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Exhibition to reveal secrets of the 'Rolls-Royce of Jewish Cemeteries' in Willesden

PUBLISHED: 16:56 09 October 2019

Willesden Jewish Cemetery being celebrated in new exhibition. Picture: Michael Eleftheriades

Willesden Jewish Cemetery being celebrated in new exhibition. Picture: Michael Eleftheriades

Michael Eleftheriades

The little known story of a cemetery in Willesden is revealed for the first time in a free exhibition.

The House of Life Exhibition at Willesden Library, in Willesden Green High Road, presents a 150-year view of Willesden Jewish Cemetery, dubbed "the Rolls-Royce of London's Jewish cemeteries" because of the people buried there.

They include pioneering chemist Rosalind Franklin, whose work was central to the understanding of DNA, and Tesco founder Jack Cohen.

A first ever showcase of the heritage of Willesden Jewish Cemetery has been created to help Londoners discover its fascinating collection of life stories and customs. The exhibition runs for four months, taking the cemetery out into the local community and asking questions which aims to challenge visitors.

"The exhibition invites us all to reflect on the people we have lost and how we like to remember them," said Hester Abrams, House of Life project leader at the United Synagogue. "It also challenges us to think how we ourselves would like to be remembered."

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Displays have been researched by volunteers with objects lent by museums and displayed for the first time from private collections.

The exhibition is a taster of a new public visitor experience that will open at the cemetery in 2020 thanks to support from National Lottery players.

"Cemeteries are intriguing places but they aren't always easy to access, and their stories can be hard to understand," said Ms Abrams, the exhibition's curator. "By taking some of these stories out beyond the cemetery's walls, we hope to encourage more people to visit when the transformation is complete."

A special events season alongside the exhibition offers visitors free talks, a "death café" - where people go to discuss mortality - and a concert paying tribute to the cemetery's many musical connections.

The House of Life exhibition runs until February 16 and is open daily from 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday, and 10am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday. It's a partnership between the United Synagogue and Brent Museum and Archives, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The library is at 95 High Road.

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