Black Futures event in St Albans hailed 'a significant moment for our city'

Daisy Cooper MP and Shelley Hayles at the Black Futures event held at St Albans Museum + Gallery.

Daisy Cooper MP and Shelley Hayles at the Black Futures event held at St Albans Museum + Gallery. - Credit: Stephanie Belton

A sold out crowd attended the Black Futures event held at St Albans Museum + Gallery.

The roundtable discussion brought together six guest speakers in a belated celebration of Windrush Day and one year on from the Black Lives Matter protests. The date also coincided with Jamaica Independence Day.

In the diverse crowd were a number of local residents who had made the journey over to St Albans from the Caribbean in their early youth during the 1970s.

St Albans MP Daisy Cooper, deputy leader for the Liberal Democrats, was also in attendance, as was new Hertfordshire High Sheriff Lionel Wallace.

Shelley Hayles at the Black Futures event held at St Albans Museum + Gallery.

Shelley Hayles at the Black Futures event held at St Albans Museum + Gallery. - Credit: Stephanie Belton

Organiser Shelley Hayles said: “I really feel like history was made in what I hope will be the first of many Black Futures events. That it took place in such a cherished, central venue as the St Albans Museum + Gallery felt like a significant moment for our city."

Topics discussed included inclusivity and the how the Black British Caribbean community in St Albans have contributed locally for years, the lack of Black History taught in schools, and the need for more visibility of Black role models from all sectors and the celebration and promotion of their success in the media.

"Many important points were raised," said Shelley. "In particular what stood out for me was the active intergenerational audience participation.

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"The strong message that I received during the evening was one of hope for real change and a renewed drive for a permanent community accommodation.

"Active Lifestyles, the voluntary organisation that manages the Caribbean Luncheon Club in St Albans, had members from 40 different nationalities until lockdown.

"Until the Black Futures event I did not know that Andrene McDonald has been trying for almost 20 years to have a permanent base for it locally. Maybe change is coming. I wait with bated breath.”

Elaine Thomas, The Mentoring Lab CEO and founder, at the Black Futures event held at St Albans Museum + Gallery.

Elaine Thomas, The Mentoring Lab CEO and founder, at the Black Futures event held at St Albans Museum + Gallery. - Credit: Stephanie Belton

MP Daisy Cooper added: "I want to extend my warm congratulations to all those involved in the event which was nostalgic, poignant, funny and forward-looking.

"I was really struck by the contrast between the stories of older black residents describing their experiences of growing up in St Albans with their strong collective sense of culture, identity and fun, with some of the younger residents who in some cases said they really struggled growing up here until they learnt more about what their black identity meant to them.

"The panellists were all excellent and I really enjoyed hearing people's treasured memories of growing up here, as well as their ambitions for the next generation." 

Maggie Wiggins at the Black Futures event held at St Albans Museum + Gallery.

Maggie Wiggins at the Black Futures event held at St Albans Museum + Gallery. - Credit: Stephanie Belton


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