My first experience of the Blackie was when my school mate asked me to go there. I waited in a queue and entered a performance space which had cushions for seats. I remember thinking wow! The act was a group of performance poets called The Liverpool Scene. Inspired by Adrian Henry I wrote a poem in school and won a competition.
During my teenage years a lot of black people were being stopped by the police under the SUS Law. I saw some black kids being hassled while they were standing outside the Blackie waiting for it to open. I tried to intervene and found myself arrested.
I was aware that the Blackie never got much financial support. I was employed as an Arts Development Manager by Liverpool City Council. The Blackie applied for a number of projects, we funded the Festival of Games. It was great seeing Bill Harpe on the podium in Church Street doing what the Blackie did best, creative projects.
I became involved in the arts because of the false belief that BEM arts could not attract an audience and were excluded from mainstream venues in the city. I helped establish the City Council’s Black Arts Unit, Multi Racial Librarians’ Unit, Black Writing Liaison Unit and the Black Researcher/Archivist Post, providing a BEM infrastructure.
One of the more supportive institutions I worked with was the Bluecoat Arts Centre, hosting an exhibition called ‘Bring the Canvas to Life with Dark Faces’. This culminated in local Black artists working in residence in Primary schools and having the pupils’ work displayed at the Bluecoat.
In the early 1980s my family participated in a BBC series called Black Britons. It was a series of six programmes tracing why people from the Commonwealth emigrate to the UK, what they experienced during World Wars and their aspirations for the future. We participated to act as a role model for the Black family.