Britain’s first Black pop star to be honoured in Brixton

Winifred Atwell

Sixty-six years ago today a Black woman was top of the Christmas pops in the UK.

Winifred Atwell’s Let’s Have Another Party went to No 1 on 3 December 1954 and stayed there for five weeks.

She was the first Black person to have a No 1 in the UK singles chart and remains the only female instrumentalist to have done so. She sold more than 20m records in a series of ragtime and boogie piano hits.

Winifred Atwell, a Trinidadian who died in 1983, was Britain’s first Black pop star and will be honoured in Brixton tomorrow (18 December) when an official blue heritage plaque is unveiled on the site of the beauty salon she opened in 1956 at 82d Railton Road.

It will be the culmination of a the Black Plaque Project a joint venture by the Brixton-based Nubian Jak Community Trust and the Havas London communications agency.

Dr Jak Beula, founder of the trust, was instrumental in creating the African Caribbean war and peace memorial in Windrush Square,

To raise awareness of Britain’s rich and diverse past, the joint project has temporarily installed more than 50 black plaques across the London, marking sites connected to notable Black figures in the city’s history.

Just 1.6% of current official blue plaques in London celebrate historic figures who were Black.

The first of these black plaques to be turned into a permanent blue plaque will be Winifred Atwell’s.

Embed from Getty Images

Anyone who wants to will be able to watch the ceremony online on Zoom from 1pm.

An evening reception and presentation starting at 6.30pm will also be broadcast on Zoom.

This will include words from Claudia Brown, Winifred Atwell’s grandniece.

An interview with Dr Jak Beula which will focus on his politics, love, and work including the forthcoming NHS Black nurses statue being installed at the Whittington Hospital in North London next year.

There will be a Q&A section where those linked in get to ask questions and comment.

It is also possible to book via Eventbrite.

The Nubian Jak Community Trust is one of only three commemorative plaque schemes publicly endorsed by English Heritage on its website.

The Winifred Atwell plaque is the 55th Nubian Jak Blue Plaque in the capital, bringing the total of diverse plaques in London to 6%.

Railton Road already has an official blue plaque honouring another notable Trinidadian – the renowned writer and activist CLR James, a long-time Brixton resident who died in 1989.


  1. One of the early TV stars I can remember my dad loving her music. During the difficult bits she would turn to the camera and smile as if to say “see, it’s easy really”. Real party music for a time when the war was still recent history. Glad to see her memory honoured.

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