Unending Journey: Evolutions in Black British Activism

‘I live on the sharp edge of hope

On the testing road of an unending journey

But journeys begin and end

With another journey

on the rivers of time’

– John La Rose

The 1960s were monumental for a new wave of black British activism. Radical collectives were forming new political ideas, protesting in various forms and using culture as a means of self defining and organising against power. Who were some of the people involved? What were their politics and hopes? What can we glean from the action for our present political moment? What are the legacies of that generation of activists?

John La Rose is regarded as an elderstatesman for black British activism. An artist, poet, voracious organiser, he was at the forefront of leading political and cultural movements spanning the diaspora. The two films – one a tribute to his life, the other exploring the aftermath of the New Cross Fire – explored the politics that informed his work and that of his collaborators and their dreams of change for condition of black life in the UK and beyond. 

Thank you to everyone who joined us to support the work of the George Padmore Institute, one of the few organisations in the UK working to preserve and make accessible vital documents of Black and Asian history in the UK and across the world.

The Films

Dream to Change the World: A Tribute To John La Rose by Horace Ove (70 minutes)

Exploring the work and life of John LaRose, a central figure to the iconic Black Parents Movement, an activist group that campaigned against police brutality, racism in education and spearheaded the New Cross Massacre actions, including the 20,000 people’s day of action. Find out about John’s influences, and his work using art and culture with his community of collaborators to build political consciousness and push for direct action.

Something Said – Jay Bernard (8 minutes)

Jay Bernard UK 2017. In 1981 the New Cross Fire tragically claimed the lives of 13 young black people and was met with state, media and police indifference. Haunted by that history, and in the context of the recent rise of the far right, Something Said resurrects the spirit of Yvonne Ruddock, whose 16th birthday was being celebrated the night of the fire. Jay Bernard was formerly an artist in residence at the archive.

(Artwork courtesy of Special Design Studio.)

Jaha’s Promise

On the 3rd of July, we headed back to The Genesis to host an exclusive screening of Jaha’s Promise. It’s a fearless documentary following one woman’s mission to fight the pervasive tradition of FGM in The Gambia. The film’s subject is harrowing, but the determination of Jaha Duhurek (now UN Women Goodwill Ambasaddor for Africa) is uplifting and infectious. In a time where uncertainty feels rife, she is a very necessary reminder of the power of people to drive change.

After the film, we were joined by Janet Fyle MBE, who is a trained nurse and midwife from Sierra Leone, a prominent anti-FGM campaigner, and a Policy Advisor at The Royal College of Midwives. In conversation with Rachel Smethers, Janet shared the incredible work of anti-FGM campaigners around the world to shift the narrative around FGM. The discussion focused on the importance of keeping survivors of FGM at the centre of the international conversation, and to ensure the safeguards are in place to protect at-risk girls in the UK. The evening ended with a short clip from Jaha, thanking everyone for attending and for sharing her story as it spreads around the world.

All proceeds from the event were donated to Safe Hands For Girls, the charity which Jaha founded to eradicate FGM. We are hoping to host another screening of Jaha’s Promise soon (for those whose loyalties were torn with the World Cup), so keep your eyes on our events listing!


On a thundery bank-holiday Monday, we sheltered inside The Institute of Light for a sold-out screening of Halfway.

The poignancy of the film is difficult to put into words. It offers a moving portrait of the often ‘abstract’ UK housing crisis, told through the experience of one family. Filmed over a year, Daisy-May Hudson (BAFTA Breakthrough Brit) is both director and daughter as her and her family fight to retain their dignity whilst they wait to be rehoused by the council. The self-filmed footage is so incredibly relatable – birthdays, bickering, tears and laughs – which makes the family’s struggle to find somewhere to call home all the more devastating to watch. It was a privilege to be joined by Daisy and her family for the screening. ‘Half Way’ was Nominated for Best British Documentary at the British Independent Film Awards and the Grierson award for Best Cinema Documentary.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion featuring the film’s director, Daisy-May Hudson, Jon Glackin from Streets Kitchen, Molly Fleming from The Outside Project and Mark Brennan from Housing Justice, chaired by Kate Hodkinson from the TPFC team. The panel centred around the inseparability of the housing crisis from political policy, and the importance of providing affordable housing. The frequent ‘othering’ of homeless people – as somehow different, somehow responsible for their situation – was dismantled, as anecdotes shared (as well as the story of Daisy’s own family) showed the ease with which people can find themselves without a home. Crucially, the panel reflected on the importance of getting involved and supporting grassroots organisations where possible. If you are interested, the above organisations are a great place to start.

We are proud to have raised £400 through this screening, which will help support Streets Kitchen in their wonderful work – #SolidarityNotCharity.



On the 30th of April, we hosted another sold-out event, with an evening filled with film, discussion and reflection centred around ‘the refugee crisis’.

We brought together a programme of short films, spanning the breadth of stories, experiences, and geographies that sit behind the word ‘refuge’. We used ‘Home’ as the unifying theme for the evening; both the hope to find a new place to call home, inseparable from the longing for a home that cannot be returned to.

Refuge (Dir: Matthew K. Firpo, Documentary, 2016)
Refuge is a multimedia project chronicling human stories from the European Refugee Crisis, focused on humanity and hope. Shot on location in Greece, January 2016.

Oksijan (Dir: Edward Watts, Live Action, 2017)
The incredible true story of a 7-year old Afghan refugee who was being smuggled to the UK in a refrigerated lorry when the oxygen inside began to run out.

The Island (Dir: Gabrielle Brady, Documentary, 2017)
Christmas Island, off the coast of Australia: here 50 million crabs make their slow and ancient migration, while thousands of people seeking asylum are indefinitely held in a high security detention facility. Poh Lin, a trauma counsellor living on the island, bears witness to the dramatic stories and decline of those being detained.

Flight (Dir: Laura Wadha, Documentary, 2017)
Two young sisters who arrive in Sweden having fled the war in Syria are becoming teenagers in a new world. They try to hold on to the fond memories of their once beautiful home while struggling to deal with the repercussions of growing up surrounded by war.

We followed the screening with a discussion about the refugee crisis, joined by Inca from Meena, Jack from Help Refugees, Laura who directed Flight, and Helen from Supper and Stories. The discussion focused upon the importance of civic action and of pro-actively welcoming refugees and migrants into our communities. However, the panel also highlighted the importance of policy change, to put pressure on our government to welcome people seeking refuge.

The evening raised £335 for the wonderful MEENA Centre (The ‘Unofficial’ Women and Children’s Centre), previously based in Calais, which supports women and children refugees and asylum seekers in the UK.

We Out Here

On the 26th March, we hosted another sell-out screening at The Institute of Light. This time our subject was London’s buzzing jazz scene, with an exclusive screening of We Out Here: half documentary, half music video, 100% London jazz trip.

The film is director Fabrice Bourgelle’s visual accompaniment to the latest release from Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label, which shares the same title. Both film and album aim to capture the here and now, as our city continues to bubble over with both jazz players and jazz appreciators – each side pushing the other further and higher.

But scenes don’t spring from nowhere. Many people have been nurturing the music and the musicians for a number of years. A substantial slice of the credit-pie must go to Tomorrow’s Warriors, who have been helping young musicians, with a focus on girls and those from the African diaspora, through their education and development since 1991. Many of the scene’s most recognisable faces are Tomorrow’s Warriors alumni – testament to the success of their endeavour and to the power of a well-funded, well-organised arts education.

The post-film discussion was something special. We were lucky enough to be joined by the inimitable Gary Crosby OBE and Janine Irons, the co-founders of Tomorrow’s Warriors and legends of the jazz scene. Alongside them, we had Cassie Kinoshi (Warrior’s graduate and prolific musician/composer – bandleader and alto saxophonist in London jazz supergroups Nérija, KOKOROKO and SEED) and Fabrice Bourgelle (Director of We Out Here and unstoppable visual artist in photography and film) for a brilliant panel, chaired by the renowned jazz journalist Teju Adeleye. Together, the four panellists shared anecdotes of London’s unique jazz scene, and the forces which have catalysed it’s incredible growth. The role of Tomorrow’s Warriors in this is indisputable, so it was a pleasure that we could donate £340 from our ticket sales to help support their amazing work!