City of London archives pay tribute to Caribbean hero
The life of Cy Grant, whose extensive career spanned acting, song writing, human rights activism and the Royal Air Force, will be celebrated at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) next month.
A finale event, led by the Cy Grant Trust, will mark the launch of the Cy Grant Archive, which will be fully accessible to the public for the first time. Navigating the Dreams of an Icon: Cy Grant Project Finale on Saturday 18 February (10am - 4pm) is a free event, featuring discussions, films, family activities, puppetry, and poetry workshops, at LMA, the City and pan-London archive, owned and managed by the City of London Corporation. Tickets must be booked in advance from cygrantfinale.eventbrite.co.uk
The event will announce the completion the cataloguing of documents, manuscripts, photographs and sound recordings dating from the 1940s to 2010, which chart Cy Grant’s life. This was made possible by an award of a £79,800 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to the Cy Grant Trust in 2016.
Guyanese-born Cy Grant, who died aged 90 in 2010, was enlisted as a Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant Navigator in the Second World War, and also worked as a singer/song writer, broadcaster, writer, multi-ethnic arts community organiser, and activist. He was also the first black person to feature regularly on UK television, chiefly, because of his appearances on the BBC current affairs programme, Tonight.
In 2014, Cy Grant’s family deposited the Cy Grant Archive at LMA and a year later, Cy Grant Trust, LMA and Windrush Foundation formed a partnership to oversee the archive project, which builds on a growing number of collections deposited at LMA by the Black African Caribbean community. The project, which began in 2016, has to date attracted volunteers who have dedicated over 350 hours of their time. The launch of an education teaching pack will mark the end of the project in May 2017.
Samantha Moxon, Cy Grant’s daughter, said:
“This project means a great deal to our family. My dad's dream was that the importance of his work should be recognised and never forgotten.”
Geoff Pick, the City of London Corporation’s Director of Archives, said:
“We are delighted that we have been entrusted with the Cy Grant Archive and are a key partner in preserving and making accessible an outstanding collection from a very special Londoner. This initiative builds on the City of London Corporation’s strong foundations in documenting the history of the capital’s many communities.”
The project began in April 2016 when cataloguing commenced on the Cy Grant Archive. Since then, the aim has been to connect Cy Grant’s life to all generations through a series of events. These have included talks and screenings at Black Cultural Archives, The British Film Institute and LMA.
A touring exhibition which displays images from the archive will be available to view at LMA from 18 February until early March 2017. The exhibition first opened at Marcus Garvey Library, Tottenham in November 2016, moving to Hornsey Library in Hornsey in January 2017. The project is due for completion in May 2017 when an education teaching pack will be launched through the project’s website, cygrant.com. Full descriptions to the Cy Grant Archive will be available to view on London Metropolitan Archives’ online catalogue. The catalogue enables individuals to order and consult original items at LMA.
The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages London Metropolitan Archives LMA), invests £80m every year in heritage and cultural activities of all kinds. It is the UK’s largest funder of culture after the government, the BBC, and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Notes for Editors:
For further information about this initiative, high resolution images and to request an interview with Cy Grant’s daughters, Samantha Moxon or Dana Grant, please contact:
Andrew Buckingham, Media Officer, City of London Corporation
Tel: 020 7332 1452 / Mobile: 07795 333060 / Email firstname.lastname@example.org
About Cy Grant Trust:
The Trust is a new community organisation set up after the death of Cy Grant, at the age of 90 in 2010, to educate the public about his life and work, and to preserve his legacy.
About the City of London Corporation:
The City of London Corporation is a uniquely diverse organisation. It supports and promotes the City as the world leader in international finance and business services and provides local services and policing for those working in, living in and visiting the Square Mile. It also provides valued services to London and the nation. These include the Barbican Centre, The Guildhall School and Milton Court; Guildhall Library; Guildhall Art Gallery and London’s Roman Amphitheatre; London Metropolitan Archives; a range of education provision (including three City Academies); five Thames bridges (including Tower Bridge and the Millennium Bridge); the Central Criminal Court at Old Bailey; over 11,000 acres of open spaces (including Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest), and three wholesale food markets. It is also London’s Port Health Authority and runs the Animal Reception Centre at Heathrow. It works in partnership with neighbouring boroughs on the regeneration of surrounding areas and the City Bridge Trust, which it oversees, donates around £20m to charity every year.
About Windrush Foundation:
Windrush Foundation is a registered charity that designs and delivers heritage projects, programmes and initiatives which highlight African and Caribbean people's contributions to the arts, public services, commerce and other areas of socio-economic and cultural life in Britain and the Commonwealth. The organisation was established in 1996 to promote good community relations, build cohesion, eliminate discrimination and encourage equality of opportunity for all – placing particular emphasis on addressing issues of ‘race’/’ethnicity’, equalities and cultural diversity. It is the leading organisation that keeps alive the memories of the Caribbean men and women who arrived in Britain on the ship Empire Windrush in June 1948.
More about Cy Grant and his Archive:
Born in British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1919, Cyril Ewart Lionel Grant served as a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Second World War. By the 1950s, Cy Grant lived in London following a successful career as singer/songwriter, later becoming a community organiser/activist, artistic director, actor, broadcaster, writer, poet, and community historian. He became the first black person to appear regularly on British television. The Cy Grant archive is important, not just because of its significance in documenting Cy Grant’s personal history, but because it sheds light on a wider shared national and international community history well beyond the Black Caribbean community. This collection contains rich material for research themes around multi-ethnic minority arts on a national basis, an iconic career which saw stardom and fame across the world and across ethnic divides, wartime narratives, discourse on black African Caribbean roots, culture and race relations.