Amber Akaunu displays on her work with the Beryl Gilroy archive


By Amber Akaunu, filmmaker and artist, who was commissioned by the British Library to have interaction creatively with the Beryl Gilroy archive.

Reflecting on previous tasks and experiences is one thing that I admittedly had by no means even thought of doing earlier than spending time with Dr Beryl Gilroy’s archive. I didn’t see it as a necessary side of my work as an artist and filmmaker till now.

The spotlight of Gilroy’s archive for me have been the reflective items of writings she wrote on her personal work. They have been detailed and skim extra like an essay, compared to her inventive writings we see in books akin to In Praise of Love and Children’ (1996). I cherished studying them and realised how vital it’s to not solely mirror on our follow as a way to determine areas that deserve celebration in addition to areas that may use some growth, nevertheless it’s also vital in defining our narrative and legacy; and Gilroy has accomplished precisely that.


A zoomed in image of handwritten reflective writing by Dr Beryl Gilroy in different colour pens

BL Ref Deposit 11286/1/10 – extracts from Beryl Gilroy’s reflective writing.


So, I need to observe Dr Gilroy’s footsteps and go on a journey of deep reflection on my expertise working with the British Library:

I obtained an invite to pitch an concept to make a physique of labor that responds to the archive of Dr Beryl Gilroy. This invite got here solely per week after I had moved to London and so it was an affirming and grounding first inventive mission to tackle amidst a time of transition for me. On reflection, I feel the consistency of coming to the British Library and viewing Gilroy’s archive was precisely what I wanted on the time.

We typically idolise Black girls for all of the unbelievable issues we obtain in such harsh circumstances. We’re typically regarded as the rose that grew from concrete, and though that tends to be an correct illustration, I actually wished my response to Dr Gilroy’s archive to look deeper into who she was. I made a decision to discover her roles as a mom, educator, psychologist and founding member of Camden Black Sisters. I additionally used these classes to spotlight Black girls in my life together with; my mom (Jessica); my therapist (Amanda); my major faculty head instructor (Mrs Wrigley); and Liverpool’s Black Sisters, who held summer season schemes that I attended as a baby. Through this course of I obtained to understand how fortunate I’ve been to have the ability to have unbelievable Black girls in my life.

I loved exploring Dr Gilroy’s function as a mom particularly, particularly after assembly with Dr Gilroy’s daughter, Darla, a tutorial. It was inspiring to see the work she does to assist hold her mom’s legacy alive and to listen to the best way she talks about her mom. It made me take into consideration the shut bond my mom and I’ve, and so it was fulfilling to have the ability to embody my mom’s affect on me and hyperlink this with Gilroy’s affect on her personal kids, and naturally the various different kids by her function as an educator and certainly one of London’s first Black head lecturers.

I had begun writing a poem in my iPhone notes app some time in the past about how Black girls are the blueprint, and this mission felt like the right motive to complete that poem and develop that concept additional. I additionally wished to increase this notion to incorporate the very fact the archive of Black girls can be the blueprint to which we construct from. I felt just like the underlying message I took away from my time with Dr Gilroy’s archive confirmed the significance of archiving. Gilroy’s archive was a particular first-hand look into her life and I’m grateful that it exists.

I labored with my good pal Khadeeja to make a brief movie that delivered to life the poem I had written. I despatched Khadeeja a WhatsApp message asking her if she’d wish to be within the movie together with a screenshot of the poem. She then despatched me a voice word response of her performing the poem completely. This is likely one of the causes I like to collaborate with different creatives. Khadeeja introduced the poem to life in a manner I couldn’t have imagined. I cherished that voice word recording a lot that I used it within the movie.


A close up shot of Khadeeja in Amber Akaunu's film the blueprint, Khadeeja is looking directly at the camera in front of a blue background

A screenshot from Amber Akaunu’s ‘The Blueprint’ exhibiting Khadeeja.


Alongside the movie, I additionally created a zine that’s titled The Blueprint, which is similar title because the movie. The zine was designed by Lana Mauge-Tharpe, who was excellent for the mission as not solely is she extremely proficient, she is also a former scholar at Dr Gilroy’s faculty in North London.

Through color, composition and typography, Lana was capable of current my phrases in a contemporary manner. The zine additionally featured a QR code that allowed readers to entry a blue impressed playlist I had made whereas engaged on the mission.

In conclusion, I’ve realized so much about Dr Gilroy, myself and my follow by this mission and course of and hope that guests of the exhibition additionally felt like they obtained to know extra about Dr Beryl Gilroy, her affect and the importance of her archive to the Black girls that she has instantly, and not directly, impacted.


Image shows the front cover of The Blueprint, which includes a photo of Dr Beryl Gilroy and a crowd of school children

The Blueprint, a zine by Amber Akaunu


Further studying:

Beryl Gilroy | The British Library (

For enquiries concerning the Beryl Gilroy archive, please contact Eleanor Dickens


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