81 Acts of Exuberant Defiance is a community-led project inherited by The Ubele Initiative and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. We know heritage can be about heraldry, palaces and country houses. It can also be about ordinary people, the history of their communities and about people of colour.
In 1981 Black communities in Brixton had an historic confrontation with the Metropolitan Police against a backdrop of racism, severe economic recession and high unemployment. The 81 Acts Project was initiated to mark the 40th anniversary of these events with Individuals and community groups coming together to tell the unheard stories of citizens' defiance that fundamentally changed policing, public policy and ordinary lives in Britain.
As part of the 81 Acts heritage programme, Stafford Scott gave a 2-part lecture in April, analysing the social history of Brixton and Tottenham. This included looking at the injustices that led to the 1981 uprising and the inconvenient truths uncovered by Lord Scarman's Report in the aftermath. His talk drew on material that has been showcased in a widely praised exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 2021. His talk also catalogued the many deaths of Black people in police custody and the struggles their families faced to get justice. Stafford Scott was invited to address these themes by a panel of local residents who are adamant that these issues form part of their heritage.
Ubele is community-based and is committed to freedom of speech as well as to open debate. Whilst the tone and the language of this 81 Acts event might have been different, the content and analysis were not dissimilar to Baroness Casey's recent review of the behaviour and culture of the Metropolitan Police.
A recent GB News item tried to mischaracterise the speech as illegitimate and anti police - and called our lottery funding into question. The Ubele Initiative will not be bullied out of its commitment to the truth and to freedom of speech, especially when discussing the accountability of publicly funded services, deaths in police custody or unequal treatment in the justice system.
We will continue to support local communities. We share the National Lottery Heritage Fund's commitment to allowing these communities to talk openly about the issues that shape their heritage in a tone and through language that is respectful of others and respectful of the truth.