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Green civic plaque honours the Keskidee Centre

April 10, 2011

Some of the well-wishers and Keskidee regulars joined MPs and Councillors to celebrate unveiling the Keskidee's green civic plaque

The historic role of the former Keskidee Centre on Gifford Street was marked on Thursday 7th April with the unveiling of a green civic plaque. Council Leader, Catherine West and Labour MP for Tottenham, David Lammy spoke at the unveiling ceremony which coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Keskidee’s opening.

Named after a singing Caribbean bird, it was founded by Guyanese-born Oscar Abrams in 1971. Keskidee was Britain’s first black arts and cultural centre, it forged new ground for a generation of black British poets, actors, artists and directors.

It had its own drama company, artists in residence and was a hub for African and Afro-Caribbean politics and arts, as well as a creative nursery for homegrown talent. It also catered for the needs of local youth and gave a generation of black teenagers a space of their own.

Linton Kwesi Johnson, educational officer at the centre, created dub poetry there. In 1978, reggae legend Bob Marley filmed his 1978 video for Is This Love there with ­seven-year-old Naomi Campbell featuring in the shoot. The building is now the “Wosem” church serving a West African evangelical Christian congregation.

In his speech to a crowd thronging the street, David Lammy observed that “as the son of Guyanese parents” he was honoured to unveil the plaque because the Keskidee had “marked a turning point in our history”.

Paul Convery and Rupert Perry attended the unveiling along with other local Councillors including Raphael Andrews, one of the Labour Councillors in Clerkenwell who was a regular attendee at Keskidee when he was a youngster.

Paul, who lives on Gifford Street, says “Oscar Abrams was one of the first locals I met when I came to Islington in 1979. He was an inspirational pioneer amongst the first generation of Black Londoners. The Keskidee made a great contribution to the rich multi-cultural identity of our city.”

More about the Keskidee

Islington’s Local History Centre created an exhibition for Black History Month in 2009 and short history of the Keskideed produced for the exhibition is available by clicking here.

The oral historian Alan Dein produced a programme about the Keskidee which was broadcast in May 2009 and an MP3 recording of the programme can be downloaded byclicking here (this is a 13Mb audio file).

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