Why is this work relevant for Brand Experience & Activation?
The Black Plaque Project is a simple concept that came to life and engaged people in a variety of ways and through a variety of touchpoints. First and foremost, it's a real-life immersive experience that utilises the busy environment of central London and its famous commemorative blue plaque scheme to tackle the ongoing issue of racial exclusion. By subverting the ubiquitous blue plaques with a simple colour change, we engaged millions of people who move around the city every day. It also had a virtual dimension that enabled people to experience it through an immersive mobile platform.
Britain has paid tribute to its notable men and women since 1866 by placing blue plaques on buildings in London where they lived or worked. Yet only 1.6% of those honoured are of African or Caribbean descent. The Black Plaque Project champions 30 of Britain’s forgotten Black heroes with temporary black plaques on buildings in central London. The aim is to raise awareness and public support of the issue and to hasten English Heritage to address historic exclusion and to become more inclusive going forwards.
Describe the creative idea (20% of vote)
We utilised a 150-year-old commemorative plaque scheme to tackle a 150-year-old problem of institutional racism. By installing our message on buildings throughout the city we raised the issue up for all to see and to experience. The conspicuous Black plaques disrupted the blue plaques that have become part of the everyday fabric of central London. The plaques placed the names and achievements of important Black historical figures alongside their white contemporaries where rightfully deserve to be. In doing so, we reminded people of their stories and their amazing contributions. For many people, particularly the younger generation, they had never even heard of most of these people or been aware of their stories.
Describe the strategy (20% of vote)
In 2020 with the Black Lives Matter movement at a global tipping point, there were mass demonstrations in London and all over Britain against institutional racism. The focus of people’s anger became the divisive historical figures from Britain’s colonial past who have been immortalised with bronze statues. These statues became emblematic of the issue of systemic racism in Britain, and many were vandalised or pulled down from their pedestals. But the issue is just as much about those who have not been recognised with memorials as those who have. We saw a tactical opportunity to highlight the deficit of diversity in Britain’s oldest and most respected commemorative schemes, London’s famous blue plaques. We partnered with the Nubian Jak Community Trust, an influential voice amongst London’s Afro Caribbean community, not just to call it out, but to help change it and make it more inclusive going forwards.
Describe the execution (30% of vote)
In collaboration with The Nubian Jak Community Trust and a panel of experts from the Afro Caribbean community, we identified 30 individuals who merit posthumous recognition for their outstanding contributions to British society. Some had been overlooked by English Heritage for years, others had never even been considered. We worked with local district councils, building owners and tenants to negotiate the temporary installation of 30 Black plaques. The project was launched with an immersive and informative mobile platform that geo-mapped the locations and told the full stories behind each Black plaque. Effectively the city became an outdoor installation of curated forgotten and lost stories of Black Britons. Buildings that have remained anonymous for years became platforms to tell the stories of their long-forgotten occupants. An ecosystem of film content, billboards, print and social media were all used to activate public support and interaction.
List the results (30% of vote)
The initiative won the full support of the Mayor of London’s office which is hugely influential in bringing about social and policy change in the city. It was also covered extensively by Britain’s main commercial broadcaster - ITV, which serialised the unveiling of the first four plaques on the early evening news every Friday for a month. Thanks to overwhelming public support, English Heritage has responded positively and turned Winnifred Atwell’s temporary Black plaque into a permanent blue plaque. For this to have happened after just three months has exceeded our expectations and given The Black Plaque Project a platform and momentum on which to build. Excluded from the British education syllabus, most people would have been hard-pressed to name a person of African or Caribbean background in Britain before WWII. We have now successfully reintroduced at least 30 forgotten Black heroes to a new generation of Britons.