Black Cultural Archives is one year young

Friday 24th July was a very significant day for the BCA as it celebrated its one year anniversary. Arts contributor, Brian Walters reports.

Photo by Brian Walters

Paul Reid, director of the BCA said, “It’s taken blood, sweat and tears to get here, and we’re so pleased and proud of what we’ve achieved. The support has been overwhelming over the year. We’re constantly getting requests for support and collaborations from both community groups and the mainstream heritage institutions.”

From early June to 25 July, BCA have held a series of thought-provoking talks, film screening and events, all in relation to their exhibition, Staying Power: Photographs of the Black British Experience. The exhibition ends on the 31st July, and has surprised, delighted and challenged perceptions.

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Soul Cinema: Mirroring the Black Atlantic – talk at the BCA. Photo by Brian Walters

I went to a few events over the course of the season, one of which was the talk, ‘Soul Cinema: Mirroring the Black Atlantic’, which posed a series of intriguing questions, one of which was ‘have black British voices created a definitive black British cinema?’ The talk included a discussion on ‘Black in the Digital Age’ which looked at web-based films and series, and the potential of digital technology to expand notions of black identity.

The talk was chaired by Alkua Gyamfi, journalist and founder of website, ‘The British Blacklist’, and featured speakers, Gabrielle Smith, Zoe Whitley, Nadia Denton and Shola Amoo. It was a lively, vigorous and sometimes contentious discussion. Hot topics were ‘Hoodie’ films, the likes of ‘Kidulthood’, and their cultural impact, and the many issues of film distribution and marketing. It ended with smiles, emails swapped and a promise of more talks to look forward too.

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Pedal power at the BCA. Photo by Brian Walters

Saturday 25 July was a warm, pleasant evening and fortunately it didn’t rain, because the BCA, in partnership with the Ritzy, hosted the open air cinema event, ‘Black Britain on Screen’ in the BCA courtyard. Push bikes powered the projector which showed a series of short films, with both BCA staff and cinema goers, happily having a go on the bikes.       

BCA Learning Manager Janet Brown introduced the evening,

“We’re very proud to have been in this new building now for a year. We’ve created quite a lot of great programming, events and activities that have really brought the public into the space to see the library, the reading room, just have a coffee in the café, and the wonderful exhibitions that we’ve had.”

The short films included, ‘Joyce and Herman: Windrush Generation’ directed by Keston Neunie, ‘Half a Century at Carnaby Street’ directed by Lucy Harrison, and ‘Normski: My First Camera’ directed by Cath Le Couteur.

The next exhibition at BCA is currently titled, ‘The Black Georgians’ and will open around 14 September.

“It’s about the 15,000 or so black people who lived in the 1700’s in Britain,” said Janet. “We’ll be featuring the birth, life and death of a black Georgian. Come and see this exhibition, we think you’ll be quite amazed.”