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More delays for black cultural archives

SETBACKS: The Black Cultural Archives’ (BCA) expected home, Raleigh Hall

FIVE MONTHS after it was first supposed to open its doors to the public, the Black Cultural Archives (BCA) is yet to secure a contractor to continue renovating and expanding the building that will permanently house it.

The BCA’s move to its permanent home, which is expected to become Britain’s first black historical centre, has now been delayed for a fourth time.

Raleigh Hall, which will house 10,000 historical records in Windrush Square, Brixton, south London, failed to open for this summer’s Olympics when the original building contractors, Kilby and Gayford went into administration in April.

The centre also suffered a further setback after its chair, Matthew Ryder QC, stepped down in February having served for two years.

After missing the opening date for the Olympics, BCA representatives had set April 2013 as the new opening date, but later pushed it to July 2013.

But a local source told The Voice the centre was now hoping to open in September 2013.

BCA director Paul Reid said he was unable to confirm the September date but said the BCA is close to finding a new contractor.

“It is not quite ready,” Reid told The Voice. “The situation, as I understand it, is there is a process that needs to take place with the contractors before the contract is awarded. We need to perform credit checks and we will be checking their programme of work so it is well timed and fits into our time.”

A spokesman for one potential contractor, Rooff Builders Ltd, confirmed it was approached but has not yet been awarded the contract.

The centre was co-founded by the late campaigner and historian Lenford Garrison in 1981, to ensure that black history is properly recorded and the contribution of black people of African descent recognised in Britain’s official history.

The BCA, which has the support of Mayor Boris Johnson, received £6.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £1m from the London Development Agency.

Despite the delay and the fears of BCA supporters by the community that the heritage centre will never open, Reid remains optimistic.

According to Reid, the public can expect a “first class project despite all the setbacks” and believes it will be the leading institution for Black heritage and culture in the UK.

He said: “We will be holding talks with the various members of the public. We are working tremendously hard because we know there is a huge expectation. This will happen and it will become what we all can be proud of.”

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