The Making Of Black Britain


What does it mean to be Black British? Diane Louise Jordan, of Blue Peter and Songs of Praise, is organising a mass collection of stories from all over the United Kingdom over the next couple of years. She will be joined by a host of celebrities and dignitaries, including Mica Paris, Levi Roots, Ben Elton, Trevor Phillips, Benjamin Zephaniah, David Akinsaya, Marverine Cole, Michelle Gayle, Paterson Joseph, Colin Salmon, Rachel Adedeji, Jahmene Douglas, George the Poet, John Leslie, Anthea Turner, Alex Wheatle, Lord Hastings, Baroness Lola Young, Dame Fiona Reynolds, Professor Gus John, Munir Miza, Angie La Mar, Angie Greaves, Ashely John-Baptiste, Lemn Sissay OBE, Dominique Samuels, Kwame Kwei-Armah and Tim Vincent on March 31st at St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, to launch The Making of Black Britain, set to be the UK’s biggest ever audio and digital gathering exercise. It will be a living public oral history archive, inviting every class, colour , and creed, from generation to generation, to share their story, exploring Black British history and present-day experiences.

The Making of Black Britain is a uniquely British story about nationality, citizenship, identity, and belonging. This will be a story of international interest and generational impact and MOBB has partnered with global law firm Latham & Watkins*, and Google Arts & Culture** who bring the collection of  photography, artworks, and stories  online, which can be explored from  March 31st  on The Making of Black Britain’s website and Google Arts & Culture.

Diane Louise Jordan:

The Making of Black Britain’s mission is to establish an oral history archive, which will document the transformation of Britain from the start of mass migration from Commonwealth nations in the post-war period, to the rich diversity of our country now in 2022. The platform will host a combination of audio and digital recordings, with no limit on the number that can be included, or how often participants can come back to update the archive, even from generation to generation. We want everyone of British heritage to take part! People just need to fill in their details on the website and we will be in touch. My team of oral historians and I will be recording these real-life story conversations which will then sit on the platform. We will be travelling all over the country during the next couple of years. It doesn’t matter where you live, if you can spare a couple of hours to relax with us over a cup of tea and be recorded then join in and become a part of history!

The Making of Black Britain is set to become the UK’s 3rd largest digital archive, exploring the stories and history of people who make up Britain today. The project is being launched to mark the 75th anniversary of the 1948 British Nationality Act, in 2023, which conferred the status of British citizen on all subjects from the Commonwealth, colonies, and dominions, and recognised their right to work and settle in the UK and to bring their families with them.

Latham & Watkins provided invaluable pro bono support, drafting and negotiating the contracts and privacy policies that will enable The Making of Black Britain to collect and collate the stories that will form the foundation of the project, and to establish and maintain its digital archive with Google. “Our team of London-based lawyers is proud to have supported The Making of Black Britain. We congratulate Diane and The Making of Black Britain on its launch, and we celebrate its vital mission of memorialising the stories of the Black British community and preserving them as part of Britain’s national heritage,” said Latham & Watkins partner David Ziyambi.

Britain in 1948 was bruised and battered by the ravages of two world wars, which diminished its power on the global stage, and had lost its imperial supremacy. Rationing continued to be a way of life. Large parts of the country were still devastated by bomb damage. Jobs were initially in short supply prompting British people of working age to flee in their droves, emigrating to former ‘white’ dominions such as New Zealand, Canada and Australia. Hardship, fear and uncertainty prevailed. Into this environment came migrants, firstly from the Caribbean, responding to the open invitation from their ‘Mother Country’ to help rebuild Britain, then from other Commonwealth countries, most notably India and Pakistan. Excited to carve out new lives and careers for themselves and their families in this ‘green and pleasant land’, they began settling in the big cities. Only it wasn’t going to be an easy ride. As these two worlds collided, with misunderstanding and disappointment on both sides, is it any wonder that fear, resentment and even unrest ensued? Yet it was onto these rocky foundations that a new British identity began to be carved out. 

The journey of this new identity will be told through the voices of ordinary men, women, and children of Britain: people of all colours and generations, with stories spanning from 1948 to the present day. It will provide a multi-generational 360 perspective. The stories, collectively, told decade by decade, will document how we live together in a bid to understand what it means to be British. 

Amongst the stories that the public can listen to there is one from Diane herself. Diane talks about why she is so passionate about this project:

The Making of Black Britain has come about as a result of my need to explore my roots. My parents were the Windrush generation and I’m 1st gen Black British, my whole lifespan is an expression of this period of history. I wanted to find out about my own past, how my family came to Britain, and the ‘Black British’ label that I grew up with. It has made me deeply curious to know how others experience Black Britishness. My team and I have created an environment where everyone can be listened to and have a voice. Thanks to modern technology history can be democratised. MOBB gives everyone the opportunity to talk freely and openly about their life experience, with no fear or judgement.

Written by: Beth Taylor

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