Photo by Pinar Mavi
In partnership with Vanessa Onalo, an East London-based, Kenyan curator and founder of Kanaiza Gallery, we’re aiming to shine a light on Black history in the capital.
Kanaiza Gallery merges the worlds of Black art, culture, community, and storytelling and is home to a global community of artists and art lovers. Vanessa Onalo curates art exhibitions, talks, publications, and bespoke media productions with exceptional Black multi-disciplinary Black artists and creatives from all corners of the world.
During the month of October, we will send you a message when you start your trip near a site linked to Black history. You’ll be able to learn more about monuments and sites across the capital and discover their significance to Black culture.
These places are all examples of the rich and varied African and Caribbean history hidden in public spaces, which many walk past every day without knowing their meaning.
Find out more about London’s Black historical locations below:
1.Desmond’s Hip City
Owned by Desmond Ryan, Desmond’s Hip City was Brixton’s most celebrated record store in
the late 60s-70s and one of London’s first Black-owned record stores. Located on 55 Atlantic
Road, Desmond’s was a cultural mecca for soul and reggae that connected local diaspora
communities with sounds from the Caribbean, Africa and Black America.
2. Windrush Square
Windrush Square and Tate Gardens is an open public space and events venue
in Brixton celebrating the beginning of Britain’s true multicultural society. The
site is an ode to the arrival of the of 492 African and Caribbean people on the SS Empire
Windrush. The square has undergone many renovations and upgrades, and the
modern iteration was opened in 2010. It now incorporates The Black
Cultural Archive Centre, which opened in 2014 at 1 Windrush Square.
3. New Beacon Books
The UK’s first Black publisher, specialist bookshop, and international book distributor.
New Beacon Books was founded in 1966 by John La Rose and Sarah White. It is a home to literature from Black writers from across Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, America, and Black Britain. John La Rose saw publishing as a vehicle to pass on information from generation to
generation and instill a sense of self in Black diaspora communities. The store
still remains open for business on Stroud Green Road.
4. Mangrove Restaurant
Opened in 1968 by serial entrepreneur and Trinidadian community activist
Frank Crichlow, The Mangrove Restaurant located on 8 All Saints Row in Notting Hill quickly
became a respected social and cultural hub for London’s Black diaspora
community. It was frequented by famous international guests including Jimi
Hendrix, Bob Marley, Nina Simone, and more. Black Filmmaker Steve McQueen
paid tribute to the restaurant’s history in the series Small Axe released in
5. Wentworth Street
In the East End of London a succession of Black-owned fabric stores started to
arise in the mid ‘90s and continue to thrive in the present day, attracting diaspora
audiences from all corners of Africa. It is led by a league of entrepreneurial African
matriarchs who style seekers of vibrant Holland Wax, French Lace,
Swiss Voile and traditional jewellery.
6. Brixton Market
Brixton Market became the heart of African and Caribbean settlers in
London post WWII. It gave access to familiar spices, vegetables, fruits and
products that made London feel more like home to Black diaspora
communities. With the rise of gentrification over the last decade, much of the
African and Caribbean presence and character of the market has been
replaced with trendy boutiques, cafes and restaurants. There are still a small
number of Black stalls and shop owners serving the community and upholding this
7. Mary Seacole Memorial Statue
Mary Seacole’s statue is the UK’s first memorial statue in honour of a named
Black woman. In the 19th century, Jamaican-born nurse Mary Seacole sought
to go to Crimea to treat patients of the war but was not permitted to go by British authorities. Despite this, she founded her own initiative to serve in Crimea and gained recognition for her medical work. An attempt to remove her from the national curriculum was successfully challenged by a petition with 35,000 signatures. Her statue now stands on the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital.
8. The Shim Sham Club
The Shim Sham Club was a bar in Soho that was a key source for new jazz music and a
popular Black queer space. The venue was at 37 Wardour Street and
opened in 1935. One of its owners was Ike Hatch, a Black American musician.
Its patrons included amongst others, bohemians, creatives and queer Black and Jewish Londoners. Garland Wilson, an African American jazz pianist who came to England in the
1930s played at the club’s opening. The venue is now an O’Neills pub.
9. Notting Hill Carnival
Initially held indoors,the Notting Hill Carnival evolved over iterations, starting in Paddington.
The first outdoor Notting Hill Carnival was held in 1966 and was attended by 500 people who
came together to celebrate Caribbean heritage, resilience and culture and to alleviate tensions
that stemmed from West London’s race riots. Now, it is London’s biggest street party and a
significant marker of Black British Culture. NHC has grown tremendously over the years and is
a much loved international event that attracts over 2 million visitors each
year during the last weekend of August.
10. Dr Harold Moody’s Home
Harold Moody was a Black physician born in Jamaica. He was an avid social rights
activist and the president of the League of Coloured Peoples. Despite graduating
at the top of his class, Harold was refused work based on his colour. As a result, in 1913 he
opened his own practice in his home on Queen’s Road in Peckham. In honor of his legacy, a blue plaque now marks his former home and practice.
Want to know how Uber is also celebrating Black History Month in the UK?
To honour Black History Month, Uber is committed to providing support for Black-owned restaurants, and celebrating Black drivers and couriers, who are at the heart of everything Uber does.