Celebrating Black History Month

This month University of Surrey Library has had a guest curator highlighting relevant material from their holdings in celebration of Black History Month. The curator, Joel, also visited Archives & Special Collections, and shares his findings here..

I couldn’t say I had truly curated for the Library if I didn’t stop by the Archives Research Room to learn about our special collections. What I found is how Afro-Caribbean dance has been used to promote their culture to a wider community; it was great to see how passionate these people were. I’m glad that we have these archives as if we didn’t have them, I probably would not have considered looking into black dance. There’s something quite special about physically going through all the leaflets and letters which give us a snapshot of that time – especially a leaflet from University of Surrey in 1996!

The Library’s Guest Curator for Black History Month, Joel, at the entrance to the Archives & Special Collections Research Room

Some publicity material for Bullies Ballerinas Jazz Dance Productions (XZP/573)

Something that caught my eye was the Birmingham dance company, Kokuma. This was one of Britain’s first Afro-Caribbean dance theatre company, active from 1984 to 2000. Education was prioritised more than anything as they worked with more than 150 schools; their aim was to make “African dance more accessible to the wider community at large”. In 1990, Kokuma received the “Black Award for Dance” and the “Prudential Award for Dance”.

In 1985 the company created its first full length work, “The Unwanted Prince”. In 1987 Jackie Guy MBE joined as Artistic Director and incorporated Caribbean dance styles. In 1995, Patrick Acogny (Senegalese heritage, Paris-born) became the new Artistic Director and fused African and contemporary dance styles. The Association of Dance of the African Diaspora (ADAD, founded in 1994) also supported this company.

I was introduced to a recorded video of one of their performances using the VHS player facilities in the Archives Research Room. It started off quite abstract with synchronised dancers draped in white slowly moving with a chorus of clarinets. Soon after, vibrant warm colours enter the stage with more interactions between dancers and a more distinct African feel. Despite me not knowing the dance’s premise, it was intriguing to see where the story could go. It only made me want to watch more – the company’s values and the performance clicked with me, and the nostalgia of the VHS player was also nice!

Joel watching a performance by Kokuma Dance Theatre Company

Professor Lewis Elton

We were saddened to hear of the recent passing of the physicist and arts advocate Professor Lewis Elton. Professor Lewis Elton, 1979 (US/PH/2/5/247) Professor Elton was Head of the Department of Physics at Battersea Polytechnic from 1964 to 1970, and Professor of Higher Education at University of Surrey from 1970-1988, focusing on improving teaching and learning […]

Commemorating the centenary of the end of the First World War

2018 marks 100 years since the end of the First World War. To commemorate this centenary, Archives & Special Collections have curated a display of relevant material from our collections, including issues of Battersea Polytechnic magazine produced by students during and immediately after the War. Battersea Polytechnic magazines in our display cases As well as […]

Introducing a new member of the team

Our new Archivist (Public Services), Harriet Costelloe, has recently joined the team and shares her first impressions here… After nearly a fortnight in post I am starting to get to grips with my role in the Archives & Special Collections team here at the University of Surrey. Upon arriving I was immediately struck by how […]

Reflections on Summer Projects, June and July 2018, by Teresa Pilgrim

This summer I spent six weeks working in the University of Surrey Archives & Special Collections department assisting with completion of several projects which, for the most part, are the culmination of previous projects undertaken by volunteers to the archive, all of whom have given generously of their time and have contributed additional knowledge specific […]

Working with STARS students at University of Surrey

In May, Archives & Special Collections, working with learning development staff from the SPLASH team, piloted a new workshop drawing upon archives with STARS students.  These are 2nd and final year students who have been identified as high-achieving and a range of developmental support and workshops are offered to them to further enhance their learning […]

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