A derelict Grade II-listed hall in Brixton will become a £5 million epicentre of historical material from the African diaspora and black Britain in a development aimed at rivalling nearby landmarks including the Lambeth Town Hall, the Tate Library, Brixton Academy and the Ritzy Cinema.
© Harry Jacobs
Raleigh Hall will become a permanent home for the Black Cultural Archive's mass of archive documents, letters, papers, ephemera and photographs spanning five centuries of black history, from the Transatlantic Slave Trade between the 16th and 19th centuries to papers belonging to Edwardian African-Carribean families in Britain and 20th century activists such as UK Rastafarian oracle Len Garrison.
The Heritage Lottery Fund has contributed £4 million of the costs, with the Mayor of London offering the remaining £1 million. The London Borough of Lambeth is also providing £910,000 towards the cause, spread over five years, as well as a 99-year lease ensuring the transformation of the Hall into an educational resource and reference library.
"The movement of the BCA to a permanent, purpose built home is itself an historic moment," said Matthew Ryder, the Chairman of the Archives which were established in 1981. "We believe it will enable the BCA to become a global resource and a leading heritage site in London. It is a very exciting time and the support has been overwhelming."
Steve Reed, the Leader of Lambeth Council, said the authority was "immensely proud" to be housing the centre in "the spiritual capital of Britain's black community."
"The Council has gifted the old Raleigh Hall building to the community so that it can be the home to this major new national institution," he explained.
"People of black heritage will be able to come and explore their own history, while people of other backgrounds will be able to come and celebrate the major contribution Britain's black communities have made to our national life and our shared culture.
"Thanks to the strong partnership between our council and the community, it's very exciting that funding is now in place so that, in a few short years, visitors will be able to walk into the country's first National Black Heritage Centre, right here in Brixton."
Visit the Black Cultural Archives online for more.