former studio in Tooting, WW1 soldier Sidney Lewis, and jazz pioneer Sadie Crawford. 

Simmons is now working on finding a site in Earlsfield for his latest plaque commemorating strike action by young female employees at the Corruganza cardboard box factory in 1908.

To find out more about history projects in Wandsworth, visit the Summertown182 website.

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