Trailblazers of Black Theatre

Wednesday 22 September 6.30pm
Trailblazers of Black Theatre: illustrated talk by Stephen Bourne, author of Deep are the Roots, an odyssey into Black history on the stage

Deep Are the Roots celebrates the pioneers of Black British theatre, beginning in 1825, when Ira Aldridge made history as the first Black actor to play Shakespeare’s Othello in the United Kingdom, and ending in 1975 with the success of Britain’s first Black-led theatre company.

This event is organised by Black History Walks in conjunction with the Sarah Parker Remond Centre at U.C.L.

In addition to providing a long-overdue critique of Laurence Olivier’s Othello, Bourne has unearthed the forgotten story of Paul Molyneaux, a Shakespearean actor of the Victorian era. The twentieth-century trailblazers include Paul Robeson, Florence Mills, Elisabeth Welch, Edric Connor and Pearl Connor-Mogotsi.

There are chapters about the ground-breaking work of playwrights at the Royal Court, the first Black drama school students, pioneering theatre companies and three influential dramatists of the 1970s: Mustapha Matura, Michael Abbensetts and Alfred Fagon. Drawing on interviews with leading lights, here is everything you need to know about the trailblazers of Black theatre in Britain and their profound influence on the culture of today.

Mr Bourne will take us on an illustrated tour of his new book and then take questions. ‘Deep are the Roots’ is published by the History Press on 7th October and is available from Amazon.

This is an online event at 6.30pm UK/GMT time. The Zoom link will be sent to your email. Check your JUNK MAIL when you register and just before the event starts.

Other coming events from Black History Walks www.blackhistorywalks.co.uk

Black History Walks and Twentyin2020

‘Black History Walks in London Volume 1’. This is part of Black publishing house, Jacaranda Books revolutionary Twenty in 2020 initiative to publish 20 books by 20 Black British authors in 2020. An unprecedented feat. ‘Black History Walks in London Volume 1’ is the 20th of that series but was delayed to this year due to the Coronavirus.

Other coming events from Black History Walks www.blackhistorywalks.co.uk

  • Black History River Cruise
  • 18th Century Superheroine Sarah Parker Remond
  • Fibroids and reproductive health: new research from the Caribbean
  • 20 Banned Black Films you need to see
  • Tracing the money of the slave owners
  • 1968 Race Relations Act and the legacy of Black Lawyers
  • The sterilisation of Black Women without their consent and what can be done
  • The Gentrification of Peckham and Black Urban removal worldwide
  • Darcus Howe Weekender
  • Black Teacher by Beryl Gilroy the new edition
  • The British Black Panther Movement
  • African Superheroes Day
  • Kenyan Uprisings, through the Leopard’s Gaze. (Twenty in 2020)

About the author

Stephen Bourne is a writer, film and social historian specialising in black heritage and gay culture. As noted by the BBC among others, Stephen ‘has discovered many stories that have remained untold for years’. Bonnie Greer, the acclaimed playwright and critic, says: ‘Stephen brings great natural scholarship and passion to a largely hidden story. He is highly accessible, accurate and surprising. You always walk away from his work knowing something that you didn’t know, that you didn’t even expect.’

Stephen was born in London. He graduated from the London College of Printing with a bachelor’s degree in film and television in 1988, and in 2006 received a MPhil. at De Montfort University on the subject of the representation of gay men in British television drama, 1936–79. After graduating in 1988, he was a research officer at the British Film Institute on a project that documented the history of black people in British television. The result was a two-part television documentary called Black and White in Colour (BBC 1992), directed by Isaac Julien, that is considered ground-breaking.

In 1991 Stephen was a founder member of the Black and Asian Studies Association. In 1991, Stephen co-authored Aunt Esther’s Story with Esther Bruce (his adopted aunt), which was published by Hammersmith and Fulham’s Ethnic Communities Oral History Project. Nancy Daniels in The Voice (8 October 1991) described the book as ‘Poignantly and simply told, the story of Aunt Esther is a factual account of a black working-class woman born in turn of the century London. The book is a captivating documentation of a life rich in experiences, enhanced by good black-and-white photographs.’ For Aunt Esther’s Story, Stephen and Esther were shortlisted for the 1992 Raymond Williams Prize for Community Publishing.

In 1998 Stephen researched and scripted the BBC Radio 2 series Their Long Voyage Home, presented by Sir Trevor McDonald, for the BBC’s Windrush season. For his acclaimed book Black in the British Frame: The Black Experience in British Film and Television (2001), Stephen received the Southwark Civic Award. In 2004 Stephen began contributing biographies about black Britons to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and by 2016 Stephen’s total had reached 40.

In 2008 he researched Keep Smiling Through: Black Londoners on the Home Front 1939–1945, an exhibition for the Cuming Museum in the London Borough of Southwark, and that same year he worked as a historical consultant on the Imperial War Museum’s War to Windrush exhibition. In 2014 Stephen’s book Black Poppies: Britain’s Black Community and the Great War was published by The History Press to coincide with the centenary of Britain’s entry into World War I. Reviewing it in the Independent (11 September 2014), Bernadine Evaristo said: ‘Until historians and cultural map-makers stop ignoring the historical presence of people of colour, books such as this provide a powerful, revelatory counterbalance to the whitewashing of British history.’ For Black Poppies Stephen received the 2015 Southwark Arts Forum Literature Award at Southwark’s Unicorn Theatre.

In 2017 Stephen received a Screen Nation (‘Black BAFTA’) Special Award, an Honorary Fellowship from London South Bank University and his Fighting Proud: The Untold Story of the Gay Men Who Served in Two World Wars was published by I B Tauris. Website https://stephenbourne.co.uk

About the Sarah Parker Remond Centre at UCL

The University College London Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Racism and Racialisation explores the impact of racism – scientific, metaphysical and cultural. Part of the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies, they work closely with many partners on-site to provide a focal point for scholarship, teaching and public engagement activities that are addressed to various problems of racial inequality and hierarchy.

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Reviews of Black History Walks, Tours & Talks

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It was a wonderful experience and I would recommend it for all

A brisk, informative stroll through the heart of the British Empire. Our cheerful and intellectually generous tour guide, led us through narrow alleyways and past Roman ruins, within halls constructed by powerful guilds; in the process, he revealed to us both the many layers of British history and the often unacknowledged cultural multiplicity at its core. The tour was exciting, informative and allowed everyone across age, interest, and temperament to participate and learn. It was a wonderful experience and I would recommend it for all.

Professor Caroline Brown, University of Montreal, Canada

Black History Walks
5
2020-07-15T11:38:44+01:00

Professor Caroline Brown, University of Montreal, Canada

A brisk, informative stroll through the heart of the British Empire. Our cheerful and intellectually generous tour guide, led us through narrow alleyways and past Roman ruins, within halls constructed by powerful guilds; in the process, he revealed to us both the many layers of British history and the often unacknowledged cultural multiplicity at its core. The tour was exciting, informative and allowed everyone across age, interest, and temperament to participate and learn. It was a wonderful experience and I would recommend it for all.

A truly inspiring day

A truly inspiring day, filled with information I may have NEVER been aware of, if it was not for attending this walk. The friendly intellectually amazing tour guide relayed facts that I would have had to research for months to be aware of. I would URGE any and everyone, of all ages to attend - a great, fun, educational day out.

Isschara Maxine, London

Black History Walks
5
2020-07-15T11:44:18+01:00

Isschara Maxine, London

A truly inspiring day, filled with information I may have NEVER been aware of, if it was not for attending this walk. The friendly intellectually amazing tour guide relayed facts that I would have had to research for months to be aware of. I would URGE any and everyone, of all ages to attend - a great, fun, educational day out.

Extremely informative and made it seem all really relevant

I just wanted to let you know that the students REALLY enjoyed the tour yesterday. I polled them in class and everyone overwhelmingly had positive things to say. They particularly enjoyed how you incorporated modern day information into the tour. They said it was extremely informative and made it seem all really relevant. And today it was great listening to them as they walked around central London, noticing some of the things you'd pointed out. So, your work was very well received. Well done and thank you!

Lori Tharps, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Journalism, Temple University, USA

Black History Walks
5
2020-07-15T12:12:20+01:00

Lori Tharps, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Journalism, Temple University, USA

I just wanted to let you know that the students REALLY enjoyed the tour yesterday. I polled them in class and everyone overwhelmingly had positive things to say. They particularly enjoyed how you incorporated modern day information into the tour. They said it was extremely informative and made it seem all really relevant. And today it was great listening to them as they walked around central London, noticing some of the things you'd pointed out. So, your work was very well received. Well done and thank you!

Best element of the trip

You may hear this often, but many of my students named your tour as the best element of the trip last time.

Nancy Comerau, Assistant Professor of English, Ohio Wesleyan University, USA

Black History Walks
5
2020-07-15T12:28:53+01:00

Nancy Comerau, Assistant Professor of English, Ohio Wesleyan University, USA

You may hear this often, but many of my students named your tour as the best element of the trip last time.

Absolutely brilliant lecture and walk yesterday

Absolutely brilliant lecture and walk yesterday. Students were really energized. Thanks so much.

Bill Mullen, Professor of English and American Studies, Purdue University, USA

Black History Walks
5
2020-07-15T13:27:53+01:00

Bill Mullen, Professor of English and American Studies, Purdue University, USA

Absolutely brilliant lecture and walk yesterday. Students were really energized. Thanks so much.

A rich and detailed learning experience

Our guide's encyclopedic knowledge of the area, and his passion for black history, made for a rich and detailed learning experience. He was friendly and engaging, frequently involving the students in dialogue and relating his points to places and subjects that are familiar to them. The students were fascinated throughout and learned a great deal. We recommend this tour most highly!

Rebecca Whisnant, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Director of Women's and Gender Studies, University of Dayton, USA

Black History Walks
5
2020-07-15T13:28:21+01:00

Rebecca Whisnant, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Director of Women's and Gender Studies, University of Dayton, USA

Our guide's encyclopedic knowledge of the area, and his passion for black history, made for a rich and detailed learning experience. He was friendly and engaging, frequently involving the students in dialogue and relating his points to places and subjects that are familiar to them. The students were fascinated throughout and learned a great deal. We recommend this tour most highly!

The children talk about it for a long time afterwards

I would really like to book two black history walk dates around St Pauls and the Barbican for our two year 6 classes. We have done them for the last two years and the children always learn such a lot and talk about it for a long time afterwards.

Helen Davies, Head of Year 6, John Scurr School, Tower Hamlets

Black History Walks
5
2020-07-15T13:29:08+01:00

Helen Davies, Head of Year 6, John Scurr School, Tower Hamlets

I would really like to book two black history walk dates around St Pauls and the Barbican for our two year 6 classes. We have done them for the last two years and the children always learn such a lot and talk about it for a long time afterwards.

I could not have asked for a better supplement to my Sociology course on race, identity, and culture

Thank you for organizing a wonderful walking tour for my students. You are incredibly knowledgeable, and it was such a joy to hear your take on things. The students loved this field trip. You did an excellent job relating the history, culture, and social contributions of Black and Afro-Caribbean people in a fun and lively way while still emphasizing the seriousness and importance of this often overlooked aspect of British life. I could not have asked for a better supplement to my Sociology course on race, identity, and culture. I really appreciate you helping make the class so special and look forward to arranging another.

William Force, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Western New England University

Black History Walks
5
2020-07-15T13:31:05+01:00

William Force, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Western New England University

Thank you for organizing a wonderful walking tour for my students. You are incredibly knowledgeable, and it was such a joy to hear your take on things. The students loved this field trip. You did an excellent job relating the history, culture, and social contributions of Black and Afro-Caribbean people in a fun and lively way while still emphasizing the seriousness and importance of this often overlooked aspect of British life. I could not have asked for a better supplement to my Sociology course on race, identity, and culture. I really appreciate you helping make the class so special and look forward to arranging another.

Engaging, moving, will keep you asking more questions.

What an amazing tour! It completely moved me to rethink the intricate web of social, economic and political relations that characterize British imperial rule and racial politics. Engaging, moving, will keep you asking more questions. The best way to get to know London.

Alai Reyes-Santos, Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of Oregon

Black History Walks
5
2020-07-15T13:32:29+01:00

Alai Reyes-Santos, Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of Oregon

What an amazing tour! It completely moved me to rethink the intricate web of social, economic and political relations that characterize British imperial rule and racial politics. Engaging, moving, will keep you asking more questions. The best way to get to know London.

Nothing but positive feedback

The audience and the panellists had some incredibly positive feedback about your presentation. It went down so well and was an brilliant combination of information, revelation and humour. There were also a number of attendees whose firms or companies had organised a Black History Walk with yourself and also had nothing but positive feedback

Sharon Takhar, Origin Network, Norton Rose Fulbright LLP

Black History Walks
5
2020-08-19T16:34:16+01:00

Sharon Takhar, Origin Network, Norton Rose Fulbright LLP

The audience and the panellists had some incredibly positive feedback about your presentation. It went down so well and was an brilliant combination of information, revelation and humour. There were also a number of attendees whose firms or companies had organised a Black History Walk with yourself and also had nothing but positive feedback
5
10
Black History Walks
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