City of London’s archives pay tribute to Caribbean hero
The life of Cy Grant (1919 - 2010), whose extensive career spanned acting, song writing, black rights activism and the RAF, will be celebrated by a project at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) to inspire young people and raise awareness of his achievements.
Documents, manuscripts, photographs and films dating from the 1940s to 2010, which chart Cy Grant’s life and form part of the Cy Grant Archive, will be catalogued and made public for the first time, following an award of a £79,800 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to Cy Grant Trust.
Guyanese-born 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 with the late Cliff Michelmore. In 2014, Cy Grant’s family deposited the Cy Grant Archive at LMA (which is owned and managed by the City of London Corporation) 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.
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, Director of London Metropolitan Archives, said: “We are delighted that we have been entrusted with the Cy Grant Archive and have become a key partner in preserving and making accessible this outstanding collection that traces the life and work of a very special Londoner and hero of the Black Caribbean community. This initiative builds on the City of London Corporation’s strong foundations in documenting the history of the capital’s many communities.”
The project will connect young people to Cy Grant - essentially, a role model for today’s young generations - and encourage them to learn about his achievements. Original source material will be made available to the public through youth/inter-generational workshops and events, a school education pack, online resources, and an exhibition hosted by the Marcus Garvey Library in Tottenham. Screenings will take place at The British Film Institute and LMA. The project will run until spring 2017, with a final celebration event to launch the archive catalogue. The full release of the final catalogue will be available in 2017 by viewing London Metropolitan Archives’ online catalogue.
Notes for Editors:
For further information about this initiative, high resolution images and interviews with Samantha Moxon, please contact:
Richard Wiltshire, Senior Archivist, London Metropolitan Archives (City of London Corporation)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; telephone: 020 7332 3988
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.
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.