In 2013 we were once again very busy with outreach activities.
The ‘Dig my Archives’ Schools Project culminated in a mobile pop-up exhibition designed by Sarita Mamseri. The exhibition moved around different locations in London throughout the year. It was first displayed at the participating secondary schools - Stoke Newington High School and St Martins in the Fields - and subsequently popped up in the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in Tottenham, Stoke Newington Public Library, the Finsbury Library in Islington, Clapham Library in south London and the Marcus Garvey Library in Tottenham.
The Bookman Research Project into the early origins of the publishing work done by New Beacon Books started in October 2012 and was submitted by the project researcher, Ruth Bush, in autumn 2013. We subsequently worked with a web team to prepare this project for online publication. A wonderfully successful offshoot of the project was an open book club which ran on a monthly basis between March and June 2013 and looked at poetry by John La Rose, critical writings by Wilson Harris and Wally Look Lai, Bernard Coard’s How The West Indian child was Made Educationally Sub-Normal in the British School System and finally the poetry of Martin Carter. The idea of the book club was to explore the relevance of New Beacon’s early publications to current generations. The overwhelmingly positive response to this club led to discussions about continuing it in 2014.
In April Sarah White travelled to Trinidad at the invitation of the organisers of the Bocas Literary Festival to receive the inaugural Henry Swanzy Award. The award was presented to Sarah White and posthumously to John La Rose for their contribution to publishing… As part of the award ceremony Sarah gave a short presentation on the history of New Beacon using the GPI archives.
The GPI organised ‘A Tribute to Jayne Cortez’ in July. It was a very special evening of poetry, music and memories with contributions from John Agard, Jean Binta Breeze, Margaret Busby, Zena Edwards, Khadijah Ibrahiim, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Michael La Rose, Grace Nichols, Zodwa Nyoni, Deirdre Pascall, Rheima Ibrahyiim Robinson, Kadija Sesay, Keith Waithe and Val Wilmer. The evening culminated in moving contributions from Jayne’s husband, the sculptor Mel Edwards, and her son, the drummer Denardo Coleman.
Events in autumn 2013 included the showing of the ‘Dream to Change the World’ film at the Marcus Garvey Library as part of their Black History Month programme, a QMUL workshop at the GPI on the Caribbean Artists Movement archives and an invitation to contribute to a Handbook for Social Justice Organising as a follow-up to the work we did with the grassroots So We Stand organisation last year. Selected GPI archives were incorporated by Hackney Museum into their wonderful exhibition Sankofa which focussed on the truth behind Black History Month. This was a valuable chance to meet and work with the curators. The exhibition ran from September 2013 until January 2014. We also participated in a multi-media project Every Cook Can Govern: Documenting the life, impact and works of C.L.R. James, organised by WORLDWrite, the charity providing free film and media training for the WORLDbytes online Citizen TV channel. The Third John La Rose Memorial Lecture took place on 2 October 2013, in partnership with the 4th AfroEuropeans Conference. Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the Kenyan writer and activist, delivered a lecture on ‘Resisting Metaphysical Empire: Language as a War Zone’ to a receptive and impressively large audience at University of London’s Senate House. He also visited the GPI during his time in London and saw the archives we hold on the Campaign to Free Ngugi From Detention at the end of the 1970s and on the work of the 1980s Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners in Kenya. New Beacon Books provided a bookstall throughout the four day conference. Our thanks to Sharmilla Beezmohun and her Speaking Volumes team organising the Conference and to all the GPI volunteers who helped out with the lecture and bookstall. It reminded us of the spirit of the Book Fairs only we were all 20 years older! Our thanks also go to the Hiulden Trust which has provided a grant for the publication and dissemination of the lecture text and dvd.