Black History Month is an opportunity to recognise the contributions that black people from all backgrounds have made to the UK across many generations.
October marks the celebration of Black History Month and is a period of recognition and reflection.
With the combined effects of Black Lives Matter and Covid-19, in which people of colour have died disproportionately, it’s more important than ever to celebrate BHM – not just now, but all year around, in order to tackle prejudice and inequality.
Our Chairman Nicky Graham said: ‘I was born in South Africa and spent a large part of my youth working with African musicians before coming home to the UK. I continue to work with many black artists in my career including Johnny Nash and Johnny Mathis as well as our own trustee member Kim Appleby. As chairman of the Fund I think Black History Month is a wonderful celebration of the contribution of black people to the richness and diversity of this country, not only as citizens but in the Arts and Music.’
Here at the Fund we want to honour the enormous contribution that black songwriters and composers have made and continue to make to the music industry and society.
This year we’re remembering the great Jamaican singer-songwriter Millie Small, who died last May. Her hit single ‘My Boy Lollipop’ reached number two in both US and the UK chart in 1964 and it remains one of the biggest-selling ska songs of all the time, with more than seven million sales.
To celebrate the virtual edition of PRS Presents: celebrating Black History Month, we interviewed our beneficiary and Millie’s daughter Jaelee Small.
‘Hello, my name is Jaelee Small and I’m a London based singer-songwriter. I’m honoured to be given the opportunity to say a few words during this special virtual edition of PRS Presents.’
What impact did your mother’s career have?
‘I received so many messages from people about my mom and how she enriched their lives with her music. I miss her terribly but I’m proud of the legacy that she left behind.
During this Black History Month I would like to encourage everyone to reflect on the immense contribution of black immigrant communities to the cultural life in Britain and how much richer and joyful our lives are for the wonderful music, art and drama that my mom and thousands of others have brought into mine and your lives.’
(To watch Jaelee’ s full interview click here.)
We also took the chance to interview our trustee Mike Lindup, founder member, keyboard player and vocalist of the platinum band Level 42.
We asked him what first got him into music:
‘For as long as I can remember there was music in the house. My mother is from Belize, she was a musician and she would be singing around the house, playing guitar. My dad was a composer-arranger, so he’d be working on stuff, their own records. I remember the first record I heard and liked a lot was a bossa nova track from Stan Getz & João Gilberto called Desafinado.’
What made you want to become a Fund’s trustee?
‘I was invited on the Board by John Gardner about twenty years ago. He told me a bit about what the Fund did, and I realised that it helped writers and creators like me. I thought I’d be happy to find out more about it and help. I’ve been on the Board of trustees all this time and it’s great to be able to do something to make a difference for writers who are struggling.’
(To watch Mike’s full interview click here.)
BHM highlights the fragile nature of our humanity and addresses mistakes made in the past, which we can no longer commit or deny.
Our trustee member and singer-songwriter Kim Appleby told us the story of her parents:
‘My father came to England in 1951 aged 19, as part of the Windrush generation, in hope of making a better life for himself. He knew no one and had made that long journey to a foreign land alone.
As a child I heard many stories, both from my mother and my father, of the racism and discrimination they faced purely because they were a mixed raced couple. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for them and that generation, who chose to live their truth and make a life for themselves regardless of the obstacles they faced on a daily basis.
We have come a long way since then, but we still have a long way to go. Ticking boxes is not enough…knowledge is power and black history is an important topic that should be part of our schools history curriculum and taught to children of all ages. Real change can only take place when the past is acknowledged and not swept under the carpet.’
Here at the Fund we will continue our efforts to better support all PRS members, while doing our part to deal with all forms of inequality within the music industry.