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.


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!


On the 13th of March, we hosted a screening which has been on the cards since the beginning of Film Club: Pride, with the original activists.

The film tells the story of queer activists in 1980s London, who raised money through the LGBTQ community to help support the Welsh miners of Dulais Valley through the miners’ strike. Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners are an inspiration to many contemporary activists, both for their uncompromising declaration of solidarity and for the comradeship which was built with the mining communities. The miners’ arrival at 1985 London is a powerful moment in queer history. To find out more about LGSM, this article is a great place to start, and the wonderful Gays The Word is always worth a visit.

As the credits rolled, and everyone wiped away tears to the tune of ‘Solidarity forever’, we invited our panel to the stage. We were joined by Mike and Gethin from LGSM, two of the original activists the film is based upon, along with Ida, Julyette and Harry, representing Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants. Founded in 2014, this group of queer activists fight to challenge the racist narrative and hostile environment that migrants face in the UK. The panel reflected on the power of the story of LGSM, and the countless solidarity groups it has inspired around the world. The censoring of the extent of LGSM’s socialist origins was revealed, leading to the wonderful but NSFW quote… ‘there were only two things banned from the script: fisting and socialism’. The activists from LGSMigrants shared their work in protesting Britain’s hostile immigration policies, and demonstrated the importance of keeping queer solidarity alive.

The event was in aid of two wonderful charities – Oasis Cardiff and Welsh Refugee Council – who work to make refugees feel welcome and supported in Wales. We raised a massive £1250, so thanks to everyone for all the support