Black Cultural Archives Gets £4m For Permanent Home

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 07 May 2008
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Shows a photo of a semi-derelict building the other side of a fence that has murals painted over its windows.

The new premises, Raleigh Hall. © Pringle Richards Sharratt Architects

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has announced a grant of £4 million for the Black Cultural Archives (BCA) to help convert a listed building in the centre of Brixton into a permanent home.

The funds will go towards turning Raleigh Hall in Windrush Square into a suitable venue for BCA's collection of historical material relating to black Britain and the African diaspora, and provide a much-needed educational resource.

"This announcement is a major milestone achievement for people of African descent," said Paul Reid, Director of the BCA.

"We’ve worked so hard to get here and there's still a lot to do to reach our remaining fundraising target of £1.5m, but I'm confident that we will be able to achieve this and build a centre that we can all be proud of."

Shows an artist's impression of what the new museum might look like.

A vision of what the new museum might look like. © Pringle Richards Sharratt Architects

In addition, the London Borough of Lambeth has gifted a 99-year lease for the currently derelict building, and will provide £600,000 to the BCA over the next three years. The redevelopment of the building will feed into plans for the wider regeneration of Brixton's cultural quarter, and remove the building from the English Heritage 'At Risk' register.

"The BCA's vision for a major black history and cultural centre has been a long time in the making but worth the wait," said Carole Souter, Chief Executive at the Heritage Lottery Fund.

"And Raleigh Hall will make the perfect setting - a listed building with huge potential at the heart of Brixton – in which to properly celebrate the contribution of black Britons to our cultural, social, political and economic life."

black and white photo of a man in Picadilly Circus

Mike Egan, BBC African Services. From the BCA collection. © James Barnor

The BCA has been developing its collections and working with the community for 27 years, and it is anticipated that once the archive is established in Brixton, it will receive more important donations relating to both contemporary and 20th century Black experiences.

Currently, the collection is predominantly post-1945, numbering some 8,000 documents, from letters and notebooks to an original bill of sale from 1843 with details of slaves to be sold on the auction block. Other intriguing items include photographs of a range of prominent figures, such as Sislin Fay Allen, the first black woman to join the Metropolitan Police Force.

Shows a black and white photo of three policewomen striding out in front of a line of policemen, at their centre is Sislin Fay Allen the first black policewoman in the Met.

Sislin Fay Allen, the first black policewoman in the Metropolitan Police Force, joined in 1968. From the BCA collection.

"This is great news!" commented Kwame Kwei-Armah, actor, writer and broadcaster. "I've been a huge fan of the BCA since it was first set up in 1981 – it's a goldmine of information about black cultural identity in Britain."

"I'm looking forward to taking my children to Raleigh Hall and showing them how much they have to be proud of from their past and how much that past has influenced their lives today."

The £4m HLF grant is currently at Stage One Pass level, meaning it is earmarked while a more detailed development plan is drawn up.

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