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Islington church used by Bob Marley in music video goes up in flames

10:32 09 March 2012

Flames gutted the former Keskidee centre. Pic by Nathan Taylor.

Flames gutted the former Keskidee centre. Pic by Nathan Taylor.

Archant

The church was formerly home to the Keskidee Centre, Britain’s first arts and cultural centre for the black community.

A church used by Bob Marley to film the music video for one of his most famous tracks has been gutted by fire overnight.

The blaze broke out in the Christ Apostolic Church in Gifford Street, Islington, at around 9.30pm last night (Thursday) and eight fire engines with around 40 firefighters spent more than four hours tackling the flames.

Islington fire station manager Mick Sawyer, who was at the scene, said around 20 people had to be evacuated from adjacent properties.

He said the fire was under control before 2am but crews remained on the scene throughout the night damping down “deep seated pockets of fire.”

All three floors of the church were severely damaged by the blaze, and fire investigation officers and the Met Police are on the scene this morning trying to establish the cause.

Nathan Taylor, 37, of Gifford Street, said the church had appeared to have been out of use for the past few months. He said: “All that’s left of the roof is the rafters which are all black and there are a few tiles left, so it looks completely gutted.”

The church was formerly home to the Keskidee Centre, Britain’s first arts and cultural centre for the black community.

The centre was founded in 1971 by Guyanese-born Oscar Abrams and his fellow trustees, and it became known for its thriving theatre productions.

For many years, it was the only place to experience black theatre in London and it was where poet Linton Kwesi Johnson created dub poetry.

In 1978, Bob Marley chose the centre as the setting for his Is this love? video, which starred a young Naomi Campbell, aged just seven years old.

Diminishing funding and growing debts led to the Keskidee Centre’s closure in 1992, but a plaque had since been placed on the site to recognise its important contribution to London’s cultural development.

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