The former headquarters of the exiled African National Congress in London is to be restored and opened up as a centre dedicated to the history of the Anti-Apartheid campaign.

The site at 28 Penton Street, near Angel in Islington, will be restored to create The Anti-Apartheid Legacy: Centre of Memory and Learning, a space dedicated to sharing the stories of South Africa’s liberation and the UK people’s role in supporting it.

Proposed entrance to the new centre (c) The Liliesleaf Trust UK

Between 1978 and 1994, 28 Penton Street was a hub for coordinating international opposition to South African apartheid and acted as a base to ANC leaders Oliver Tambo and Thabo Mbeki, later president of South Africa.

It was also attacked by the South African government’s security forces, including in 1982 planting a bomb at the building, which severely damaged it, although the building was mostly empty on the day so only one person was injured. Nine SA former security policemen later admitted to the bombing and were granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The building is an important site for black-led social heritage and was recognised in 2014 with a commemorative plaque. However, it has been empty for over a decade but will now be restored and reopened to the public.

To kickstart the project, the National Lottery Heritage Fund has awarded a grant of £1.2 million towards the £3 million project, and the charity behind the restoration, the Liliesleaf Trust UK is now fundraising for the rest.

The new Centre will provide a permanent base to explore the history of the Anti-Apartheid movement through a permanent exhibition, inspiring learning and skills development and heritage-based activities. These will help to promote the legacy and values of the South African liberation struggle and the UK’s central role in this history.

Alongside the restored building, The Anti-Apartheid Legacy: Centre of Memory and Learning will look to engage with the community in meaningful ways through its new community hub. A school outreach programme and volunteer programme will offer a chance for everyone to be involved.

Stuart McLeod, Director England – London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Through the project, a fantastic new space will be created that is fitting for such an important historic movement and for the people it represents. At the Heritage Fund, we’re committed to making sure that heritage is inclusive for all and thanks to this project, this history will now be shared with the wider community and highlight how people paved the way for social change.”

The project has also been supported by The Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund and Garfield Weston Foundation along with other funders. The fundraising campaign is here.

Proposed building layout (c) The Liliesleaf Trust UK


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