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23 Influential Black and Minority Ethnic Women in Nottingham

8 March 17 words: Bridie Squires

Here is a handful of ladies who will give you a run for your money when it comes to creativity, innovation and activism

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photo: Nottingham Black Archive

Louise Garvey
At the age of just seventeen, Louise started training as a cadet nurse in Cheshire. Eventually, she moved to Nottingham where she has promoted equality in the health sector for years, especially when it comes to black nurses, and this work can be found in her booklet Nursing Lives of Black Nurses in Nottingham. To this day, she still serves on a nursing panel and is a local community activist.

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Panya Banjoko
Alongside Laura Summers, Panya the Poet founded the Nottingham Black Archive after recognising the gap in local museums’ exploration of BME communities’ cultural history. As well as this, she has a show on What’s Hot Radio where she plays proper music and explores all kinds of issues, including those relating to women. She is also a poet, teacher, mother, and holder of about 1,298,347 degrees and masters.

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Becky (left) and Ellie (right) images: Wikipedia

The Downie Sisters
Rebecca and Elissa Downie are Nottingham natives and artistic gymnasts who’ve competed at international level. Becky (24) is a Commonwealth Games champion, won a silver medal at European Championships, and competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics. Our Ellie repped GB in the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics and, at just fifteen, became the first female gymnast to win an individual all-around medal for GB with a bronze medal at the European Chamionships in 2015. She was also part of the team that won us our first ever global team medal at the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. Well in.

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photo: Is Creative Media

Ioney Smallhorne
Hard grafter extraordinaire. As a videographer with international experience, this wildly creative lady has got her fingers in all the pies. A Mouthy Poet Associate Artist, Ioney frequently highlights experiences of discrimination in her work, looking at the history of our colonised world in order to explain why things are the way things are. She’s played a massive part in developing the Nottingham Black Archive, and for that, we tip our hats.

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photo: Kemet FM

Jackie P
You might be familiar with Jackie P from her radio show on Kemet FM, but she’s also a massive community champion. She’s helped to organise countless events, including the charity football event on Forest Rec, in order to raise funds for Nottingham Children, Young People and Families Project, and generally bigs up all the good stuff happening in the city wherever she can. Jackie, we salute you.

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photo: Dom Henry

Harleighblu Low
Them pipes are enough to send shivers down your spine. Yes, Harleighblu has been gigging on the Nottingham circuit for yonks and is a great example of how hard work and perseverance will eventually get you recognised. Especially with a voice and style like hers. She’s toured all over the shop, with the Parisians taking a particular interest. Because she's a badass, Harleh signed to Tru Thoughts after turning Sony down when they asked her to wear hot pants and get rid of her dreads. Bam.

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photo: Facebook

Shweta Saxena
After moving to Nottingham and feeling isolated as a mother, Shweta took action into her own hands and decided to make her own community group with a specific aim to create diversity and a welcoming environment. With help from Self Help UK, Notts Mums was born. Everyone is welcome to the group, especially new Nottingham arrivals, new mums, and anyone who wishes to rise above cultural differences. An amazing, empowering feat from Shweta. Nice one.

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photo: Louise Clutterbuck

Patty Dumplin
Not only is our Patteh absolutely hilarious, she’s actually doing massive things for the British Heart Foundation. A character expertly played by Lisa Jackson, she promotes healthy hearts through innovative humour and cheerful Jamaican patois, as there is a higher incidence of heart and cardiovascular disease within the Caribbean community. You can often hear her do her thing on Kemet FM, but she also hosts Come Nyam Wid Me sessions, which include education, dancing and food. She was nominated for an EMAHSN Innovation Award last year, for Improving Access, Experience and Outcomes for Underserved Communities. Yes.

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photo: Caroline Bell Foster

Caroline Bell Foster
The author of seven novels, Caroline writes about everything from cat cafes, to romance, to abuse from those who are supposed to care for you. She was born in Derby, lived in Jamaica for years, and now lives in Nottingham. But when she was eighteen, she wrote her first short story on a bus in the Rift Valley after swapping her sunglasses for a lift. An adventure that eventually lead to a solid writing career, with one of her novels Call Me Royal becoming an Amazon best seller. 

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photo: Facebook

Michelle Mother Hubbard
A published poet and stalwart of the Blackdrop poetry group, Michelle Mother Hubbard has been involved in the organisation of many creative community projects as well as facilitating workshops and acting as a mentor. In her work, she explores everything from domestic violence to identity, through the written and spoken word, and storytelling. Oh, and she is an amazing African drummer. 

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photo: BME Cancer Communities

Rose Thompson
As director of BME Cancer Communities, Rose has done pioneering work for children and members of the BME communities undergoing radiotherapy, for which she’s gained two discretionary points. She was also the first BME Cancer Information Specialist, a position which lead to the development of Cancer in your Language – an interpretation service for non-English speakers. As part of the national campaign Hear Me Now, she was the author of two prostate cancer reports that were launched in the House of Commons.

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photo: Emma Richardson

Yazmin Lacey
She was recently taken on as a member of Future Bubblers – Gilles Peterson and Brownswood’s programme for up-and-coming musicians. That being said, Miss Lacey has been getting creative for years with modesty in tow. Not only is she an accomplished singer, songwriter, theatre-maker and all-round artist, she heads Nottingham CYF (Nottingham Children, Young People and Families Project) which helps out families and young people, taking them on trips and creating activity schedules. They’ve even got a plot in St Ann’s Allotment, where the kids can grow their own food and cook it for the community. Top grafter, inspiring woman.

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photo: Nottingham News Centre

Norma Gregory
Historian and director of Nottingham News Centre, Norma was voted as a finalist in the Community Leader of the Year in the Women4Africa Awards this year. She’s also an award-winning author, and has unearthed the story of black Nottingham entrepreneur George Africanus (1763 – 1834) in much depth in recent years. A revered speaker, journalist and educator, we could go on for days about her achievements. Norma, we champion your hard work.

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Rastarella Falade
As a Kemet FM radio presenter and the creator of not-for-profit music promotions company Cultural Vibrations, Trinidad-born Rastarella champions not just every genre, but the young creative people of our city. She preaches unity and positivity in her work, and had a massive hand in bringing the Nottingham World Music Festival to fruition. Not only is she heavily involved in the music scene, but she’s raised loads of money and awareness for national disability and mental health charities. On top of all this, she won the Invisible Volunteer Award in 2012 and has recently been nominated for the Positive Role Model Award in the National Diversity Awards. Nice one Rastarella!

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Natalie Duncan
Singer, songwriter, inspirer. With skills on the piano that Bach himsen would’ve envied, Natalie goes from strength to strength as a musician as time goes on. She’s performed at festivals, released her album Devil in Me on Verve, along with loads of singles. Watching her show is absolutely mesmerising and we can’t wait to see what she’s got in store next.

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Victoria Williams
As well as being a respected elder, Victoria Williams is a Nottingham poet who wrote Shock and Disbelief to the System – 1960, narrating her journey and story as a Caribbean migrant. We loved the poem so much we printed it late last year for Black History Month. She is also a member of Nottingham Speakers Club, where she received a trophy for Most Improved Speaker in 2015. Well in Vickeh.

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photo: Toby Neal

Cllr Merlita Bryan
After arriving in England from Jamaica at the age of eleven and developing a career in manufacturing, Merlita Bryan springboarded into unions, became a delegate the East Midlands Labour Party, and eventually became Sheriff of Nottingham. She must be one of the busiest women alive, serving on the board of directors for Kemet FM, Nottingham City Homes, NCT, First Enterprise, and Nottingham Race Course, as well as continuing to get stuck in to all things Nottingham.

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photo: Twitter

Bea Udeh
Bringing diversity to the theatre. Yep, Bea Udeh was the Diversity Officer for Nottingham Playhouse for many years, which meant an increased range of plays on offer for people of all backgrounds. Along with Debris Stevenson, she managed to get Mouthy Poets a space to work in there as associate artists, which has meant increased spoken word activity in the city. She's also a creative producer, has hosted a show for the African and Caribbean community on BBC Radio Nottingham back in the day, and is an all-round champion of creativity in the city. She wrote us an article about Afro hair a couple of years back, check it out here. Nice one Bea! 

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photo: Nottingham City of Literature

Shreya Sen-Handley
A Calcutta-born writer, Shreya has played a huge part in gaining Nottingham a UNESCO City of Literature status. She has written everything from articles, to blogs, to books, and signed a book deal with Harper Collins in 2014. In an article for Nottingham City of Literature, she said ‘Women seem to like what I do and that’s great. Indian society can be quite conservative and restraining, especially when it comes to sex. Society there is changing rapidly, and to many that is a good, liberating thing’ … ‘I want to be a provocateur, I want to challenge. There is a cost, but I have found my voice’. We love it.

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photo: Many Rivers To Cross

Tryphena Anderson
She came to England from Jamaica in 1952, and did her nurse training in Nottingham General Hospital as a junior nurse, eventually training as a psychiatric nurse and qualified as a midwife with a postgraduate degree. Tryphena became the first black person to receive a bursary to train as a health visitor, and in 1988 she bought her own nursing home and ran it for fourteen years. Care and determination personified.

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photo: Daniel Whiston

Parisa Eliyon
Singer, promoter, emcee, and community activist, Parisa could very well be mistaken for an octopus. She attends talk panels and anti-fracking meetings, where she slams political points home, as well as tearing up stages and representing for females. Another champion of young, up-and-coming talent, she actively seeks out and encourages performances from people she believes in, and has brought some of the best gigs going to Nottingham. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, Acoustickle and Origin One all have her to thank for their greatness as organisations.

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photo: Honey Williams

Honey Williams
She has provided the vocals for countless hip hop acts like Rodney P and Klashnekoff, and is the founder of Nottingham’s G.O.A Choir. Not only all that, she is founder of the Pickyheads Movement which champions black women, especially when it comes to self-loving and natural hair acceptance, all through artistic expression and events.

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photo: Nottingham News Centre

Reverend Cannon Eve Pitts
The first black female ordained as a Deacon in the Church of England. Yes! Known for her humour and confidence, Reverend Cannon Pitts is a loving speaker with a passion for the community and her faith. Having faced both racism and sexism in both the church and society, she champions the beauty, health and peace of all those around her. And according to her, she’s a “very good dancer”. Preach!


Comment below with the woman who has been most influential to you, we'd love to hear from you.

If you are a black female writer, photographer or illustrator who wants to get involved in LeftLion, get in touch.

Thank you to Rastarella Falade for making this article happen.

Read our article on Nottingham Black Archive
Read our review of The Page is White Panel Discussion
International Women's Day website

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