London's "blue plaques" honoring historical figures on the buildings where they lived are well-known, but betray an astonishing lack of diversity; only 1.6% of them are dedicated to Black people. Following recent attempts to create more plaques honoring women, now a new campaign aims to honor some of the U.K.'s Black pioneers—not with blue plaques but by giving them their own black ones.
The campaign, created by the Nubian Jack Community Trust together with Havas London, began in November to commemorate Black History Month and so far four plaques have been installed. They honor Winifred Atwell, a pianist who was the first Black person to have a No. 1 hit; Len Dyke, Dudley Dryden and Tony Wade, the fathers of the Black hair care and beauty industry in the 1960s; Fela Kuti, the musician who pioneered Afrobeat and Errol Brown, the Jamaican-born frontman of funk and soul band Hot Chocolate.
A further 26 are set to go up over the next 12 months, and to highlight the project, Havas has created a campaign telling some of the stories of the Black pioneers. Comprising outdoor and poster executions, long copy print ads, social activations and a podcast series, each execution in the campaign includes a unique QR code, which takes users to an immersive microsite to find out more about the figures.
"It’s not just wrong that these stories have been forgotten from a historic and cultural point of view, but a travesty from a storytelling one—because they’re just so damn interesting," said Vicki Maguire, chief creative officer at Havas London in a statement. “How could anyone hear about the woman who became the first to serve in the Royal Navy—by disguising herself as a man for more than a decade—and not itch to know more? Or the woman who inspired Elton to sit down at the piano? Or the ‘man who discovered Brixton’? They deserve to be heard, just as these remarkable people deserve to be remembered.”