Journalist and historian Peter Fryer to be honoured with a Blue Plaque in Highgate as part of Windrush 75 Celebrations
In 1984 Pluto Press published Staying Power, a book about the black presence in Britain; its author was Peter Fryer, and the book became an immediate best seller.
What was unusual about Staying Power was its timing, being launched when race relations in Britain were being examined through the prism of riots and police brutality. The post war immigrants from the Caribbean, often described as the Windrush generation, had given birth to children who only knew Britain as their home. They faced the same prejudices and struggles that their parents faced, and something had to give.
It’s fair to say Peter Fryer had form in taking on the establishment. He had been a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) since 1945 and 11 years later as a journalist was sent to cover the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. His honest reporting of the revolution – an uprising against the Stalinist regime in Hungary, spilt the CPGB and eventually saw him expelled from the party. After this he concentrated more on his career as a journalist and writer which of course led to his most famous work Staying Power.
The book was not only a source of empowerment for many Black Britons, but also an eye-opener for the rest of British society. Fryer boldly asserted from the first page of the book that African people were in Britain before the English arrived. He then spent the next 655 pages taking the reader on a journey from the Roman conquest, taking in the court of Henry VIII, and re-introducing names which are now familiar like Mary Seacole and Olaudah Equiano.
By including people of colour in the British story, Fryer was able to offer an effective antidote to a racist and nationalist agenda which was prevalent in the 1980s and has emerged again in light of Brexit and the Windrush scandal.
Staying Power was written while Peter Fryer was living at 64 Shepherd’s Hill in Highgate. Seventeen years after his passing and thirty-nine years since the book was first published, Staying Power is still the best-selling book published by Pluto Press.
To commemorate the life and times of Peter Fryer a blue plaque will be placed on the address he lived when completing Staying Power. The plaque is being installed thanks to a partnership between Nubian Jak Community Trust and MTVH Housing Association. Peter Fryer was an MTVH resident, and his family continue to live in the same home. MTVH proudly has its roots in providing good quality homes to members of the Windrush generation, who often faced squalid conditions and discrimination on arrival in Britain.
When: 26th June 2023, at 11am
Where: 64 Shepherd’s Hill, London, N6 5RN
The Fryer Family said: “Peter’s children remember him showing them a blue plaque for the first time. They said one day he might have one of his own. How we all laughed! Peter spent his life both as political activist and writer exposing and resisting all forms of fascism and racism. As a family, we are delighted and proud that his life and work are being publicly recognised in this blue plaque.”
Dr Jak Beula, CEO of Nubian Jak Community Trust said: “I remember when I first started researching information for the board game Nubian Jak, it was to Staying Power that I turned. It remains, still, one of the most important books ever written about the Black presence in Britain“.
David Castle, Editorial Director, of Pluto Press said: “It has been a huge honour for Pluto Press to be the custodian of Peter Fryer’s massively influential, pioneering work on the history of Black people in Britain for almost 40 years. It has been wonderful to hear firsthand from so many people who have had their eyes opened to a largely hidden side of British history through reading Staying Power, both from hundreds of ordinary readers and from a more recent generation of distinguished writers who have been inspired by Fryer’s work, like David Olusoga, Paul Gilroy, Stella Dadzie and Gary Younge. It is fantastic that Fryer is now being formally recognised for the outstanding historian that he undoubtedly was through this blue plaque organised by the Nubian Jak Academy“.
Geeta Nanda OBE, Chief Executive of MTVH said: “Today’s ceremony and the blue plaque itself are a real source of pride for MTVH and a fitting way for us to mark Windrush 75. It is wonderful to know that a writer of Peter Fryer’s calibre wrote a seminal book on the story of people of colour in this country, while living in one of our homes. It further enhances our organisation’s heritage which is firmly rooted in housing the Windrush generation. We are also delighted that Peter’s family continue to live here and that we have been able to serve multiple generations of the Fryer family.”
About Nubian Jak
Nubian Jak is a brand that includes a multi-award winning board game, educational academy, and a Community Trust plaque and sculpture scheme. The Nubian Jak Community Trust is the largest deliverer of diverse public plaques and sculptures in the world. The Peter Fryer plaque will be the organisation’s 86th blue plaque, and has helped turned the figure of 1.6% diverse plaques in the capital to 9.2%.
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