2021, a year when the Covid-19 pandemic continued to wreak havoc all over the world, was also the 30th anniversary of the George Padmore Institute. Despite the curtailed opportunities to meet in person, we were able to mark this important occasion through our Arts Council England (ACE) funded Reaching New Generations project, which has revitalised our digital presence and allowed us to take our first foray into publishing for children. It was also a time of departures and loss, particularly the sad news of the death of GPI Trustee Milverton Wallace. But, in the words of our co-founder, John La Rose, we carry on our work into our fourth decade ‘in hope’.
A New Website!
In January 2021 we launched our new website. InFact Digital Cooperative, located just round the corner from us, designed the bold, new mobile phone-friendly site. Owned by its employees, InFact is a small, diverse cooperative who believe in the power of technology and design to act as a force for social good. Their ethos is a perfect fit for the GPI. Thanks to them and to GPI Trustee Chris Moffat, plus GPI staff Teresa Palmiero, Sarah Garrod and Nicole-Rachelle Moore for their hard work in making the website happen.
Errol Lloyd’s Art
On the new website, we profile the Jamaican-born artist Errol Lloyd, who selected artworks from his six-decade long career to illustrate each of our archive collections. It’s an honour to be able to feature this multi-talented artist, author, sculptor and illustrator so prominently, particularly because of Errol’s involvement in the Caribbean Artists Movement (the archives of which we hold) and his life-long relationship with us, New Beacon Books and Bogle L’Ouverture Publications among others. A photograph of Errol by Horace Ové (recently a recipient of a CBE) hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, London. A heartfelt thank you to Errol Lloyd for helping to make the new website so vibrant.
Nine Films about our Archives
A major part of Reaching New Generations has been to create nine short films about some of our archive collections, to enable people to get a flavour of each collection.
Our first film launched on 2 March 2021, on the 40th anniversary of the Black People’s Day of Action (protesting the lack of justice that followed the New Cross fire of January 1981, when 13 young black people were killed in a fire at a house party, widely thought to be an arson attack). In our film about the New Cross Massacre Action Committee (the campaigning organisation set up by John La Rose, Darcus Howe and others), we hear from GPI Trustees Roxy Harris and Linton Kwesi Johnson, who helped to organise the campaign for justice; academic and photographer Vron Ware, who documented the Black People’s Day of Action; and playwright Rex Obano and poet Jay Bernard, who have responded creatively to it.
Since then, we’ve made eight other short films about these archive collections:
May 2021 The Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM), featuring GPI Trustee Sarah White and Trinidadian filmmaker Christopher Laird;
June Black supplementary schools, with Roxy Harris and black parent and supplementary school organiser Victor Sylvester;
July The International Book Fairs of Radical Black and Third World Books 1982-1995, featuring Margaret Busby, the UK’s first black female publisher, and Janice Durham, GPI Trustee and director of New Beacon Books;
August Ephemeral Material Collection of John La Rose 1950s-1990s, with GPI archivist Sarah Garrod and David Abdulah, Trinidadian trade unionist and comrade of John;
September The Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners in Kenya (1975-1998), featuring Chris Moffat and Yvonne Brown, lawyer and member of the Black Solicitors Network;
October The Black Education Movement with renowned scholar and activist Professor Gus John;
November The Joan Goody archive collection, featuring Sarah Garrod, Jenny Green and Lawrence Scott, who talk about Joan Goody (1924-2008), an English teacher and pioneer in introducing Caribbean, African and Asian literature into British schools;
January 2022 European Action for Racial Equality and Social Justice, with GPI Trustee Azim Hajee and Paris-based journalist and activist Mogniss H Abdallah, both involved in the campaigns.
Thanks to Nicholas Chapman and Lucy Hannah for their filmmaking training, and to Nicholas for making the first New Cross film. Huge thanks to Bethan Fairhurst who has been volunteering at the GPI, who then took on making all of the other eight archive films.
A Children’s Book by Ken Wilson-Max
In October we published Dream to Change the World: A Story of John La Rose by Zimbabwean-born author and illustrator Ken Wilson-Max. It was inspired by our collection of John La Rose’s personal papers. Award-winning local writer Ken Wilson-Max depicts John’s childhood in a magical and engrossing book for children aged five to eight, which also includes a fascinating timeline about John’s life. Reviews of the book so far have said ‘truly inspiring to all’ (Jupiter Hadley) and ‘Initially, I thought my son would just read it as another book. But… he said something that just, in my opinion, summed the whole purpose of this book up. “That boy is just like me, I like to read, write, play and listen to music. He just has different coloured skin.” I think that is such an important thing to remember. We are all the same, regardless of skin colour’ (The Northern Dad).
On 25 October the book was launched online. GPI Trustee Sharmilla Beezmohun hosted Ken, acclaimed writer for young adults Catherine Johnson and GPI archivist Sarah Garrod to talk about the book, Black British history and archives, and Ken also read Dream to Change the World. The film of the launch is up on our Discover page.
Ken’s second book, inspired by our Carnival archive collection, will be out in March 2022. Look out for Jump Up! and our online launch event, to be announced soon.
If you’re a school or public library, you can email the GPI and get one free copy of these for your institution!
We were pleased to reopen the archives in May 2021 on reduced hours. The various twists and turns of the pandemic didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of visitors, as we received nearly 100 researchers to the GPI during the remainder of the year!
Thank you to our volunteer team who continued to work off-site on audio transcription, research and social media tasks. This helped minimise the number of people in the building at any time. We welcomed Zach Myers to our volunteer team and were sorry to day goodbye to Mira Makadia and Zarah Lyoubi, who we thank for many hours of valuable work. We look forward to interviewing more people from our volunteer waiting list during 2022 and bringing volunteers back into the building.
Kolya Abramsky, our Assistant Archivist, finished his fixed-term contract in March 2021. With substantial handover notes, we’re in a good position to complete the cataloguing of the John La Rose Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union collection in due course, when the resources are in place and the course of the pandemic allows uninterrupted access to the records. We wish Kolya every success and thank him for his continuing support.
Sarah White turns 80
In April 2021, Sarah White, one of the founding Trustees of the Institute, celebrated her 80th birthday! Despite the Covid restrictions, we were able to mark the occasion with a video of birthday greetings to her made by Roxy Harris, and public tributes to her online. Read the tributes here.
The Loss of Milverton Wallace
In July 2021, we were so sad to announce the death of one of our longest serving Trustees, Milverton Wallace, following his battle with cancer. Milverton, known as Tony to those around him, was involved in digital media and online journalism from the 1980s. He worked for South magazine and Third World Quarterly before becoming editor of the Jamaica Record newspaper in 1988. There he built the first networked newsroom outside North America. He moved to London’s City University in 1992, developing and teaching the first UK Internet course for journalism students. He founded and ran the annual Net Media conferences and Internet and European Online Journalism Awards (1995-2003). In the 2000s, Milverton continued to work in digital media, particularly with younger generations. He also pursued his other great interest – poetry – which he both wrote and performed at poetry nights. Professor Gus John shared his eulogy for Tony with the GPI. Read the moving eulogy here.
Poems – and John La Rose – on the Underground
In the autumn of 2021, Linton Kwesi Johnson’s poem ‘Beacon of Hope' (for John La Rose) began appearing on London’s Tube network as part of their Poems on the Underground series. At the same time, London’s Transport for London teamed up with the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton to produce a Black History Tube Map, renaming stations after black people whose achievements should be celebrated. Fittingly, Finsbury Park Tube Station was renamed after our late co-founder, John La Rose.
Nicole-Rachelle Moore leaves the GPI
In late 2021, our long-time publicity and events officer Nicole-Rachelle Moore left the GPI to become the British Library's Curator for its Caribbean Collections. We will miss Nicole’s always valuable contribution, which has included, among many high points, working closely with Sarah White and Sarah Garrod on the Dream to Change the World exhibition and book (available to purchase via our website), but wish her every success in this exciting new role.
On 13 December 2020, Oscar winner Steve McQueen’s Education docu-drama aired on BBC 1, one of his Golden Globe nominated Small Axe five-part anthology. For it, the GPI’s Sarah White and Sarah Garrod shared our archives from the Black Education Movement and Black Supplementary Schools with the film’s researchers.
In March 2021, Black Power: A British Story of Resistance, directed by George Amponsah, looked at the Black Power movement in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s. It included footage from Mangrove Nine, a documentary produced by John La Rose and filmmaker Franco Rosso in 1973 (available to purchase on our website), plus powerful testimony from activists including poet Linton Kwesi Johnson.
In May 2021, Steve McQueen’s documentary Subnormal: A British Scandal examined the UK’s racist education policies of the 1960s and 1970s, which wrongly classed hundreds of Caribbean children as ‘educationally subnormal’. It included Gus John, Sarah White and Michael La Rose, and tributes were paid to John La Rose and Jessica Huntley’s relentless drive in pursuing justice for children who had been poorly treated by the education system.
Finally, shown in July 2021, Steve McQueen and James Rogan’s three-part Uprising documentary on events of 1981 comprised: ‘Fire’ about the New Cross fire in January; ‘Blame’, on the March Black People’s Day of Action; and ‘The Front Line’, looking at the Brixton Riots of April. The GPI worked with the producers of the documentaries to provide information from its archive and, once again, GPI Trustees and supporters featured in the series, including Linton Kwesi Johnson, Michael La Rose and Gus John among others.
Memories of the New Cross Fire
In March 2021, Les Back (pictured), Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, shared a video of his memory of the New Cross fire with the GPI. Watch the film on the Discover page.
The John La Rose Award for Young People
The London Borough of Haringey has officially renamed its Fairer Education Fund as The John La Rose Award for Young People. This will be an annual bursary award helping selected young people in Haringey to meet the costs of attending university. The launch event took place virtually on 16 December 2021. Michael La Rose and Roxy Harris spoke at the event, with other contributions by the Haringey Chief Executive Zina Etheridge; the Leader of Haringey Council, Councillor Perey Ahmet; the Cabinet member for Early years, Children and Families, Councillor Zena Brabazon; the Director of Children's Services, Ann Graham; the Assistant Director for Schools and Learning, Eveleen Riordan; and Cabinet Member for Employment, Skills and Corporate Services, Councillor Julie Davies.
In addition, three students who are current beneficiaries of the Fairer Education Fund, and who are in their first year at university, spoke to the meeting about how the funding had enabled them to take up university place and talked about their experiences at university and their post-university hopes and aspirations. There were 170 applicants for the award, with 12 recipients selected.
The selection panel for the Inaugural John La Rose Award met on Friday 21st January 2022. GPI Trustee Nisha Obano was part of the panel.
In December 2021, as we came towards the end of our Reaching New Generations funds, we secured a short-term Cultural Recovery Fund grant from Arts Council England to cover the loss of income we’ve faced from being closed for nearly two years, with no paid events or donations from visiting researchers. However, we now need to raise funds to keep the Institute going into our fourth decade.
As many of you know, John La Rose always spoke of the GPI as the organisation which would preserve the legacy of the many movements that have come and gone over the last seventy years, from the Caribbean Artists Movement to the International Book Fairs of Radical Black and Third World Books. Another co-founder of the Institute, Sarah White, gifted us 76 Stroud Green Road in 1991, which has given us a stable home so that, over our first 30 years, we’ve been able to build slowly and surely, with the help of many dedicated volunteers, professionals and paid staff. But the building is in need of many repairs and we also need to pay running costs which include making the Institute ready again to put on events, host meetings and more. We’re, therefore, asking you to make a donation to the GPI as a small way of celebrating our 30th anniversary.
Donate via our CAF Bank Account:
Sort Code: 40 52 40
Account No: 00035060
Make out a cheque to George Padmore Institute and post to: 76 Stroud Green Road, London N4 3EN
Gift Aid Forms
Email for a Gift Aid form: email@example.com
And a Reminder…
…that you can purchase a number of essential books direct from the GPI’s website page. Titles include, among others, The New Cross Massacre Story: Interviews with John La Rose (prologue by Linton Kwesi Johnson and epilogue by Gus John), The Caribbean Artists Movement 1966-1972: A Literary and Cultural History by Anne Walmsley and Beacon of Hope: New Beacon in Poetry and Prose, ‘New Beacon Books - the Pioneering Years’ with an essay by Ruth Bush and poetry by Jay Bernard. There are also DVDs including the Mangrove Nine documentary by John La Rose and Franco Rosso.
Thank you to everyone who has supported the GPI in these difficult times, from all our staff and Trustees, to people who buy books, visit the Institute and donate to the Institute. We look forward to continuing to work with you all in our fourth decade, to ensure that our archives, which tell the story of the essential contribution of the UK’s black communities of Caribbean, African and Asian descent in post-war Britain and continental Europe, are seen as part of the history of the UK.