Tag Archives: Black Cultural Archives

Remembering Olive Morris

The Remembering Olive Collective (ROC) is holding a rally on Friday 26 June on Rush Common, Brixton Hill, to celebrate the life of Olive Morris and to call upon Lambeth Council to ensure that Olive’s memory does not become erased from the history of Brixton. Brixton Pound had put Olive on its first edition notes, so we wholeheartedly support the celebration and memory of Olive’s life and activism. Below are a few words from B£ Director Susan Steed.

Olive Morris on the Brixton Pound

This Friday the Remembering Olive Collective (ROC) are hosting a rally to celebrate the life of Olive Morris and to call upon Lambeth Council to ensure her memory is not erased from the history of Brixton.

Several people asked how Olive Morris came to feature on the first edition Brixton Pound note. The reason for this is very simple. When we began designing the currency back in 2009 we asked lots of people from Brixton who they thought should go on the notes. We had a stall at the Lambeth Country Show and on online voting poll. Olive’s name kept coming up.

As we looked into it more, it seemed Olive Morris was a brilliant choice to be the first person to go on a Brixton Pound. She was an activist – campaigning on many social justice issues including racism, unemployment, police violence and squatters rights. She was also a member of the British Black Panthers and a socialist and she supported anti-colonial struggles internationally.

Money and power are at the heart of many of the issues that Olive campaigned on. Just take a look at our national currency, sterling, and look at the images that are chosen and the symbols they represent. If you go to the British Museum you can also see notes issued by the British Government in the British Colonies and they look very similar to the notes that we still use today.

The Brixton Pound deliberately chose images and symbols that break tradition with this colonialist past. Olive Morris was a disrupter and we are proud to put her image on the first issue of the notes in the place that is usually reserved for the Queen. We hope this may encourage more people to look at the inequalities sustained and perpetuated by our current financial system and challenge them, just as Olive Morris did.

Since putting Olive Morris on the Brixton Pound we have had many people come and talk to us who remember Olive. They have told us a bit about her and her life. We hope that, alongside organisations like the Remembering Olive Collective, we can help keep her legacy alive.

More information on the rally is available here.

Please tell your friends, sign the petition to retain a public facing memorial to Olive, and see you at the rally!


Free conference on money, society, and Brixton

Come talk money and community with us on Friday 24th April! We have invited some great, engaging speakers and there will be a delicious locally-sourced lunch for everyone, as well as an opportunity to network and socialise. The conference is open to all and free to attend, but as spaces are limited we highly recommend you REGISTER NOWhttp://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/london-borough-of-lambeth-ccia-conference-tickets-15926661072

Why should you come? If you are in Brixton and use the Brixton Pound, accept it in your business, or are someone who wants to find out more about it and community currencies, this is an opportunity to deepen your knowledge, ask questions, and get more involved.

The Brixton Pound has always been more than just a currency; we know that while it encourages people to buy locally, we also know that it makes Brixton feel ‘special’ and people are very proud of the artwork on the notes so it has a value as community art.

What other values does it have? Does it encourage citizens to participate in their local community or feel that they have a contribution to make? As a means of exchange does it build stronger bonds that make people feel more connected to the area?

These are just some of the questions that will be asked at the conference. Speakers include Nigel Dodd, author of The Social Life of Money, and Brett Scott, author of Hacking the Future of Money, Charlie Waterhouse, the designer of paper B£s, as well as those with community currency experience from France, Holland, Belgium and Wales, Lambeth Council and Brixton Pound.

For more information including a detailed agenda + free registration go to: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/london-borough-of-lambeth-ccia-conference-tickets-15926661072. Hope to see you there!

Black History Month #BHM2014

Black History Month Everyday of the Year

October has been Black History Month in the UK since 1987. We’re tempted to say that in Brixton, every month is Black History Month, and the place which is the constant proof for that is a great and unique institution: Black Cultural Archives, 1 Windrush Square.

The heritage centre opened in July 2014, after 33 years of organising by a group of black artists, activists, and teachers, who met during the uprisings of 1981 and decided to “create an archive that commemorated and educated people on the forgotten history of black people in Britain and offset the violence with understanding and education.” (Hannah Ellis-Petersen, ‘Black Cultural Archives unveils new centre in Brixton,’ 29 July 2014)

Dame Jocelyn Barrow, one of the founding members of the BCA and the first black woman governor of the BBC:

“[N]one of the museums or archives really reflected the lives of our community and of African and Caribbean people in this country. So one of the important things was to have an archive that reflects the African and Caribbean presence in this country, for the native population and for the children of African and Caribbean parents to understand why we are here, what brought us here and what are our struggles and achievements. It’s important there is a repository of those achievements. It’s taken years of hard work, struggle and constant pleading to people to get this on the mainstream agenda.”

BCA director Paul Reid:

“I personally believe that history and heritage has a functional role to play in addressing [inequalities and disparities]. It has a functional role to play in how people see themselves. (…) It’s in the oral history testimonies, it’s in the oral tradition, its in art, it’s in sculpture it’s in music. It’s always been there in culture, but it’s also in the records offices, it’s in the cemeteries, it’s in the hard documented evidence. So we want to combine those kinds of tangible and intangible heritage and start to tell fascinating stories through this archive, and I believe if we do that we actually do put something out there to get people to re-think who we are and who we feel we are.”

Dr Hakim Adi, a historian and trustee of the BCA:

“It shows black history is mainstream and is important in telling the story of Britain over the past 2,000 years.”

Re-imagine: Black Women in Britain

The first exhibition at the archive, Re-imagine: Black Women in Britain, explores narratives of Black women throughout history. It runs until 30 November. Admission is free, and the exhibition is accompanied by a multitude of talks and workshops, all well worth checking out.


Brixton Pound is proud to feature BCA’s founder, Len Garrison, on the B£1 paper note:


LENFORD (KWESI) GARRISON (1943-2003), Academic, community activist and co-founder of the Black Cultural Archives. Len’s life’s work was to catalogue the development of the black British identity and its history. Len co-founded the BCA in the heart of Brixton Market, Coldharbour Lane in 1981.

It was you, Brixton people, who voted for the Heroes and Sheroes that feature on paper Brixton Pounds, and on both the first and second edition notes, a number of Black Brixtonites are represented. We felt it was a big deal, and it constantly reminds us of the importance of history and representation.


On the B£5 is Luol Deng (born 1985), professional basketball player for the GB national basketball team and the NBA’s Chicago Bulls (now Miami Heat). Born in what is now South Sudan, Deng emigrated as a child and moved with his family to Brixton. There he joined England’s 15-and –under basketball team at Brixton Basketball Club marking the beginning of his basketball career.


On the first edition B£1 is Olive Morris, a radical political activist and community organiser who established the Brixton Black Women’s Group, and played a pivotal role in the squatters’ rights campaigns of the 1970s. Olive was born in Jamaica in 1952 and moved with her family to Britain aged 9. She was a Brixton resident from 1961-1975 and died at the age of 27 from cancer.


On the first edition B£10 is C. L. R. James, the Trinidadian journalist, historian, socialist thinker and anti-colonialist who chose to spend his final years on the ‘front line’ of Brixton.