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NEW DIVERSITY INITIATIVE FOR LONDON BLUE PLAQUES, AS FOOTBALLER LAURIE CUNNINGHAM HONOURED
A new working group tasked with proposing Black and Asian nominees for the London Blue Plaques scheme is being created, English Heritage announced today (21 September 2016) at the unveiling of a blue plaque to footballer Laurie Cunningham.
- Pioneer of black achievement in football honoured with English Heritage blue plaque
- New working group will advise on diversity in the blue plaques scheme
There are more than 900 Blue Plaques in London, but currently less than 4% of them are dedicated to Black and Asian figures from history. This is partly explained by the low number of public nominations fulfilling the blue plaque criteria, and by the lack (or relative inaccessibility) of historic records establishing a definitive link between the person in question and the building in which they lived.
The working group will be led by English Heritage Blue Plaque panel member Augustus Casely-Hayford, a curator and cultural historian. Speaking about the role of the new group, Casely-Hayford said: "This great city has always been an ethnic melting pot. We are linked through language, culture, political alliance and economic partnership to every part of the world. And peoples from places that we have touched, have found their way here, to not just make London their home, but to make London and this country what it is.
"We want to celebrate that rich complex, sometimes, difficult history, through the lives of those that truly made it."
DIVERSITY IN THE BLUE PLAQUES SCHEME
The London Blue Plaques scheme was established 150 years ago in 1866 but it wasn't until 1954 that the first plaque honouring a notable figure of minority ethnic origin was installed, to Mahatma Gandhi.
The majority (66%) of the plaques commemorating black and Asian figures have been erected during English Heritage's custodianship of the scheme, reflecting an evolving sense of who should be honoured.
Black and Asian figures celebrated with English Heritage blue plaques include Mary Seacole, the heroic Jamaican nurse from the Crimean War; Chinese writer Lao She; Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore; and guitarist and song-writer Jimi Hendrix.
Casely-Hayford continued: "The Blue Plaques Scheme faces certain specific challenges when it comes to recognising the achievements of individuals who have faced institutional barriers, who have often lived outside of the official records.
"We want to look at how those challenges can be overcome and to partner with the British public in uncovering the stories of those unacknowledged heroes who helped make our great city what it is."
Public nominations will continue to be the lifeblood of the Blue Plaques Scheme and all nominations generated by the new working group will be judged by the same strict criteria (see below) as those received from the public.
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