A historic meeting between Indian icon Mahatma Gandhi and film legend Charlie Chaplin that took place in England in the 1930s was marked last week with the opening of a memorial garden.
A plot in Newham, east London, close to where the two internationally influential men met, has been turned into garden using materials from the Olympic Park nearby and flowers from the Chelsea Flower Show.
It was on September 22, 1931, that both men met in the house of Dr Katial, a friend of Gandhi. Thousands of people crowded around the house to catch a glimpse of the famous visitors, some even clambered over garden fences to look through the windows of the house.
At the time Gandhi was in Britain to attend the Round Table Conference on Indian independence while Chaplin was promoting his latest film, City Lights.
Last Wednesday (20), the inauguration of the garden was attended by, among others, actress Oona Chaplin, the granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin.
She said: “I would give anything to have been a fly on the wall at this meeting of my two biggest heroes: Chaplin and Gandhi. Their very mention invokes peace, hope, tenderness, wisdom, laughter and of course, an impeccable sense of style.
“My grandfather once said ‘All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman… and a pretty girl’. Well, here you have the park.”
The creation of the garden has already brought local residents together as part of the The Big Dig, a national campaign to get communities gardening.
At the opening of the garden, Sir Robin Wales, mayor of Newham, said: “The story of Gandhi and Chaplin meeting is an extraordinary and inspirational one. However, it is typical of life in Newham where people from all different backgrounds come together.
“The aim of this garden is to provide residents with the opportunity to meet, share ideas, build friendships as well as inspire and influence the world.”
Schoolchildren, working with local artist Alan Read, have contributed to the design of four mosaics adorning the footpath through the garden, which reflects on the work of Gandhi and Chaplin.
At the launch, a time capsule was also buried, along with art work and letters from local children.
Mark Hoda, chairman of the trustees of the Gandhi Foundation, added: “We welcome the garden and we very much hope it will be a focal point for community activities inspired by Gandhi’s life and message.”