Echoes of the Spanish Civil War

Students from Kensington and Chelsea College have been working for more than two years on a mosaic to remember the people who were involved in the Spanish Civil War, from 1936-39.

On the 18th October, Jack Jones who was a previous general secretary of the TGWU and a volunteer in the International Brigade, unveiled the mosaic and spoke to a crowd of more than 200 people who were gathered under the Westway on Portobello Road. He spoke of his experiences and those of others, who fought to defend the Republic and democracy in Spain and how ordinary people had taken the lead at a pivotal time in history.

This mosaic which is five metres long and two deep and the brainchild of Eddie Adams, local resident, politician and KCC tutor, brought together 20 people of Spanish and British background who, guided by mosaic artists Maureen Pepper and Barbara Gorton, worked on the mosaic during a course at Kensington and Chelsea College. The design was inspired by the stories of 16 volunteers who went to Spain from Kensington to join the International Brigade and the Spanish refugees who came to Britain, particularly the four thousand Basque children who came to London on the boat “Habana”.

Amanda Hayes the Vice Principal of Kensington and Chelsea College outlined the College”s role in promoting community projects and how they had supported this particular project over a long period of time.

The Spanish Ambassador, His Excellency Carlos Miranda was one of the guest speakers. He emphasized that the sacrifices of those who died were not in vain and that Spain was now a democracy.

Among the gathering were many people with strong connections to that time in Spanish history. Felicity Ashbee now 94 showed posters she had designed in the thirties to raise aid for Spain. Elvira Medrano told how as a child she had hidden in a lorry full of oranges going to the front, so that she could see her father.

Alfonso Santana who also worked on installing the mosaic, spoke of his family”s experience when the fascists attached La Linia and how they escaped to Gibraltar never to return to their home. Manuel Moreno recounted how his father at the age of seventeen drove a Russian tank for the republic and that his mother had come to England on the Habana. The children lived in 98 colonies around Britain helped by the British people. Robina Rose spoke about how her father joined the Spanish army and his adventures in a local bullfight.

These stories and others are reflected in the design of the mosaic and were the subject of an exhibition. It is hoped to produce a book telling all the stories, in the near future.

Further information from Eddie Adams, 020 8964 9531

Jacky Storey
Kensington and Chelsea College