The Trustees of the George Padmore Institute would like to address requests for clarity that we have received from some friends and supporters in our community, particularly regarding recent statements from our colleagues at New Beacon Books Ltd.
(A) The George Padmore Institute (GPI) was launched as a charity in 1991 (with the late John La Rose as Chair and the late Sarah White as Secretary). Our aim is to advance public understanding of the political, social and cultural history of persons in the United Kingdom of Caribbean, African and Asian descent, by organising:
• A library, educational resource and research centre that will allow the materials in its care to be available for use to interested individuals and groups;
• Conferences, seminars, talks, classes, readings, educational and cultural activities;
• The publication of relevant materials.
The GPI Trustees have remained faithful to these purposes since 1991 and continue to do so. An official record of our annual accounts and reports is available on The Charity Commission website.
(B) The GPI was built from scratch at the building it owns at 76 Stroud Green Road with the support of donations and successful applications to various funding bodies. Our approach has followed the mantra of John La Rose and Sarah White: 'We are slow builders and consolidators, not flash and dash.' The GPI’s archive of unique materials and collections documenting the activist endeavours of people in the UK of Caribbean, African and Asian descent is composed of donations made by our own Trustees and members of the GPI’s wider community – all approved by our Trustees. Since opening, the archive has been used by thousands of scholars, students and members of the public.
(C) The histories of the George Padmore Institute and New Beacon Books Ltd (publisher and bookshop) are deeply intertwined with the activities and activism of New Beacon co-founders John La Rose and Sarah White and the people around them. John La Rose died in 2006. In November 2016 Sarah White, Michael La Rose and Janice Durham – the three surviving directors of New Beacon Books Ltd and all GPI Trustees at the time – issued a public statement announcing the closure of New Beacon Books Ltd. The statement came at the end of a year of celebratory events marking the 50th anniversary of New Beacon Books and detailed the immense financial challenges the business had been facing. In fact, Sarah White had been keeping the company afloat for many years via a personal loan of nearly £247,000.
(D) In 2017, Renaldo La Rose and his wife Vanessa La Rose declared an initiative to relaunch and reopen the New Beacon bookshop. In January 2019, they withdrew. Sarah White formally resigned as a director and forgave the large loan owed to her, leaving Michael La Rose and Janice Durham as the sole remaining directors and owners of the company. While New Beacon and the GPI share a home on Stroud Green Road, they operate as two separate organisations. One of the ways GPI Trustees show continued support to New Beacon is through maintaining a highly subsidised rent for the bookshop. Trustees have remained committed to this, even while facing highly challenging financial circumstances for our own charitable organisation.
(E) In 2023, after Sarah White’s death in 2022, the New Beacon Directors raised a legal dispute with Sarah White’s estate concerning company documents housed at her personal residence which the GPI had been looking after while the house was being emptied. In July 2023, this matter was resolved and all company documents from Sarah’s house are now in the possession of New Beacon.
(F) More recently, the New Beacon Directors instructed solicitors to write to the GPI claiming ownership of material that has, for decades, been a key part of the GPI’s publicly accessible archives. This demand to remove archives – and thus break up collections of great historical importance, which New Beacon’s Directors were themselves involved in creating – is an extremely serious matter, with tremendous implications for the work we do. The GPI Trustees are considering our next steps, and we do so with a deep sense of care and commitment to our responsibilities as a charity and to the wider communities which we are part of. It is worth noting that New Beacon’s claims have been made at a time when the GPI is in the midst of an Emergency Appeal to protect the future of the crumbling building, where New Beacon are also based. To read more about this and support this urgent work, please click here.
(G) Regarding Sarah White's tribute event at the British Library in October 2023, this occasion was organised by the GPI according to the wishes of Sarah’s family. The event was advertised widely via GPI mailing lists and social media, and the invitation was open to all. Sarah’s funeral in early 2022 was very limited due to Covid restrictions, with only close family allowed. The La Rose family all attended and Keith La Rose spoke on their behalf. Sarah was widely known and loved across a diverse community of people, in a diverse number of situations, and this public tribute was a chance for some of those who were not able to be at the funeral to share their memories of her and for everyone who wanted to be there to listen and be part of it.