Just after we published our February 2022 newsletter, the George Padmore Institute received the terrible news that Sarah White had died. Sarah was our backbone, a co-founder of the GPI and our secretary for most of our existence. She knew everything that was going on, worked alongside our staff and volunteers and could often be found in the building helping with whatever needed doing. In addition, she was an old friend to many fellow Trustees and GPI supporters too. Despite this huge loss, the Institute’s work continued, including putting out a second children’s book inspired by our archives, various partnership projects and archive work — and the great news at the end of 2022 that we were successful in our application to become an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation from April 2023 to March 2026. We can think of no better way to celebrate Sarah than by securing the Institute’s immediate future.
On 4 February 2022, following a short illness, Sarah White died. She was just two months short of her 81st birthday. A small funeral for Sarah was held soon after in north London, with a public tribute being organised for autumn 2023.
One year after her passing, we would like to share a little more about one of our most beloved friends, as remembered by Trustee Sharmilla Beezmohun.
Sarah was not only a co-founder of the Institute, she was also one of the unsung heroes of the struggle for racial equality and social justice over many decades. Already steeped in political activity from her years at Leeds University and the time she spent in the Soviet Union in the early 1960s, when Sarah met John La Rose she found someone whose belief in change chimed with hers. Their unity of vision is what led them to co-found New Beacon Books, the UK’s first black publisher and bookshop.
It was Sarah who was able to afford the building on Stroud Green Road which houses New Beacon Books and which was gifted by her to the George Padmore Institute. As an archive which houses collections related to many of the political and cultural movements which John and Sarah were part of – from the Caribbean Artists Movement to the International Book Fairs of Radical Black and Third World Books – the GPI was always what John ultimately worked towards, a place where many organisations’ records about their campaigns for racial equality and social justice could be stored and accessed to help to educate future generations about what had gone on before. Without Sarah’s constant input of time, funds and hard work, we simply would not be here in our current form today.
Sarah was a remarkable woman of many talents. She held a Doctorate from Imperial College, worked as an editor at New Scientist for many years, spoke Russian, travelled widely, knew many people across continents and had a brilliant memory. She loved walking, reading (particularly Jane Austen – and Italian crime novels!), doing jigsaw puzzles, going to the theatre, visiting people. She had many friends whose birthdays she never forgot and who she would ring often. She was full of life and was interested in life. All of us at the Institute still miss her very much.
As part of our Arts Council Funded Reaching New Generations project (2020-22), we launched our new website and also commissioned two children’s books to be written and illustrated by acclaimed author Ken Wilson-Max. This local writer visited us at the GPI on a residency programme to browse our archive collections, taking inspiration to produce the first book, Dream to Change the World: The Story of John La Rose in 2021. Here's an update of what happened in 2022.
Jump Up! by Ken Wilson-Max
Jump Up! A Story of Carnival, published on 5 April 2022, tells the tale of Cecille, a young black girl living in the Caribbean, and how her community develops its very own Carnival, based on their long-remembered African traditions. For those who may wonder where our UK Carnivals – from Notting Hill to Leeds, Luton to Bath – came from, here’s an early origin story.
Ken Wilson-Max was inspired to write the book when he came across the GPI’s unique Carnival archive collection. The story draws on the history of the festival and highlights one of the many contributions that Britain’s Caribbean population has made to our everyday cultural life.
Distribution of Our Children’s Books
Last year we sold copies of Jump Up! and Dream to Change the World to Hackney, Islington and Lambeth libraries among others.
We donated copies of both books to a local organisation, Haringey Education Partnerships (https://haringeyeducationpartnership.co.uk/), who work in and support local schools. They have a focus on anti-racism and ensuring children from diverse backgrounds don't get left behind.
We also donated books to a charity called Acorn Book Club (https://www.acornbookclub.co.uk/) who operate mainly across south London. They support schools and community projects to create libraries and supply books for children aged three to eleven, and also have a focus on diverse literature.
Finally, we were able to get free copies of both books to schools in Bath and Bristol by partnering with Bath Literature Festivals, who run the Bath Children’s Literature Festival each September/October.
Impact of Jump Up!
On 2 November 2022, Ken participated in an online launch of Jump Up! hosted by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE), where he and our Archivist Sarah Garrod talked to Darren Matthews from CLPE about the use of our archives to inspire the book, the importance of children learning about history from a young age and much more. Nearly 250 people have seen the talk to date. When asked what they found most beneficial about the event, responses included ‘Learning about the use of archives in Ken’s picture books’ and ‘Learning about GPI and hearing from Wilson Max’.
We’ve also had many great comments and feedback from authors, bloggers and parents about the new book. Award-winning British–Trinidadian poet and musician Roger Robinson said: ‘Having an eight-year-old son myself, I can attest that it’s important for every child to recognise themselves in what they consume. That is why Jump Up! and other books by the GPI are so crucial – so that black children can enjoy stories whilst recognising themselves as joyfully intelligent and also being a part of a strong, vibrant culture.’
Jupiter Hadley wrote on her blog: ‘The GPI is doing a wonderful job publishing children’s books and reading material that fill the void that the 2020 Black Lives Matter campaign highlighted was needed... There is a Historical Information section at the end of Jump Up! – a timeline with real-life pictures telling us all about the Caribbean Carnival and its start by slave traders, where the African slaves were not allowed to attend... This information section is really vital in helping my own learning as an adult and in helping our children continue to learn about different cultures and connect the book to real life.’ See https://jupiterhadley.com/jump-up-a-story-of-carnival-review/
And one parent said ‘Isabella loved learning about Carnival and the fact file and glossary at the back were perfect to help us learn a little more!’ @ourmanycoloureddays
Future News and Plans for Our Books
We were approached to enter Jump Up! into the 2023 Little Rebels Award for Radical Children's Fiction (see https://littlerebels.org/), for books for children aged new-born to twelve. In its eighth year and managed by Letterbox Library and Housmans Bookshop, the Award is designed to recognise the rich tradition of radical publishing for children in the UK. The shortlist will be announced in April/May – watch this space!
This and Ken’s first book, Dream to Change the World: The Story of John La Rose (2021), form part of our Reaching New Generations book series for younger readers, which we will be expanding in the next three years with our new Arts Council funding (see below).
Both children’s books are available to purchase on our website, via the Discover page. AND, if you’re a school or public library, you can email the GPI and get one free copy of each book for your institution!
We welcomed many new researchers to the GPI during 2022, totalling 209 visits in all – a huge return since lockdown.
Thank you to our volunteer team who continued to work both on and off site on audio transcription, research and cataloguing. We were sorry to say goodbye to Zach Myers, who contributed valuable work in sorting and cataloguing historic theatrical material. We’re always happy to hear from individuals seeking experience by volunteering at the GPI and we look forward to interviewing more people from our waiting list over the coming months.
Events in 2022
19 February GPI Archivist Sarah Garrod was invited to give a keynote speech at the Historical Fictions Research Conference, on the theme of ‘Communities’.
14 July Following an invitation from Joanna Bornat, Sarah delivered an online talk to the Oral History Society about the work of the GPI and our audio collections. This led to an interesting discussion about the differences between oral history (as recorded memories of the past) and the recording of talks and interviews (as archives for the future), something that John La Rose and others were committed to.
3-4 October Sarah delivered two workshops at the GPI for students from the Foundation for International Education (FIE) on the subject of ‘Britishness’. This included an exhibition where students could view and handle documents.
23 November A workshop for history students at Kings College London, organised by Dr Sundeep Lidher, was well attended and there is much potential for future collaboration. On Twitter Dr Lidher said ‘Our students were lucky enough to be joined by @GPI_Archive archivist Sarah Garrod for a hands-on session about the historical value of campaign & protest ephemera. A wonderful insight into GPI’s collections too. Thank you, Sarah!’
Outreach in 2022
We contributed images to a small exhibition in Islington Museum marking the 40th anniversary of the First International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books (1982).
The GPI began a collaboration with Sue Ledger (research fellow with The Open University) and Paul Christian (actor with the learning disability theatre company Access All Areas), both members of the Social History of Learning Disabilities Research Group at The Open University. They have discovered how much information essential to understanding race and racism remains inaccessible to people with learning disabilities.
Sarah is working with Paul and Sue to create easy-read introductions for selected GPI archive collections. The easy-read documents have been viewed and assessed by members of Generate UK and speech and language therapist Nicola Grove. Three easy-read documents have been produced to date and these are being finalised. The first of two articles by Paul about the project has been published in Community Living (December 2022) and the second is due to follow in March 2023. See https://www.cl-initiatives.co.uk/a-light-on-black-history/
The John La Rose Award with Haringey Council
The GPI continues to work with Haringey Council to choose awardees for their John La Rose Award Scheme, which helps with university applications and subsistence costs, as well as offering opportunities for work placements at the council during the summer. Trustee Nisha Obano is our representative. In 2022 twelve awards were given to Haringey students.
Abdul Alkalimat Online Event
In May 2022, we held on online public event with long-time GPI friend Abdul Alkalimat. The US academic appeared as part of the Institute of Historical Research’s Black British seminar series, facilitated by our Chair Roxy Harris and Trustee Dr Rob Waters. The focus of the event was Abdul’s book The History of Black Studies. Artist Errol Lloyd took part and spoke on Black arts. Other participants included Derrick Lowe, Jimmy Davidson and Lincoln Bailey (former Tulse Hill schoolmates of Trustee Linton Kwesi Johnson), who contributed their memories of the Black Power Movement in Britain in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Thanks to everyone who participated in and organised this seminar.
Tribute to Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze
In August 2022, one year after her passing, we held a tribute to poet Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze in collaboration with Brixton Library in Lambeth, facilitated by Library Manager Caroline Graham. The event, packed full with over 200 people, was introduced by GPI Chair Roxy Harris, who remembered Jean’s presence at the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books.
The tribute, curated and hosted by Trustee Linton Kwesi Johnson, was by turns moving, humorous, poignant and reflective, as those who had known Jean in various capacities recollected the gifted poet. Her agent Melanie Abrahams, music producer Dennis Bovell, acclaimed thespians Burt Caesar, Dona Croll (Jean’s cousin) and Angela Wynter joined Linton and Jean’s youngest daughter Caribe Breese for the event. There was also music from the Bhuru drummers led by Everald ‘Far-I’ Forrest to end the evening. And an appeal to help the Institute resulted in donations of nearly £400 as people left the library.
Our sincere thanks to everyone who helped to make this event happen. For those who couldn’t come, you can watch the filmed tribute on our website here (filmed by local volunteer Hannah Bennett and edited by GPI volunteer Bethan Fairhurst): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYypEn7ZRVI
In Conversation with Imruh Bakari
Our Trustee Linton Kwesi Johnson is Chair of 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning in south London. He has instigated a joint GPI/198 series of oral history talks, which began in November 2022 with Chronicles of a Black Filmmaker: Linton in conversation with veteran filmmaker Imruh Bakari. The event was introduced by GPI chair Roxy Harris, who highlighted our Changing Britannia and Building Britannia books (available from our website), which came out of two previous series of oral history talks held at the GPI. The film of Imruh Bakari’s talk will be available on our website soon.
Imruh Bakari was born in Basseterre, St Kitts & Nevis. He graduated from the National Film and Television School. He is a co-founder of Ceddo, a film and video production training organisation. His film and TV credits include The Mark of The Hand (profile of Guyanese painter Aubrey Williams, 1986); Blue Notes and Exiled Voices (documentary on South African musicians in Britain, 1991); and African Tales (series of short films, 2005-08). Bakari was director of the Zanzibar International Film Festival (1999-2004) and a member of the Advisory Council of the Pan-African Federation of Filmmakers. In 2013 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Afrika Film Festival in Belgium. His poetry books include: Without Passport or Apology (2017) and The Madman in This House (2021). He is a lecturer in Film Studies and Screenwriting at the University of Winchester.
During 2022, following short-term emergency support from Arts Council England (ACE), GPI Office Manager Teresa Palmiero, Trustee Sharmilla Beezmohun and Archivist Sarah Garrod applied for the GPI to become an ACE National Portfolio Organisation and receive three years of regular funding. Late last year we were delighted to hear that we had been successful in our application! This means that the GPI will receive £73,000 per annum from April 2023. Whilst not covering all our costs, the funding allows us to employ a part-time Outreach and Communications Manager and to publish more children’s books inspired by our archive collections through our Reaching New Generations series. We also hope to be able to host an annual Artist in Residence programme from 2024.
One of our longest serving Trustees, Dr Aggrey Burke, received the award of Honorary Doctor of Science from his former employer St George’s Medical School. The award was presented at St George’s graduation ceremony, held at the Barbican Centre in London on 28 July.
Linton Kwesi Johnson turned 70 in August 2022. One of the co-founders of the Institute and an active participant in many of the movements that we hold the archives of, we congratulate Linton on reaching this milestone and on the re-issue of his Selected Poems (Penguin) which includes a new introduction and afterword, plus three additional new poems.
Errol Lloyd Exhibition at 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning in South London
From 26 November 2022 to 4 March 2023, 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning is hosting a retrospective of acclaimed artist Errol Lloyd’s work. The GPI has loaned Errol’s bust of John La Rose to 198 and the exhibition also includes our film about the Caribbean Artists Movement archives, featuring Sarah White and Trinidadian documentary filmmaker and artist Christopher Laird. See https://www.198.org.uk/portfolio/errol-lloyd/
Born in Jamaica, Errol Lloyd came to Britain in 1963 at the age of twenty. His long and distinguished career spans nearly sixty years and covers artforms and disciplines including sculpture, painting, illustration and book covers. An award-winning author, he has written many books for children and young people. As a campaigner, he has worked to promote black visual arts in Britain throughout his career
A self-taught artist, Errol credits the sculptor Ronald Moody, the painter Aubrey Williams and other artists of the Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM) with giving him support and practical help to fully pursue the life of an artist. His membership of CAM led to a life-long relationship with New Beacon Books and the George Padmore Institute. Errol’s sculptures include high-profile subjects such as the writer CLR James, Jamaican prime minister Sir Alexander Bustamante, politician Lord Pitt and cricketer Sir Garfield Sobers.
We’re extremely honoured to be able to showcase Errol’s paintings on the GPI’s website (including the one pictured below). Visit our archive page to view all the images that Errol personally selected to reflect each of the collections. See: https://www.georgepadmoreinstitute.org/archive
At the end of 2022 we had a sobering report that the GPI building is in need of urgent emergency repairs. The cost of what needs to be done immediately may well be as high as £35,000. That’s why we’re launching our Emergency Buildings Repair Appeal now. The repairs will ensure that the building’s foundations are safe, securing the unique collections we hold. The main and most vital issue is around the cellar which we need to make structurally sound. Please help us today!
You can donate in the following ways
Account name: George Padmore Institute
Sort code: 40 52 40
Account number: 00035060
Make out cheques to the George Padmore Institute and post to 76 Stroud Green Road, London N4 3EN.
If you are a UK tax payer, we can claim an extra 25% on donations from the UK government. Please email for a form: email@example.com
Thank you to everyone who has supported the GPI over the last year, from all our staff and Trustees, to people who buy books, visit and donate to the Institute. We look forward to continuing to work with you 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-World War Two Britain and continental Europe, are seen as part of the history of the UK.