Archives Project

Archives are a vital part of cultural heritage, offering users a sense of history, place, identity and relationships. The aim of this project is to collect and publicise the dispersed archives of Black and ethnic organisations involved in cultural and community development in the North East of England, featuring Sangini and Vamos; partners Everyday Muslim Heritage & Archive, and the Angelou Centre, and participants the Pakistan Cultural Society and Becon.

The project was inspired during Northumbria’s AHRC-funded research ‘(Multi)Cultural Heritage’, a partnership with several minority-led organisations in Newcastle-Gateshead and Manchester who have long held essential leadership positions within minority communities. Partners raised the problem of the lack of an historical record of Black and minority ethnic organisers’ work and activism to achieve equality in the culture and society of the region. The creation of a living archive of past activities recognises the histories of Black organisational achievements within the cultural ecology of the North East. It is an important foundation for future generations of community volunteers and professionals: a ‘heritage’ worthy of preservation.


PCS (Pakistan Cultural Society)

The Pakistan Cultural Society (PCS), founded in 1993, aimed to provide an intercultural forum to promote South Asian traditional and contemporary arts and culture in the North East of England.
During its long history, PCS managed to break down cultural barriers by bringing together diverse audiences and participants as a passionate exponent of arts and culture. For its work in this area PCS received a Voluntary Sector Council award in 2008.

Its rich cultural events include the core Annual Festivals of Eid, Mela, Pakistan Independence Day, Mushaira (Multilingual live poetry). PCS also established educational workshops and activities aimed at those who were isolated or socially excluded, as well as advice, advocacy and consultancy.


Sangini is a by and for Black women’s development organisation in Tyne and Wear with a track record stretching back nearly 20 years. It works predominantly with Black and minority-ethnic women across health and arts, arts and health often combining the two in exploratory and participatory therapeutic creative and heritage projects, aiding personal and community development.

Sangini is the only arts-based community development organisation in the region tailoring its service and projects in consultation with black and minoritised women. Sangini offers practice led peer group forums that enable women to access safe spaces for self-expression, and to explore and develop cultural entitlement. Successes include annual International Women’s Day events which have attracted over 150 attendees, the 2018 year long Women’s House arts project, and close partnerships with local/ regional universities and cultural organisations.

Sangini itself has undergone a revolution in its identity and confidence in 2020 as a result of the global, national, regional and local impact of race equality activism and the COVID-19 pandemic. Sangini’s ambition has crystallised: to move from operating project-to-project to a sustainable model. To sustain a practice of platforming of black and minoritised women’s lives, Sangini will continue to be-friend, listen, platform, make visible and protect WOC’s interests, assuring the women we work with that they are never alone.

BECON (Black Ethnic minorities Community Organisations Network)

BECON was born in 2001 as a result of a various government regional initiatives around Equalities and the work of representatives from all the little Black and minority organisations in the North East to create an umbrella organisation to serve all their diverse needs. Initial aims were to be an infra-structure organisation, to create BME networks across the region, to advocate for BME orgs in the Region, to ensure that BME people were represented at policy and decision levels across the Region and to be a becon to get funds for the Sector at Regional Level. It was specifically decided not to deliver services so there wouldn’t be competition with other BME orgs. Louise Evan-Wong was the first Chair of the Board from 2001 – 2004. BECON had a multitude of projects across a wide range of subjects, Community Champions, Children’s Partnership Project, Sports Development, Employment Support, Learning and Skills, BME Leadership, Mental Health Project, Youth Integration to name a few. The office was a welcoming and safe space for BME people across the Region to come and visit and feel valued.

Sadly BECON was wound up in 2018. Every organisation has a life span and there comes a time when it needs to wind down and probably BECON reached this some time before 2018.
BECON is no longer – but as with all organisations there are highs and lows and the lows have purposefully been omitted because people will tend to remember them as their BECON memory and that would be catastrophic, however it would be good to learn from them and maybe there could be an all BME forum where the various challenges that occur in the life of BME organisations could be shared and solutions.


The project has collected over 30 oral histories to date of the stories of cultural activists who have led Black organisations in the North East over the years.


Banner artwork by Laura Crow and Chantal Herbert

Creating a Black Community and Cultural Archive

Sat, 5 December 2020 13:00 – 15:00 GMT

Online event sponsored by Northumbria University


  • Sadiya Ahmed, Founder, Everyday Muslim Heritage and Archive Initiative, UK
  • Rhoda Boateng, Archives Supervisor, Black Cultural Archives, London
  • Iris Rajanayagam, Director, Xart Splitta, Berlin
  • Jennifer Vickers, Community Engagement Manager, Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust, Manchester

Click here to view webinar

Sadiya Ahmed established Everyday Muslim Heritage and Archive Initiative in response to the lack of representation of the Muslim narrative in both archives and museums in Britain. To date, there are three archive collections held at five archive depositories across London and the South-East. Alongside her experience of fundraising, project planning and managing heritage projects, she has also negotiated collaborations and partnerships with museums, archives, academics, artists, media and community groups across Britain.

Rhoda Boateng is Archives Supervisor at Black Cultural Archives (BCA). Founded in 1981, BCA is the only national heritage centre dedicated to collecting, preserving and celebrating the histories of African and Caribbean people in the UK. From their home in Brixton, BCA runs gallery exhibitions, educational programmes and public engagement events alongside providing free access to their unique set of archives, museum objects and reference library.

Iris Rajanayagam is a historian (MA Modern / Contemporary History, University of Cologne / Humboldt University Berlin / University of Dar es Salaam). She works on post- and decolonial theories, intersectionality, politics of memory and social change; her focus is always lying on the connection of theory and praxis. She is director of the non-profit organisation Xart Splitta and researcher and lecturer at the Alice Salomon University of Applied Science in the module: “Racism and Migration”. Besides this Iris Rajanayagam is co-founder of the radio show “Talking Feminisms” on and was active in The Caravan for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants for many years. From 2013 to 2016 she was part of the editing team of the magazine “Leben nach Migration” (Eng.: “Life after Migration”) of the Migrationsrat Berlin, where she is also a board member.

Jennifer Vickers is a visual artist and heritage practitioner with 20 years experience of working in museums, galleries and archives. In her current role at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust, she manages ‘Coming in From the Cold’, a three-year NLHF project to increase the representation and visibility of ethnically and culturally diverse populations in Greater Manchester’s archives. To secure funding, she conducted an audit of heritage projects and collections in the city region. This audit identified an absence of material relating to a range of cultures, geographical locations and narratives. The ‘Coming in from the Cold’ team has worked with over 50 groups to address these omissions and hopes to accession 30 new collections relating to community-led heritage projects by the end of their funding in March 2021.

In previous roles at the AIUET, Jennifer managed oral history projects including ‘Yemeni Roots, Salford Lives’ (2012) and ‘The Legacy of Ahmed’ (2015). She currently delivers training sessions in oral history and creative reminiscence, as well as advising community groups on project ideas, funding applications and activity delivery. In 2019, she co-authored a paper on ‘Participatory Archives’, which was published by Facet press.


The (Multi)Cultural heritage and archives project at Northumbria University, in partnership with The Heritage Resilience Network and several local cultural organisations and individuals in the North East, is considering an idea to develop a (Multi)Cultural Archive and Resource Centre at the University. The aim of such a centre would be to document and support the long history of Black and minority-led cultural and community activism in the North East. It is envisioned as a resource for students, academics, and communities in the region. 
The Testbed support will assist the partnership in conducting a series of workshops to inspect and debate the aspirations involved in this idea, especially foregrounding the desires and contributions of Black and minoritised community members. The sessions will consider the motivations and the organisational changes required, and hopes to result in a proposal or feasibility study for the university. The workshops will draw together a range of stakeholders inside the university, those within regional Black and minoritised ethnic communities, and experts from the Black and community archives networks in the UK.
“It is not just about the archives as an object. The project needs to be an instrument… in bringing about changes in terms of impact and how it does that, and the extent to which the university will invest in this.” Partnership member, 7 March 2021. 

Black Archive Workshop

23 April 2021 | 11am – 1pm


Archives Testbed Workshop1

Facilitated by Rosie Lewis, with Anita Wan, Kath Boodhai, Padma Rao, Degna Stone and Susan Ashley

  1. Welcome & Introductions –
    1. Project Overview
    1. Introduction to the Workshop & The Heritage Network
  • Group Exercise 1 – Jam Board Sticky notes:
    • What motivated you to come along to the meeting today? 
  • Break Out Room 1 & Feedback : Vision
    • What is your vision for a cultural archive in the North East?
    • Should this be based at Northumbria University and if so, why? & what are the challenges?


  • Group Exercise 2 – Jam Board Sticky notes:
    • What can we or should we include and consider in a physical archive space? (eg library, social space, access etc)
  • Break Out Room 2 & Feedback : Implications
    • What Resources would be needed for an archive and why? (inc. staff, tech, finance)
    • What governance structure could we deploy? How do we centre Black and minoritised  communities in this structure?
  • Group Reflection
  • Next Steps

Black Archive Workshop 2

4 June 202 | 10am – 12pm


Facilitated by Rosie Lewis, with Anita Wan, Kath Boodhai, Padma Rao, Degna Stone and Susan Ashley

  1. Welcome & Introductions –
    1. Project Overview
    1. Introduction to the Workshop & The Heritage Network
  • Group Exercise 1 – Jam Board Sticky notes:
    • How would you characterise your archive/work in archives/creative practice in 11 descriptive and expressive words?
  • Group Exercise 2 – Models of Archives
    • What does the word ‘model’ mean to you?
    • How would you interpret the word ‘model’ in this context?
  • Break Out Room 1 & Feedback : Models of Archives
    • How well does your ‘model’ work for you/your organisation?
    • What kind of model could work in a university setting?


  • Break Out Room 2 & Feedback
    • How do we resolve the problem of placing a community archive in a white institutional setting?
  • Reflection and Next Steps