Interviewee: Evadney Campbell
Interviewer: Vere Richards
Transcriber: Becky Cotton
EVADNEY : Let’s try and rattle through it.
VERE: Yes, ah. Right, today is January the 3rd 2012. Introduce yourself please.
EVADNEY : Ah, my name is Evadney Campbell and I’m a, I don’t know what role you want me in, I’ve got so many hats. I’m not quite sure which one it is. But I’m a broadcast journalist working for BBC, um, but I think in the capacity that you want to talk to me about I am the founder of the Gloucestershire African, Caribbean Association , at least one of the founders of that organisation.
VERE: So, alright, let me just…
EVADNEY : Right, I’ll remember that.
VERE: Right, ah, ok. So tell me when, when did it start, how many, when did it start?
EVADNEY : I stated the organisation, oh my goodness it feels such a, it is, it is a long time ago now. I don’t remember precisely when it is, it’s, it’s a bit difficult but actually, I started doing voluntary work when I was ah, about 17 years old in Gloucester, um, a group of us, a group of young people in Gloucester kind of got a bit frustrated about the lack of resources and facilities for young people in Gloucester. Particularly, young Black people, so we decided to get together and the first thing that we did, we started err, a football err, team for the lads and the girls. We had um, a netball team. We did that for a number of years, Unity football team and Unity um, netball team. Both of which were very, became very, very successful teams. And from there I really got actively involved in community work. I think in the 80’s and in particular we were spurned on um, on the back of the riots that were happening across the rest of the country, particularly London, um, Bristol, Birmingham. And I suppo, I, I think our attempt as young people at the time was to try and err, stop the riots spreading in Gloucester among the young Black people in Gloucester because it was, you know, obviously getting bigger across the rest of the country. So we started talking to um, the local authority about what we could do to provide more, um, facilities for young people in particular in the evenings, in particular at weekends. At the time there was another organisation in Gloucester called um, the, um, West Indian Association, which was set up by older members of the Black community who been in the country in the 40’s and the 50’s. And as young people…
VERE: Sorry, was it the West Indian Association or West Indian Action Group?
EVADNEY : Yeah, West Indian Action Group. I think they, they’ve changed their name but I think initially um, I think they become the West Indian Action Group but um, you know what it is with young people. We were kind of teenagers, 18 going on 19, and you just feel that old people aren’t representing you, there not talking for you. We also felt that given the political um, situation at the time, the kind of anger that young people were feeling, that they were a bit too passive. So you know as young people you think you want, you want to go out there and be a little bit more proactive. Um, and that’s when we formed the African, well it wasn’t, it was called um, the Afro Caribbean Association. That was what it was initially called. And um, as things were at the time, you then had two groups working for the err, Black community in Gloucester which mean, I suppose it meant there were kind of rivalry in terms of resources, funding and ah, sadly these things still happen now but we had to, we decided to begin talking to each other and say look, lets try to stop going for the same funds, lets try to stop um, splitting the small money that the local authorities were giving between two organisations pulling together, lets become one organisation You know it didn’t happen over night, it took a long time of negotiating on and off, trying to make sure that neither group felt that they were losing the essence of what they were there for. So eventually um, we decided to become one group. The um, West Indian Action Group were primarily working with older members of the community in so often as they had the luncheon club. We then were working with young people, so we decided to kind of pull us together under, under one banner. We kind of registered the company, become a, a, a registered company with charitable status and that’s when we changed the name to the African and Caribbean Association. So, so we kept the same kind of ACA but, but we broadened it to say this wasn’t just about people of err, err, Caribbean heritage but it was people of African heritage. So whether you’re from the Caribbean or from Africa, you know, this organisation that we wanted to represent everyone. So I suppose it started early 80’s to, to, is probably back when we really started in an informal sense. But by the time we become a registered charity um, a registered company I should say with charitable status um, we were properly going onto the end of 80’s, maybe mid 80’s, early 90’s. You kind of lose track. I need to get back to my, to find out all these specific dates its, its kind of useful for me, um, remembering where we all came from and thinking about how young we were. There were literally about ah, 12 of us who started the youth group and by the time we got forming the association, probably 6 key members that formed the African Caribbean Association.
VERE: So, who, who were…right, I am going to ask you to name the names of them again.
EVADNEY : Um, (Laughter) it’s really, I’m hoping that, I know I’m going to forget a lot of people who were instrumental and um, I’m hoping through the research that we will be able to get everyone together. But I know that for a fact, you know, Selena Dehne and myself are probably the two longest servicing people who were involved in the, in the forming of the um, ACA in terms of young people. So Selena Dehne, ah, myself, um, Derrick Francis, Errol, um, Eric Newall, um, in terms of the elders that we got involved with from the West Indian Action Group, there was of course Bernard Westcarr who has been an absolute instrumental person in, in kind of pulling it all together. Um, and, with Bernard we have, and still active on the ACA board now is Yvonne Rickards, um, Paul Moehring was working with the African Caribbean Association but Paul worked I think as part of his role initially to help us set it up but eventually left Gloucester and came back and became an active member and still is active with the ACA. Um, and when I put all these names together, these are names that go back from the very beginning, from when we first got together loosely and informally just as young people to start the youth club. Because everything I feel sprung from those early stages. People like Hazel Golden who was involved, I remember us sitting down at Colwell as a group, coming up with names. Ebony was a name that Hazel came up with and we started to come together with what the, what each of the letters meant. So I have to um, acknowledge that whilst I, may well have maintained a longer relationship with ACA then, then anyone else, any other names that I mentioned, um, you know, I was just one of the group of young people, young Black people in Gloucester at the time who really became active. Um, young people who wanted to provide resources for ourselves and I think um, I feel kind of very proud when I think about some of the other initiatives that have sprung from those early stages. The starting of the Winnie Mandela Centre was very much through the campaigning of young people like ourselves who were really battling to that, that centre was established and set up, for, for young Black people and actually employed people. So you know, um, it’s difficult to remember everyone because were talking about 30 odd years ago but um, I, I still think about key people, like, like I said Selena was very, very instrumental both initially when she did it, as just a, a young person within the community, but also through her role working through social services to support and develop community projects.
VERE: So you mentioned about the um, the netball, the football, the activities you had there. What, what else, what other things did you, because I know things moved on from the sports side of things didn’t they?
EVADNEY : Well, um, one of the key things that we wanted to do through ACA was um, um, set up something in terms of educational provision for young Black people. We were anxious about the fact that research after research kept pointing to the fact young Black men in particular were suffering in School and failing, were doing so well in, in, through primary School and Junior School but by the time they got to Secondary School, started falling. So one of the key things, one of the first things we did was um, build on, again this was an initiative started by the West Indian Action Group, the Saturday School. We decided to build on to, that to really make that um, central focus. We managed to raise funds so we could employ a teacher; we could employ a coordinator to start to, to continue with the Saturday, Saturday School. Gale Johnson was one of the founders of the Saturday School through the Indian West Action um, Club and um, Action Centre. And what we did then was, Gale continued working um, with the Saturday School but through us, raising funding through a joint um, adventure we were able to let other teachers to work on that. One of the initiatives ACA started then was the after School um, provision, which was very much about um, collecting children from School and really that was something, it wasn’t um, I think if I look back at the forming, forming of the after School Club it was something we did because it was part of a government drive to set up affordable child care provisions to get parents back out to work. Parents were single parents, parents were on low income. To try and get them back out to work. So what we did, um, we got supporting funding from the local authority to set up, that centre for, to encourage young mothers, single mothers really going back to work knowing that their children would be taken care of, but at a rate that they can afford. Um, so that’s how the um, after School Club came about err, because of that. So what we did through the African Association, African Caribbean Association was very much about working with young people, aged from Primary School through to um, Secondary School because obviously through the after School we provided education facilities at the after Centre, and then they also then had the Saturday School. And the other um, initiative that um, we as in the African Caribbean Association also started was um, parenting group teaching, training parents about, you know, just skills, parenting skills really and all of those I think was driven by the fact that we were concerned about um, I don’t want to kind of to um, alien, alienate young people but it very much about saying look our kids are kind of going in a direction that we don’t want them to go in and this is the way of getting them back of track. You know, parents were feeling that they were loosing control, they weren’t able to kind of get their children in, in, the way as I suppose as we were brought up. We were brought up very much um, with Caribbean discipline and the kind of um, expectations that our parents had of us which was very much about education. They may not have understood the education system but they new that success meant being educated, so very much their drive was about us going through um, getting a good education. What happened is we were now dealing with second generation, second, third generation, young people born in this country who were beginning to feel isolated for what they didn’t have, um, you know, a place. So this was really all about trying to kind of instil certain things in , in certain kind of, I suppose what we wanted was not to loose their heritage and their culture, and therefore part of what we did whilst we supplemented the curriculum, we also provided Black history, which is something they weren’t getting in Schools. So this was part of um, things that we did as a, as a group to try and keep the community, the sense community and the sense of having us some roots somewhere, um, to um, and I’m trying to think. Um, this is really; this is very, been a kind of an eye opener for me because its making me think about things I haven’t thought about for a very, very, long, long time. And um, I suppose for me also, personally because as well as ACA, I was very much involved in lots of other initiatives in Gloucester um, so its trying to think about um, which ones stays here, which ones I did with the Jamaican Club or I also worked with the um, Race Equality Council for a number of years and so err, I’m trying to think. Ask me another question. I can’t work um (laughter).
VERE: (Laughter). OK, um, have a drink. Alright. Ok, the ACA is based in Barton Street now in what was previously a bank if memory serves me…
EVADNEY : Barclay’s Bank.
VERE: Where did you start off?
EVADNEY : Well, we started off by meeting at the unemployment centre which was on… Oh my goodness, what’s the name of that road um, in town? Oh, my lord.
VEER: Southgate Street?
EVADNEY : No, no, no, no. Um, just off the park, just um, not far from, from Fredwest and Main Street.
VEER: St’, St’ Bar Road?
EVADNEY : No, the main, the one going into, oh my goodness. Stop for a second, let me just…
EVADNEY : Oh my days.
VEER: Ok, go ahead.
EVADNEY : Well, we were based at, loosely based because at the time we were running all provisions at different places but where we would meet and have our regular meeting was at the at unemployment centre, which was based on Wellington Street at that time. And that was because we were able to use it for free. The local authority allowed us to have our meetings there for free. Um, and the Saturday School, oh by goodness I’m trying to think. I think one of them was at Widden, Widden School we used to meet there as well. Um, the, the, because, we had, the, the, the, all the projects were at different places, we didn’t have our base at that stage. I think that was what also spurned us on to get our own property. It’s that we wanted somewhere that we could run the, the projects from and um, we applied for lottery funding. We were properly one of the first Black organisations in Gloucester to have the kind of lottery fund that we had to buy that building. So we were able to buy the, the old Barclay’s Bank as you mentioned on Barton Street, which is where the African, Caribbean Association is now based and that’s when we then started having the Saturday School from there that um, initially we had um, some of the kids from the out of School Club but as we grew we moved to St James, so the after School Club was at St James and the Saturday School and the Homework Support Club which is the other project that we set up was at ACA and still is at ACA.
VEER: Ooh, so let me think. So the ACA has been involved a lot of projects and some of the projects are now stand alone projects such as the Luncheon Club and the, what others are there?
EVADNEY : Um, well I think in terms of projects that are now stand alone that we can um, really trace back to ACA, the Luncheon Club is properly the most successful. The um, other initiatives and I’m very, very pleased to know that the um, Homework Support Club is still going and the Saturday School is still going. And the Saturday School in particular is well, well, over 30, probably going on for 40 years. Um, so I think that’s the real legacy for any organisation to be able to say despite the struggles and despite the challenges financially that they are still able to maintain that. Um, it’s disappointing to know that as a result of lack of funding the after School Club has had to fold um, and but I think that ACA is moving maybe in a different direction but at least with the original aims still intact. I know that they are looking at other, working with other; similar organisations to provide training for instance, so were still keeping its, its ethos of, of training and provision. But maybe as time, you know, as time grows what, what they develop is no longer maybe just self, whatever something developed by the African Caribbean Association but their working jointly with other initiatives. I know for a fact that they are now working with organisation in Bristol to look at how they can provide training on a broader basics so whilst I would have loved to see um, a stronger organisation that’s, that’s really flourished and growing, um, I think the mere fact, a, we have a building that we own which isn’t um, which its, its, you know, I think in Gloucester we probably the only organisation that own outright a building for the community which is there as a resource and a legacy for the um, African and Caribbean community in Gloucester. Um, the Jamaican Club, which was originally owned by the Jamaican community in Gloucester, is no longer owned by them. So I think, you know, we need to acknowledge that’s a huge achievement that the community can and should build on. It’s a resource that can be um, used for the benefit of the community in Gloucester. So I suppose in terms of its legacy it’s very much um, the building is very much hopefully, who are some of the young people who have gone through the projects. I know a lot of the young people will talk about have gone to the Saturday School when they didn’t want to go but went to the Saturday School and I’m sure that, you know, they’ve would have benefited from it. So the legacy is the people that’s, that’s, um, benefited from the project but also as you say the Luncheon Club which again I know is struggling financially now and um, which is a shame because as our community um, get, as the members of our community get older, we know its, it’s a resource that actually is needed more than ever, um.
VEER: Ok, yeah. We will wrap it up there. Thank, thank you Evadney .
EVADNEY : Are you sure you’re ok?
VEER: The, the time, yeah, I think so. The time is 14.25…
EVADNEY : Ok.
VEER: And were in the St Giles Hotel in London. (Pause) Ok, that’s still recording. So how, how difficult was the set up because I imagine you’ve got elders in the community and you’ve got the youngsters coming up saying they want to do things diff. Do the elders complain?
EVADNEY : Yes, it was, it was very difficult in as much as you had um, young people who were very focal and I suppose what the older people would have said that we were a bit hot headed and that is because it was as I said on the back of riots across the country. So you know, you had young people who were really fired up about you know, what was happening, they seen other young people, their own age group um, rioting across the country and getting, um, being noticed politically. So whist we didn’t want that to happen in Gloucester and we were very fortunate that there was scrimmages but we didn’t have the riots that were seen in Bristol, Birmingham, um, and all parts of London. We were obliviously much more confrontational than the elders who were apart of the um, West Indian Action Group though so I suppose in getting us together and I think I remember meetings, having meeting and meeting, and meetings with them over trying to, trying to pull together and say look lets start working together. And they were fractious and challenging to say the least but you know, I have to give a lot of respect to people like Bernal Westcott, who actually was the real driving force behind us merging because he did believe that it was the way forward and therefore um, and as he was um, a respected um, leader within the action group, it meant that you know, if he was driving it, it, it paved the way. So it wasn’t an easy transition but I think we were in terms of the young people who were involved with the African Caribbean Association, we were already recognised by the local authority. We had um, you know, we’ve been talking to them, we’ve been talking with the police, we were really beginning to be well established. So I think had we not merged, I think we would still have been a dominate force because um, by the very nature with which we were driven, much more driven than the um, elders were because I think they’ve been established for a long time by then. So we were the kind of young people who were just kind of um, fired up. So I think in a sense had we had not merged it would not have been a good thing because we, it, the, I think it would have caused a lot of friction, but I think we would have been quite dominate.
VEER: Sorry. Ok so you, you were saying that it probably would have, have of turned out turned out that the ACA would have been the dominate…
EVADNEY : Yeah, I think we would have been the dominate force in the end because I don’t think anything would have stopped us. We were um, committed, passionate, driven so we wouldn’t have stopped and what would have happened is that we would have been fighting for the same pot of money because obviously there, there is limited funds, there were limited funds at that time. But I think that because we were um, the more um, we were younger and I, and I suppose we were just, it is, I think driven is the word, and therefore it meant we would have fought to get the support um, but you know, as I said there were people like Bernard um, who recognised that Gloucester was small, its small. And as a community were very small, and to split the money would have meant that no one would have been successful even if we would have both continued we would, you know, it could have limit what we could have done together as joint force. So you know, eventually once we kind of um, set up what we felt would’ve of been an umbrella group so that we would never have eaten up anyone and what we wanted was to form this umbrella that would of then spurned lots of small organisations, which, there own autonomous um, but, but come through to a central force, that would say together we can fight much more but each of you can do your own thing and have your own constitution and have your own, you know, views. But we formed almost like um, and I think that’s why we came up with the word association because the word association were supposed to be that we were the umbrella but there would have been lots of other groups that were of able to affiliate to the African Caribbean Association but still maintain their individual identity. Um, so yeah, it was, it was challenging, it took a number of years to get where we did. Um, you know it didn’t happen just over night it took a number of years for us to um, to come as one group and then again the next stage as registering as a proper company um, and um, a registered charity at the same time.
VEER: One of things that I’m interested in is, I suppose Barton Street is regarded as a home, I suppose you could call it the capital of the Black community in Gloucester. When you brought the, the old bank err, in the 80’s, in the 90’s, 80’s um, was that, I don’t know, was that, was that eerier the, the decline of Barton Street in, in some ways because you had the supermarket, the Co-op moved out, the, there were, were there 2 or 3 banks in Barton Street, they sort of all disappeared. And you had the big supermarket which was on the site of the old train station. Did that change the um, the vibrancy of the area do you think?
EVADNEY : I mean I think your right. The reason why we wanted to go to um, Barton and Treadworth because it was seen as kind of um, central focus for the Black community, front line as a lot of people used to call it. And the, when we were looking for premises one of the um, committed members worked for the local authority so he was able to say well there is this old Barclay’s Bank that’s available, that’s up, that you know, that we could buy and we, we could afford to buy. And um, so whilst we didn’t, I don’t recall us spending a lot of time looking at lots of different places, we did look at where GFM is now based actually because that’s what we wanted because that would have given us the chance to have everything we wanted under one roof. That was our primary that was one of main places that we looked at and really tried to see whether we could get but we weren’t able to raise enough funds, the lottery fund wasn’t enough to buy it and we couldn’t raise enough funds to, to get that one so the old Barclay’s Bank was the kind of secondary lets, fall back position. Um, so yeah, it was the, I think we wanted to be in Barton and Treadworth somewhere in Barton and Treadworth because of its, its relationship with the Black community. In terms of its decline I don’t think it was, not to the extent it has now, it certainly wasn’t , you didn’t feel that it was in the decline and therefore you need to be concerned about um, whether the area was a good place for us to be or not. In fact it was quite vibrant, you know, we had, um, you had the Colwell School which is a really active um, youth centre at that time, there, a lot was happening there and so you know, in a sense it was a good place to have been, to be positioned at that, err, in those days really. So no I think we wanted to be in Barton and Treadworth but it was almost like well this is what we could afford and we looked at the rooms and see what we can have this here. We can’t have everything because we initially wanted the Luncheon Club and everything to be under one roof that was our idea and had we got the um, the centre where, where GFM are now based we would have been able to have all the things that we had planned and I think, to, to a sense the community really would have benefited because it would have been such a big focal point um, you know, to have had something like that. But actually I’ve just record something at the time where you talk about challenges, there was also another challenge because whilst we were going through that centre which was, would have really provided everything that we would have wanted the, the committee at the Jamaican Sports & Social Club thought that, that would’ve have been um, huge competition for them because you know, that centre would have been so big we could have ran everything from there and people wouldn’t need. So its actually, you know, it’s actually quite interesting um, now looking back that um, it, you know, there were a lot of oppositions even then to us wanting us to grow to, to something like that. That centre we really, really did try desperately and, and we waited a long time because there was lots of um, possibilities of us getting that centre, so we waited a long time, um, but it, it didn’t just come to fruition and we ended up with the building that were in now, um.