Design > Brand Environment & Experience Design

THE BLACK PLAQUE PROJECT

HAVAS , London / NUBIAN JAK COMMUNITY TRUST / 2021

Awards:

Gold Cannes Lions
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Overview

Credits

Overview

Background

Britain has paid tribute to its notable men and women since 1866 by placing blue plaques on buildings in London where they lived or worked. Yet only 1.6% of those honoured are of African or Caribbean descent. Ignored by the establishment during their lifetime, the significant contributions of many Black Britons continue to be ignored posthumously and their stories are at risk of being erased from history.

Our long-term objective is simple: to preserve these precious stories of Black achievement and keep them alive so they can inspire future generations.

Our short and medium-term objectives are threefold: a) To raise awareness and public support of the issue. b) To place it on the news agenda and to win the support of influential individuals and organisations within London c) To influence English Heritage to address historic exclusion and to become more inclusive going forwards.

Describe the creative idea

The Black Plaque Project champions 30 of Britain’s forgotten Black heroes with temporary black plaques on buildings in central London, in the hope that with public support they will be recognised permanently with blue plaques. We utilised a 150-year-old commemorative plaque scheme to tackle a 150-year-old problem. By installing our message on buildings throughout the city we raised the issue up for all to see and to experience. The conspicuous Black plaques disrupted the blue plaques that have become part of the everyday fabric of central London. The plaques placed the names and achievements of important Black historical figures alongside their white contemporaries where they rightfully deserve to be. In doing so we reminded people of their stories and their amazing contributions. For many people, particularly the younger generation, they had never even heard of most of these people or been aware of their stories.

Describe the execution

In collaboration with The Nubian Jak Trust and a panel of experts from the Afro Caribbean community, we identified 30 individuals who merit posthumous recognition for their outstanding contributions to British society. Some had been overlooked by English Heritage for years, others had never even been considered. We worked with local district councils, building owners and tenants to negotiate the temporary installation of 30 Black plaques. The project was launched with an immersive and informative mobile platform which geo mapped the locations and told the full stories behind each Black plaque. Effectively the city became an outdoor installation of curated forgotten and lost stories of Black Britons. Buildings that have remained anonymous for years became platforms to tell the stories of their long-forgotten occupants.

List the results

The initiative won the full support of the Mayor of London’s office which is hugely influential in bringing about policy change in the city. It was also covered extensively by Britain’s main commercial broadcaster - ITV, who serialised the unveiling of the first four plaques on the early evening news every Friday for a month. Thanks to overwhelming public support, English Heritage have responded positively and turned Winnifred Atwell’s temporary Black plaque into a permanent blue plaque. For this to have happened after just three months has exceeded our expectations and given The Black Plaque Project and its partners a platform and momentum on which to build. Excluded from the British education syllabus, most people would have been hard-pressed to name a person of African or Caribbean background in Britain before WWII. We have now successfully reintroduced at least 30 forgotten Black heroes to a new generation of Britons.

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