Archive for the 'Remembering Olive' Category


Olive Morris in Austria

A friend of ROC has emailed us a picture of a poster for a feminist poster she came across in Austria! Olive is travelling…


Olive featured on the Brixton pound (B£) note


As part of its drive to encourage and sustain local businesses, a group in Brixton have launched the neighbourhood’s own currency. Olive’s image is featured on the £1 and seems to be the note most media outlets highlight as representative of the spirit of the B£ project.

The Brixton pound (B£) can be purchased in £1, £5, £10, and £20 denominations and used at local participating businesses ranging from music shops to dance studios to food shops.

For information about exchanging sterling for B£ or becoming a trader accepting the B£, see the group’s website.

Further coverage of the B£’s launch and a range of perspectives on local currency/consumerism-as-activism, see the following links:


Olive Morris smiles again on 18 Brixton Hill

Olive Morris’ plaque and photograph have finally been reinstated in Olive Morris House, together with a simple window display facing the street. The window display includes a link to a web page where people can read more about Olive Morris’ life and access our blog for further information. In February 2009 ROC (Remembering Olive Collective) and the Morris family had to resort to write directly to Lambeth Executive Director Derrik Anderson, after council officials failed to respond to continued enquiries about the plaque and the photograph. Both plaque and photograph have been removed well over a year ago, during the refurbishment of the building and its re-branding as Brixton Customer Service Centre.

New window display at 18 Brixton Hill
Photo: ROC (Remembering Olive Collective)

Our letters requested that the Council re-installs the plaque and the photograph in a public area of the building, so that users of the Customer Service Centre could learn who Olive Morris was. We had also submitted a detailed proposal to create a window display with pictures, information and testimonies about Olive Morris life, and made enquiries about the removal of the line “Olive Morris House” from the letterhead of correspondence being issued from the building – now reading simply: Customer Service Centre, 18 Brixton Hill.

After our letters reached the Executive Director and some local Councillors followed up on our enquiries, council officials went into a flurry of activity and the plaque and photograph were soon re-instated to the foyer of the staff entrance, and we received a letter informing us that this had happened. A couple of weeks later a window display was also installed.


Memorial visit to Streatham Park Cemetery

To commemorate the anniversary of Olive Morris’ death, the Morris family and friends visited her burial place in Streatham Park Cemetery.

My family and myself would like to thank everyone that took time out of there busy day to attend the Olive Morris rememberance afternooon on Saturday the 12th July. Hope we can all work together to keep her memories alive.
Jennifer Morris Lewis – Olive Morris sister


Special broadcast at SOAS’ Open Air Radio

A special one-hour radio programme presenting the ongoing project Do you remember Olive Morris? was broadcast as part of the STUDENT RISE season at SOAS’s OpenAir Radio, on Friday 30th November 2007, at 2pm. The programme outlined the origins of the Olive Morris oral history project, and introduced the audience to Morris’ story. A selection of music tracks by or about inspiring women who broke through gender and race barriers – accompanied and introduced the range of areas in which Olive Morris was involved as an activist.

To listen to the show visit, and scroll to the bottom of the page where you will find the player.

Soas radio

OpenAir was the official media partner of STUDENT RISE 07, a series of events at universities across London to promote the message of anti-racism and celebrate multiculturalism.


Olive Morris in USA website

A short biography of Olive Morris with a link to this blog has been published in an North American website that list extensive links and resources about Black History and Culture.

The primary aim of this website is to encourage research activity on people of African descent and to provide information to the study of the African Diaspora. A historical perspective of a nation, its people, and its cultural evolution. Please make sure to look through the 1000+ Slave Narratives on my website. Many of the colored soldiers from the Revolutionary war are true heroes so take a look at the images of them as well as the other colored soldiers throughout the 18TH 19TH AND 20TH CENTURY.

Click here to visit the site

The site is worth a visit, specially the section RARE RECORDINGS AND VIDEO.


Weblog launch at Minet Library

To read the full post click on the title above

On Monday 1 October 2007, on a very wet London evening, a group of people braved the weather to gather at Minet Library for the official launch of this weblog.

The launch consisted in a presentation about the origin of the project, and a demonstration of the blog (its contents and how to use it). Liz Obi shared with the audience some personal words about Olive, and qualified her interest in recuperating the memory of Olive Morris. The discussion was then opened to the audience, that included some people who knew Olive both personally and from references, and some others who simply wanted to find out more about her. Conversation continued over drinks and music, and people had a chance to look at the exhibition about Olive Morris that Liz Obi kindly brought into the Library. The few of us who went on in the search for a pub, were rewarded with a chance encounter with an old friend of Olive.

Many thanks to all that came, and to all of you who have sent emails of support, and volunteered help to take the project further.

launch pic1
Image © Lucia Pizzani. Image reproduced with permission of the author.

Liz Obi’s Remembering Olive exhibition can be seen at Minet Library until Friday 14 October. It will then go on tour to Lambeth’s Women Project (166A Stockwell Road), where on Tuesday 16 October 6.30 they will be launching a reading club with a selection of books related to Black History. Lambeth Women’s Project is currently facing the threat of closure. Visit their link to support their petition.


Here is a personal account of the evening:

I arrived early to set up the equipment, and was soon joined by Liz, who brought the exhibition about Olive Morris she had presented in 2000 at Brixton Library. Liz also brought some candles, incense and some of her plants. The exhibition boards were covered in African textiles. As an artist, I was pleased to see (and gently reminded of) how little it takes to give a personal touch to what we do, when we take temporary occupation of an institutional space.

The presentation was introduced by Jon Newman from Lambeth Archives, who explained why the Archives had chosen to support the project. The use of weblog technology was an innovative tool, but also the fact that it was an artist-led project brought “a different sensibility” to their job of collecting and preserving local history.

launch Jon

Image © Ermiyas Mekonnen. Image reproduced with permission of the author.

I started the presentation by welcoming the audience, and as an introduction and a form of setting the wider background against which this project was conceived, we showed a 6 minutes long video, made the previous week in collaboration with Liz Obi.

I went on to tell the story of how I came to be interested in Olive Morris, a story that is also narrated in this blog in a separate post (The starting point).

launch pic2

Image © Lucia Pizzani. Image reproduced with permission of the author.

I then showed the blog and its contents to the audience, and explained the different sections in which I have tried to organise the information. I wanted to give a sense of the breadth of Olive Morris work and interests, but try to keep a non-linear, or non-chronological order. I described the fragmented way in which I have compiled the information, and that I hoped the blog maintained that open structure, where snapshots from Olive’s life and her times could be connected through the personal journeys or interests of those reading and contributing to the blog.

launch pic3

Image © Lucia Pizzani. Image reproduced with permission of the author.

Following the more formal part of the presentation, Liz Obi spoke to the audience about her personal relationship to Olive Morris, and about the journey she had embarked a few years ago when she decided to put together the Remembering Olive exhibition. Liz also spoke about Olive’s legacy and what she had learnt from her. She went on to tell the audience about her initial reticence when we first met: “what does this white woman wants to do with Olive’s story”, but understanding the motives she had agreed to collaborate and share her knowledge with me. Liz’s words of support and her engagement with the project had so far been crucial to the development of the blog.

In contrast to Liz’s own search for Olive’s history, where she both had the personal knowledge (dates, places, names) and the trust and access to those who knew and worked with Olive, the issue of me being an “outsider” is – I feel – quite central to the success or failure of the project.

launch pic4

Image © Lucia Pizzani. Image reproduced with permission of the author.

The conversation was then opened to the floor, and this is a summery of the things that were spoken about:

We had the pleasure to count amongst the audience with Sandra, who had known Olive despite being several years younger. Sandra told us how she had moved into 121 Railton Road squat after Liz and Olive moved out, and was involved with her partner in setting up and running Sabaar Bookshop. There was quite an animated discussion about the lack of awareness of this story of Black squats, and of the paradox of having a housing building named after Olive Morris. A lineage of Black squats was traced from 121 Railton Road, to the recently closed Rastafarian Centre at St Agnes Place.

There was also some debate as to whether the naming of buildings and streets are actually a positive thing and the desired recognition of Black people’s achievements, or whether – as Jon Newman pointed out – it could be simply a political gesture that can be easily undone, as it is actually happening in South London nowadays (the renaming of Mary Secoale House was given as an example). The current situation of Olive Morris House refurbishment was discussed, and this is one of the areas where the audience felt there could be some concrete outcome that could come out of this project.

launch Neil

Image © Ermiyas Mekonnen. Image reproduced with permission of the author.

Neil Kenlock – who was present, kindly offered to go through his archive and make his photographs of Olive available free of charge for this blog. Neil reminded the audience that it would be a pity if Olive Morris went down in history as a squatter, because above all, her fight was “a fight for equality, and this is how she should be remembered”. Neil spoke about his photograph (which was the trigger for this project), and told us about Olive’s courage and fearlessness. He said: “it took a lot of courage for her to stand there holding that placard. Those were tough times and many big and strong men didn’t have the gust to do it, but Olive did. She even took her shoes off”.

We also had the honor of counting with Tamara Lewis in the audience. Tamara is Olive’s niece but was born after her death. She said: “seeing and hearing all this, I keep thinking how happy Grandma would have been if she was here today”. This prompted some comments about Ms Doris Morris, and her own engagement with political activism, as the source of both the inspiration and the support that Olive found in her own family.

launch portraits

Image © Ermiyas Mekonnen. Image reproduced with permission of the author.

There was a sense – specially in those who knew little about Olive Morris – of the importance of recuperating her figure within our local community – not just as an inspiration for Black people, but as an example for everyone. As Liz said, what was most important about Olive’s legacy is that she showed us we all can, as individuals, make a difference. That this power we had as individuals to stand up against injustice, is a very real power and that we should not hesitate to use it on our own and in collaboration with others.

With the good atmosphere amongst the audience – a gathering of people paying respects and honoring the memory of Olive Morris – it was easy for all of us to push away the chairs and carry on chatting over a drink, to the sound of some classic reggae tracks.

When it was time to go, a small group of us started on the search for a local pub. We stumbled by chance upon an “old style Brixton pub” of the kind that have now vanished from Brixton centre. Just as we walked into the pub, Liz shouted and run after a man that was popping out to smoke a cigarette. He had been a close friend of Olive throughout her life, and over a few cigarettes shared in the outdoor cold, he pieced together with Liz some memories of Olive’s early youth and later years. It seemed to us that it had been Olive’s spirit guising us to that pub.

launch pic5

Image © Lucia Pizzani. Image reproduced with permission of the author.

Just after midnight Liz Obi, Oniel Williams and I walked together all the way to Brixton, still talking about Olive and her times, the fate of “the 70s struggle”, contemporary politics, the third world, and the reality of life in Brixton as experienced by our children. Just as we were coming into Coldharbour Lane we saw a police van, and several police officers in the process of searching two young Black men. One of the police officers was feeling the youth’s toes over his white sport socks, and another was holding in his silicone gloved hand a forensic evidence bag with a small amount of weed in it. We walked past them and a third police officer volunteered – with a smile – some community relations nicety to us, as we continued our journey without making any fuss.

There it was in a nut shell, the sign of the changing times. Much talk was made on this night about what would Olive Morris would be doing nowadays, were she still alive. For sure she would have something to say.