Published: 8th April, 2011
by PAVAN AMARA
THE heritage of an arts hotspot that became a landmark for Britain’s black community was marked with a special green plaque yesterday (Thursday) on its 40th anniversary.
Founded in 1971 by Guyana-born Oscar Abrams, the Keskidee Centre in Gifford Street, King’s Cross, became renowned for thriving theatre productions which attracted black and white audiences and for years was the only place in London that produced black theatre.
Reggae legend Bob Marley filmed his 1978 video for Is This Love there – it featured a seven-year-old Naomi Campbell – and the poet Linton Kwesi Johnson created dub poetry in the centre, which takes its name from a singing Caribbean bird.
It was also a venue for political rallies in response to events in Grenada and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).
The Islington Council green plaque was unveiled by David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, and former resident artist Emmanuel Jegede.
Linton Kwesi-Johnson, who became the second living poet and the only black poet to be published by the Penguin Classics series, has fond memories of a “unique place”.
Although he could not attend the unveiling, speaking of the centre in 2009 he said: “As a young person growing up and becoming politically and cultural conscious, it was fantastic. There was nowhere else that you could find that kind of ambience to nurture creativity.”
The Town Hall’s plaque scheme recognises major figures, organisations and milestones in Islington’s history. Four other green plaques have been unveiled by the borough.
“As the son of Guyanese parents and one of only a few black and ethnic minority MPs, I am honoured to see the plaque unveiled,” said Mr Lammy. “It marks a point in our history.
“The plaque means that long after we’re gone, children will be able to walk past the building and ask their parents about what it means and learn about the important history of the local community.”
Islington Council leader Councillor Catherine West added: “The Keskidee Centre made an important contribution to London’s cultural development during the 1970s and 1980s and it’s another great example of Islington’s history.”
For Mr Jegede, past memories emerged.
“The Keskidee was a home for me and my son.” he said. “There are faces here today that I haven’t seen for 20 years – small boys that used to come here and are now grown men.”