Black History Makers: Business founder's passion for Black history
- Credit: Archant
A former comedy club owner has dedicated nearly half a decade to educating people about the Black history embedded in the fabric of Islington and London.
In 2016, Avril Nanton founded Avril’s Walks and Talks to take inquisitive groups on Black history walking tours.
She fell in love with the subject after attending numerous courses taken by author Robin Walker, later achieving a tour guiding qualification from the University of Westminster.
“I learnt everything I know from him,” Avril said. “In 1997, I went to my first class and my mind was blown.”
Black history permeates Islington, from the former London office of the African National Congress in Penton Street to more hidden stories, such as those of Black circus performers.
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“Everybody likes to know their history, and Black people’s history has been taken away from us for so many years,” Avril said.
Avril previously ran the It’s No Trouble to G-R-I-N comedy club in Tottenham. She had moved from the Caribbean island of Dominica to London in the mid-1960s, joining her mother and elder brother in the UK.
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“I came by myself,” she said. “I can’t imagine putting a seven-year-old on a plane by themselves these days.
“The only thing I remember is how cold it was when I arrived.”
The family lived on Ockendon Road, later moving to Murray Grove and Hornsey Road.
In Dominica she had learned a patois, but quickly switched to English in the UK: “I had an accent from the Caribbean, so no one could understand what I was saying.
“My mother forced us to change as quickly as possible because in those days, it was not a good thing to speak another language.
“Some families kept it going but my mum never saw the benefit and as a single parent, she wanted us to fit in as soon as possible and not be bullied.”
Avril was bullied, but it had “nothing to do with race”, she insists - it was because her family were “quite poor”.
However, Avril added: “Anyone who is Black who says they haven’t experienced racism, I don’t know where they have been living because it happens to everyone.
“It’s something you learn to live with because if you don’t, we would become angry with pent up hatred.”
The best way to tackle inequality today is to address poor housing and education, she added.