15 Jun The Africa Centre: Our Journey So Far
THE AFRICA CENTRE: OUR JOURNEY SO FAR
The Africa Centre is a decades-old charity dedicated to promoting contemporary African culture and heritage in London. We are currently working on building a new home, with a bold ambition to become the most welcoming cultural space in London.
A brief history
We were originally located at 38 King Street in Covent Garden, London. At our inaugural opening in 1964, the first president of Zambia, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, as well as a host of other dignitaries, were in attendance. The charity’s founding mission was “to be a flagship for Africa in Europe promoting the aspirations of Africa and its Diaspora; in particular to promote cultural, economic and socio-political initiatives in Britain and the rest of Europe that assist in the development of Africa”.
Over its lifetime, The Africa Centre has hosted festivals, exhibitions, debates, film screenings, concerts, and pan-African classes etc. Other activities included evening courses on African languages and aspects of African life such as literature, art, music and dance. We also offered social activities with a club room, a bar and the Calabash Restaurant, a vibrant space for social exchange and African cuisine. From 2013, we started hosting the popular annual Summer Festival, one of the most anticipated cultural events on the summer calendar London. The fifth and latest edition was held in 2018 and brought diverse communities together, drawing crowds of over 8000 people.
A new vision
Concerns about our future sustainability led to a difficult but necessary decision in 2013 to relocate. Sale of the leasehold on the Covent Garden property plus funding of £1.6 million from Arts Council England enabled us to secure the freehold of a four-storey former office building in Southwark, known as Gunpowder House. We fully relocated in 2016 and currently operate from two railway arches that we have 25-year leases on.
In 2018, we secured a £1.6 million grant from the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund, to redevelop Gunpowder House. After an extensive tender process.
London-based firm Freehaus, were appointed as architects. They are now at advanced stages of the architectural design process. Building work is expected to commence in August 2020, but there may be slight delays due to the impact of the global health situation.
The Africa Centre today
Today, The Africa Centre welcomes people from all backgrounds and continues to play an important role in hosting and promoting African cultural events, facilitating dialogue and challenging stereotypes about Africa. We achieve this through our Five Pillars of activity; Culture, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Social, Education and Intellectual Leadership. Under each of these pillars, are specific activities that serve communities directly and help us fulfil our mission.
We are keen to maintain our rich legacy and unique position on the UK cultural scene by continuing to serve communities both in Africa and the U.K, those in the wider global diaspora and anyone else with an interest in Africa. The landscape has dramatically changed since the early days of our inception. So we understand the need to evolve and adapt if we are to remain relevant in 2020 and beyond. This is because the needs and expectations of our diverse constituents have also evolved over the years.
In light of the ongoing global health pandemic, some of our traditional funders have had to rethink their funding priorities. Like many other similar organisations, our ability to generate income from our spaces has been severely hampered as we are currently unable to host any events due to the lockdown. This has left The Africa Centre in a precarious position with our future a little uncertain. So we have had to re-strategise and now need to raise an additional £1.5 million in order to meet the full costs of the redevelopment project. We are looking for alternative funding sources and welcome any support from corporates, philanthropic organisations and individuals, however small.
What to expect from the new Africa Centre
From our home, we plan to curate exhibitions, host networking and business events, hire our spaces out, offer co-working space, run dance and language classes, create cultural exchange programmes and host club nights and live performances etc. The new Africa Centre will be family-friendly and provide a welcoming and inclusive space for all ages and backgrounds. With the ground and first-floor Africa-inspired café bar and restaurant, visitors can expect an authentic culinary experience, showcasing food and drink from across Africa and the diaspora.
The new Africa Centre will serve the African diaspora and anyone else interested in contemporary African culture and heritage. We will also go back to our roots become the go-to place for travellers, entrepreneurs, leaders and creatives visiting London from any of the 54 African countries. Our new home will provide a place to feel a sense of belonging: a place to eat, drink and socialise and also enjoy authentic Africa cultural experiences. People from all backgrounds will be able to network, build relationships and expand their knowledge. This will be a place for people to connect to the evolving and dynamic story of Africa and her extensive diaspora.
As we draw nearer to commencing building work, we will start making regular open consultations to keep the general public and key stakeholders informed of our progress. It is of great importance that the process of creating a new home for Africa and its global diaspora is a collective and transparent effort that has a breadth of input from our diverse constituents.
How you can help
As a charity that does not receive any regular funding from the government, we would be very grateful for your support in helping us complete this project. You can use the donate button on our website to make online cash donations. Alternatively, you can opt to sponsor the completion of specific parts of the building or contribute towards the procurement of furniture and other fixtures.
We would love to hear from anyone willing and able to help us achieve our bold ambition. For further information please get in touch via email@example.com.
Alternatively, you can view and download The Africa Centre’s case for Support here.