Medway African and Caribbean Association will launch their first major event under the Black History Live initiative, made possible by money raised by National Lottery players. ‘Black Heroes of Kent’ is a dramatisation of Black life in Kent during the 19th and 20th century This is a landmark theatrical production, a world premiere, and the first of its type to be staged in Kent.
The #BlackHistoryLive project was awarded a National Lottery grant of £67,700 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in 2016 to capture and tell the story of #African and #Caribbean people in Kent and Medway from the 16th to the 19th century.
Carol Stewart, Chair of MACA, said: “This is a three year project and an opportunity to bring to the fore some unspoken and unheralded history of Kent.The project focuses on the history and legacy of Africans and Caribbean people in the county. This performance is a fantastic opportunity to see some of the African and Caribbean people from our research bought to life on the stage, we are looking forward to seeing local people from across the region take part in the performance.
“We brought JD Douglas on board very early after the Historic Dock Yard Chatham commissioned him to write A Chatham Conversation for their Black History Month Celebration in 2016. The show was highly praised by the critics.”
JD Douglas is the writer and co-producer of the West End hit, Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame, and his other seminal works include JA Story – The History of Jamaica Musical.
Discussing the world premiere of #BlackHeroes of Kent on October 7th, he said: “First, the show is an examination and exploration of Black Lives in Kent during the 19th and 20th century. At that time the northern borders of Kent reached the Thames, and included Greenwich, Plumstead and Woolwich.
“The historical and geographical canvas covers the overly accomplished Ignatius Sancho. He was a noted composer, civilian servant and businessman. He also wrote intelligently about the conditions of slavery and the abolition movement. Because he owned property he is credited as being the first black man to vote in England. Remarkable. For one night we reclaim two centuries of history on behalf of Kent as well. A theatrical production is the ideal medium for such an endeavour.”
Noted historical characters including Chatham born Chartist, William Cuffay and Sarah Forbes Bonetta, the young African girl who was sent to be educated in Palm Cottage Gillingham by her Godmother, Queen Victoria. Footballer and World War One hero Walter Tull gets his obligatory acknowledgement. They and a host of others make fascinating entrances in this historical tapestry, hence the title : Black Heroes of Kent.
“I want people from all over Kent to be cognisant of the fact that our narrative covers the entire county. This is their story, their history, their celebration.”