Olive Morris collective says memorial must not be lost

Remembering Olive Morris bannerOlive Morris was a community activist in South London who died aged 27 in 1979. In 1986 the Brixton Black Women’s group, of which she was a co-founder, campaigned to have 18 Brixton Hill renamed Olive Morris House in her memory.

In 2006 the Remembering Olive Collective set up an online resource to collect information about her life. Now the collective has reformed as ROC 2.0 to ensure that the demolition of the Lambeth council building bearing her name does not mean she has no memorial in the borough where she left an extraordinary legacy of local activism.

Olive Morris Sculpture at the BCAOlive Morris was a core member of the British Black Panther Movement in 1968, along with Linton Kwesi Johnson, Althea Johnson, Neil Kenlock and Clovis Reid. She was central to the squatters’ campaign of the 1970s.  She was a housing activist and campaigner for social justice.

Founding members of the original Remembering Olive Collective (ROC), founded in Brixton in 2008, have re-formed in response to plans to demolish Olive Morris House, at 18 Brixton Hill, as part of Lambeth council’s New Town Hall development.

Olive Morris©Neil Kenlock
Olive Morris
©Neil Kenlock

Creating ROC 2.0, they are concerned to ensure that Olive’s legacy is not lost and are dedicated to continue to responsibly steward the Olive Morris Collection, held at Lambeth Archives.

In the summer of 2015, ROC member Liz Obi, began discussions with Lambeth council planning officers to secure as part of the planning application for Olive Morris House a stipulation that £50,000 would be allocated through a section 106 agreement towards ensuring Olive’s legacy.*

It was subsequently agreed with the property developer, Muse, that part of the money would be used to install a memorial cornerstone in the new development, commemorating Olive Morris House.

Olive Morris features on cover

The collective and members of Olive’s family had further discussions to decide on an appropriate alternative memorial for Olive and decided the balance of the money would be used to republish a tenth anniversary re-issue of the Do You Remember Olive Morris publication and to sustain an annual Olive Morris Memorial Award for young activists.

Though the planning application for the section 106 funding had been approved, the delays in negotiations between Lambeth and Muse has meant a delay in the release of funds.

Members of the collective are concerned that Olive Morris House on Brixton Hill is now derelict and nothing has yet been put in place to remember Olive, which is against the spirit of the agreement made with Lambeth council.

ROC 2.0 is calling upon the council to honour the agreement and to release the £50,000 so that the re-issue of the publication can be undertaken and the Olive Morris Memorial Award can be launched.

The collective hopes this will happen regardless of the outcome of Lambeth’s negotiations with Muse as, without it, Olive’s legacy will have effectively been erased by the new town hall development.

The collective are raising funds to re-issue a tenth anniversary Do You Remember Olive Morris publication and to launch the Olive Morris Memorial Award for young activists.

To be kept up to date with Remembering Olive Collective (ROC 2.0) activities or if you are interested in supporting our plans, please email rememberolivemorris@gmail.com ROC.2

* Planning obligations under section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act, are a mechanism to make a development proposal acceptable in planning terms, that would not otherwise be acceptable. They focus on site specific mitigation of the impact of developments.