Creative in association withGear Seven

Striking Copy-led Campaign Teases the Remarkable Stories Behind Britain's Forgotten Black Heroes

Advertising Agency
London, UK
The outdoor, social and long copy print campaign from Havas London for The Black Plaque Project will run across donated media sites over the next 12 months

Creative agency Havas London has unveiled a bold promotional campaign for The Black Plaque Project – the initiative it co-created with Nubian Jak Community Trust to end the posthumous discrimination of Britain’s Black heroes. 

Just 1.6% of London’s official blue plaques celebrating notable figures of the past are dedicated to Black people. The Black Plaque Project seeks to rectify this discrepancy by installing specially designed black plaques across the capital to celebrate the lives of some of its many notable Black residents – who, despite their achievements, continue to be officially overlooked. 

Comprising a series of striking outdoor and poster executions, immersive long copy print ads, social activations and a podcast series, the campaign proudly tells the remarkable, yet largely forgotten, stories behind Britain’s unsung Black heroes.

Each ad introduces one of these stories, leading with copy designed to compel readers to want to discover more about its subject. They include:

A PART-TIME MODEL FROM ISLINGTON, PAINTED MORE TIMES THAN MONA LISA – the story of Fanny Eaton, the mysterious muse of pre-Raphaelite artists that challenged racist stereotypes around beauty;

LONDON WAS SWINGING BEFORE THE 1960s – the story of Ken ‘Snakehips’ Johnson, who kept the British public entertained during World War II and who died on-stage during the Blitz;

THE BRAVEST CENTRE-FORWARD IN HISTORY – the story of Justin Fashanu, Britain’s first openly gay professional footballer;

IN 1930 ETHEL SCOTT REPRESENTED BRITAIN. IT’S TIME BRITAIN REPRESENTED ETHEL SCOTT – the story of Scott, the first Black woman to represent Great Britain in international athletics;

and MUSICIAN 1940. BALLET DANCER 1950. PRO WRESTLER 1970. FORGOTTEN 2020 – the story of John Lagey aka Johnny Kwango, the pioneering musician turned professional wrestler who went on to receive international fame.

Each execution includes a unique QR code, which takes users to an immersive microsite – – bringing these forgotten stories to life. The site includes an interactive map outlining the historic location related to each pioneering Black figure, as well as the location of their respective plaque. 

Four plaques have been installed since the project was launched at the start of November to mark the end of Black History Month and signal a commitment to the ongoing celebration of Black history throughout the entire year: pianist Winifred Atwell, the first Black person to have a number one hit in the UK, in Brixton, where she spent her early years in the capital; Len Dyke, Dudley Dryden and Tony Wade, the fathers of the Black hair care and beauty industry in the 1960s and among Britain’s first Black millionaires, in Tottenham, where they opened their first shop; Fela Kuti, the musician widely acknowledged as the pioneer of Afrobeat, in Greenwich where he studied at Trinity College of Music; and Errol Brown, the Jamaican-born frontman of funk and soul band Hot Chocolate, at the legendary RAK Studios in St. John’s Wood, where he recorded the band’s seminal hit, You Sexy Thing

A further 26 plaques will be installed over the next 12 months, with this new campaign running through the same period, predominantly through donated media space – including outdoor screens at Westfield London via Ocean Outdoor, where it kicked off. 

It marks the full launch of The Black Plaque Project, including publication of the names of all 32 Black pioneers whom the initiative will commemorate. This list was compiled in consultation with Dr Jak Beula, founder and CEO of Nubian Jak Community Trust – which has, with little institutional support, paid for and erected a number of plaques and statues highlighting Black achievement over the past 16 years.

Vicki Maguire, chief creative officer at Havas London, says: “How could anyone hear about the woman who became the first to serve in the Royal Navy – by disguising herself as a man for more than a DECADE – and not itch to know more? Or the woman who inspired Elton to sit down at the piano? Or the ‘man who discovered Brixton’? It’s not just wrong that these stories have been forgotten from a historic and cultural point of view, but a travesty from a storytelling one – because they’re just so damn interesting. They deserve to be heard, just as these remarkable people deserve to be remembered.”   

Dr Jak Beula, founder of the Nubian Jak Community Trust, adds: “Black history is British history. For generations, Black pioneers have been making positive, lasting change to the social fabric of this country, often in spite of systematic discrimination. Unfortunately, this discrimination persists to this day in the way we remember both these individuals and their remarkable achievements. That is why this campaign – to tell these stories, celebrate our rich, diverse past and to inspire future generations – is so important. There are so many more stories that need to be told.”

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