Letter to the Editor: Save centre as face of Africa in Britain,
The Times Newspaper, 6th April, 2011
We are deeply dismayed to learn that the Africa Centre in London is threatened with imminent closure. Since Kenneth Kaunda opened it 50 years ago, this iconic building has hosted a myriad of cultural activities and key political meetings: 38 King Street, Covent Garden, has been the social, artistic and commercial face of Africa in Britain. Now, because of a questionable decision by its trustees, the site has been offered for sale to a commercial property developer without any public discussion of plans for the centre’s future.
We wonder why the building has been allowed to fall into decline in recent years, why there has been no consultation with the centre’s many supporters about the sale, and why this is being pushed forward at such speed. And we are anxious about the secrecy surrounding the moves.
This building — now worth millions of pounds — was originally a gift from the Catholic Church: there could not be a worse time to risk losing it. Africa is coming into its own as one of the fastest developing parts of the world. Those of us who care about the continent want to be able to say: “The Africa Centre was there when we were down — it must be there as we soar to the heights.” A vibrant Africa Centre in the heart of London can help to ensure that the city retains its status as the place where the continent engages with the rest of the world.
We are appealing to the trustees to have second thoughts, and to hold an open meeting to discuss a viable future for the Africa Centre. We would urge your readers to support our campaign.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London
Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead
Richard Dowden Director, Royal African Society
Mo Ibrahim, Founder, Mo Ibrahim Foundation
Hadeel Ibrahim, Director, Mo Ibrahim Foundation
Youssou N’Dour, musician
Elsie McCabe Thompson, President, Museum for African Art, New York City