£729,438 awarded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Serendipity Institute for Black Arts and Heritage in Leicester has been awarded a grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to support the development of a regional project Unearthed: Forgotten Histories. Made possible with money raised by National Lottery players, £729,438 is being offered to grow and develop an archive that reflects the diversity of the African and African Caribbean communities across the Midlands.

This is one of the largest grants given by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to a Black arts and heritage organisation and adds to the strength of the cultural infrastructure in the city of Leicester. This comes after a successful development phase that saw the implementation of pilot schemes including Young Archivists, an accredited training programme aimed at young people from diverse communities who are currently under-represented in the heritage sector, learning from heritage experts. The pilot scheme saw young people have the opportunity to visit places such as Autograph, Iniva and the Tate, alongside receiving training from industry experts about the implementation of pioneering technologies in archives, oral histories and audience development. Moving forward this area of work it will continue to grow, aiming to nurture 16 young people (or people young to the sector) throughout the life of the project.

The project will also see the growth of the Living Archive, a digital collections and accessible interactive website that provides a home to archival materials which encompass the history of the African and African Caribbean communities across this region, that amplifies the historical picture and tells stories from a different perspective. The Living Archive will look at how archival objects can be interpreted and reinterpreted, whilst making heritage accessible. Serendipity will also lead on the development of educational resources, events and exhibitions, with volunteers given training to develop skills and support the collection and preservation of oral histories and archival material.

This innovative initiative, Unearthed: Forgotten Histories, seeks to make a structural difference to the recording, documentation and sharing of Black history and heritage in the UK, and to give back hidden histories for everyone to share.

Serendipity has a thirteen year track record of working locally, nationally and internationally; it has long been an ambition of Serendipity to build on the success of past heritage projects, Lost Legends and Archiving the Past: Reflecting the Future which have established heritage as a core element of Serendipity’s ethos and work and builds resilience as an arts and heritage organisation.

Commenting on the award Pawlet Brookes MBE, CEO and Artistic Director of Serendipity, said:

“We are delighted that we have received this support thanks to The National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery players. Following the success of the development phase, we know the real impact that Unearthed: Forgotten Histories will have in telling histories from the African and African Caribbean community across the Midlands that might have otherwise been lost, forgotten or ignored. Young Archivists will nurture the next generation of heritage workers, whilst The Living Archive will explore how technology in innovative ways to tell and share stories, ultimately creating a legacy for everyone to engage with.”


Robyn Llewellyn, Director, England, Midlands and East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said:

“We’re delighted to be supporting Serendipity on their Living Archive, ensuring that the UK’s Black history and heritage are documented and shared. Thanks to National Lottery players, we’re able to support important work like ‘Unearthed: Forgotten Histories’ so that heritage represents and reflects our local communities.”


Councillor Sue Hunter, Assistant City Mayor for Diversity and Tackling Racism, speaking on behalf of Leicester City Council, said:

We are delighted to support and work with Serendipity on Unearthed: Forgotten HistoriesThe project is excellent news for our city and our region, championing diversity and the contribution that all of our diverse communities have made and continue to make. It is wonderful that these stories will be documented and preserved in this project led by Serendipity.”


Diane Clafton and Richard Elkington, descendants of the Countee Family, said:

“This project has relit a fire and interest in our family tree.  We knew certain parts, but it was all in a box held by different family members.  This has also brought family strains together who weren’t aware of each other and has opened up new lines of communication between the UK and our family in the USA, which we could not have thought possible without this project.” 

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