Q&A: Del Taylor – Education Lead

In the run up to One Lost Stone, launching Sunday 5th July online, we will be posting Q&As with the team behind Discovering and Documenting England’s Lost Jews sharing their highlights, discoveries, personal journeys and more. Here we interviewed Del Taylor, Education lead in Discovering and Documenting England’s Lost Jews.

What is your role in The Lost Jews?

My name is Del Taylor, and I have been delivering the education element of Discovering and Documenting England’s Lost Jews.

What excites you about this project?

The idea of undiscovered and hidden history that was not on school curriculums or part of common knowledge, really took hold for me, and was what I used as the basis for designing and delivering a series of drama workshops to creatively explore aspects of Sephardi Jewish history.

What has surprised you in this project?

When I signed up to deliver the project I knew absolutely nothing about this period of Jewish history or the origins of the Novo Cemetery at Queen Mary University, despite having been a student there many moons a go and walking past the site numerous times.

This all meant that my first task was research, research, research, to try and find out as much as I could about the history. Thankfully this was supported by the brilliant team at Pascal Theatre Company who have unearthed and collated a vast amount of fascinating and in-depth information covering a wide range of historical areas.

Tucked away amongst modern buildings in the city, with the Gherkin towering over it, is the oldest synagogue in the UK – Bevis Marks. I ran a series of three open access drama workshops there with the youngest participant aged four and the oldest well into their 80s. We used drama to explore Sephardi history in an accessible, practical and fun way, to try and reveal and explore the lives and stories of Sephardi Jews arriving in London.

Each workshop focused on a different element of Sephardi history with participants responding creatively through improvisation, creating images and scenes, using props and objects, and exploring and developing characters. The first workshop examined the need for secrecy and hiding as Jews returned to England without official permission. The second focused on creating stories about those buried in the Novo cemetery and the third was about creating a 3D human historical timeline of Sephardi Jewish history.

What has been your highlight so far?

It was wonderful to see people of all ages and backgrounds coming together to creatively learn, share and embody the history in our workshops. There was a wonderful moment when participants improvised how they would persuade Cromwell to give them land for a Sephardi cemetery. The group came up with a huge variety or reasons, with responses being historical, emotive, imaginative, religious and personal. I also gained a huge amount from both visiting the synagogue and also the people I met there who generously shared their stories and knowledge.

The content of these workshops was then condensed into one workshop which I delivered in different settings to a range of children and young people across London, including: High Trees Community Develop Trust (Tulse Hill), Resources for Autism (Finchley), Studio 3 Arts (Barking) and Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue.

What are you looking forward to the most in One Lost Stone?

It has been brilliant to see so many children and young people engage in and learn about a hidden area of history that it’s unlikely the would ever have come across without this project.

It was amazing to see them link the history to their own lives and find parallels in the modern world. I have gained so much knowledge from working on this project. It is a real insight into a hidden world and I look forward to how this is furthered by the One Lost Stone website.

See more about Education lead Del Taylor and the Lost Jews team here.

Find out more about One Lost Stone here, launching on Sunday 5th July online.