Race relations archive moves to Brixton

Raleigh Hall, a derelict Grade II* listed building in central Brixton will be transformed into a permanent home for the Black Cultural Archives – the UK’s first National Black Heritage Centre

Forty years’ worth of race relations material is moving to Brixton. A collection of press cuttings, interview transcripts, pamphlets, posters and reports documenting UK race relations since 1968 will move to the Black Cultural Archives (BCA) in Brixton this month.

The Runnymede Collection, which includes more than 6,000 items, is the archive of leading race relations think tank The Runnymede Trust. The collection is unique, reflecting on the development of multiculturalism and British race relations since Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech.

Every landmark race-related event since then is charted with primary sources in the Runnymede Collection. Among the artifacts are:

· Press cuttings on Enoch Powell’s anti-immigration speeches in 1968 and 1969

· A copy of Idi Amin’s speech in which he declared the expulsion of Asians from Uganda in 1972

· Contemporary press cuttings on the Brixton Uprising of 1981

· Original copies of grass-roots publications, including Black Attack and Black Feminist Newsletter

· Monitoring documents on the rise of far-right groups, including the BNP

So vast is the assortment of resources that, if assembled on one long shelf, the full collection would span the length of one and a half football pitches.

Previously housed at Middlesex University, the Runnymede Collection will be available for the public to view from its new home at the Black Cultural Archives in south London.

The BCA is currently undertaking a £6.5 million capital project to build the first black heritage centre in the country. The new centre will transform the currently derelict Grade II-listed Raleigh Hall in Windrush Square, Brixton. The building will become a learning space for research, exhibitions and cultural events. The archives, including the Runnymede Collection, are at the heart of this project and will have a dedicated library, reading room and specialist storage facilities.

Leading cultural theorist, Stuart Hall (Professor Emeritus), said, “I am delighted that the Runnymede archive – so critical for an understanding of post-war migration and the responses to it – will still be available. The Black Cultural Archives is an excellent and well-chosen site for its preservation. I know they will continue to develop it and make it accessible to researchers, scholars and, most important of all, the general informed and concerned public.”

Dame Jocelyn Barrow, director for development at Focus Consultancy Ltd, said, “This unique historical collection will enable the BCA to fulfil one of its major purposes as an educational and research centre, covering the history of black people in the UK in the 20th century and up to the present time.”

Paul Reid, director of BCA, said, “The Runnymede Collection is a fantastic addition to the archive. This superb collection significantly increases BCA’s capacity to tell the story of black people in the UK. The collection will increase the scope of learning possibilities for users of the archive and is perfectly timed in the build-up to opening the new black heritage centre.”

Rob Berkeley, director of Runnymede, said:

We are delighted that the BCA is to host this important collection of racism and race equality-related material. For more than forty years we have built up an archive of documents that charts the history of race relations in this country. The 6000 item-strong collection of primary resources has incredible historical value. It is entirely appropriate that such a resource should be housed in Brixton; a neighbourhood that is a beacon of multicultural Britain. We hope that people up and down the country with an interest in race equality and the history of the struggle for it will visit the Runnymede Collection at the BCA.”

The related collection of the Commission for British Muslims and Islamophobia Archive will be transferred from Middlesex University to the BCA at the same time as the Runnymede Collection.

Related article: Is a black cultural centre in Brixton a good idea?


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