Brixton’s Black Cultural Archives (BCA) has welcomed parliamentary and government moves to recognise and help the Windrush generation.
These include local MP Helen Hayes (Labour, Dulwich and West Norwood) organising a special debate in Parliament earlier this month in which she called for central government to take over the core funding of the BCA from Lambeth council.
Speakers in the debate included shadow home secretary Diane Abbott and Tottenham MP David Lammy.
Diane Abbott said she wanted to mention “someone who has not received enough public tributes” – Patrick Vernon “a social historian and grass-roots campaigner”, who led the campaign for a Windrush day.
Helen Hayes paid tribute to BCA in her speech in the debate and, urging government to acknowledge and celebrate the contribution of the Windrush generation to the UK, she said that, first, she hoped the government would “know of the work of the Black Cultural Archives, based on Windrush Square in my constituency”.
She recalled how the BCA was established in 1981 by Len Garrison, who had come to the UK from Jamaica as a child in 1954.
She said: “Len Garrison was an educator who believed that, in his words: ‘Collecting and structuring the fragmented evidence of the Black past in Britain as well as in the Caribbean and Africa is a monumental task, but it is a major agenda item in the last decade of the 20th century to create a better basis for achieving a fully multicultural British society’.
Helen Hayes went on: “The BCA has an extensive archive documenting the history of Black people in the UK, from the African Roman emperor who was stationed at Hadrian’s Wall – Septimus Severus – to Black Georgians, the Windrush generation, and much, much more.
“It is a national resource that is critical to our understanding as a society, and vitally important for the sense of place and belonging of many black British people.
“Unusually for a national archive, the majority of the BCA’s core funding is now provided by the local council, Lambeth.
“This is neither appropriate nor sustainable, particularly in the context of local authorities’ shrinking budgets.
“The BCA needs stable core funding from the government, commensurate with its national role, to enable it to do the work of outreach and interpretation and to secure it for the long term.”
The MP called on the responsible minister “to work urgently with ministerial colleagues in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, to identify and confirm core funding for the BCA as part of the Windrush 70 commemorations.”
The BCA said in a statement today (25 June) that it was honoured by the “amazing support” it received during the Windrush parliamentary debate.
“We thank Helen Hayes MP for the courage taken to bring this debate to government and for her genuine belief in the work of Black Cultural Archives and that the heritage of Black people in Britain is an integral part of Britain.”
The BCA noted that, in her final summing-up, Helen Hayes had requested the government to establish
- A hardship fund for the Windrush generation
- For 22 June to be announced as Windrush Day
- For Black Cultural Archives to be awarded core revenue funding from central government
- For greater data collection for statistical research with regard to matters of race.
The government has announced that the 22 June will be Windrush Day and that a total of up to £500,000 will be available to charities and communities wanting to hold commemorative and educational events.
Communities minister Lord Bourne said the annual celebration would help to recognise and honour “the enormous contribution” of the Windrush generation of 1948 to 1971.
“It will keep their legacy alive for future generations, ensuring that we all celebrate the diversity of Britain’s history,” he said.
BCA chair, Dawn Hill said that the parliamentary debate had marked “a pivotal point in history”.
BCA director Paul Reid said Helen Hayes had “set the perfect tone for a meaningful debate”.
He said the BCS was looking forward to working with the appropriate government office to deliver the government recommendations that followed the debate.
BCA has recently launched its We Are One fundraising campaign to ensure that BCA is a lasting institution and legacy.
You can read the full parliamentary debate.