Black History Month 2020

Black History at Union Chapel

Photo credit: Islington Local History Centre

Union Chapel is a working church, events venue and a space for community projects in Islington. During the coronavirus pandemic, like many other religious spaces and event venues, the Union Chapel has suspended its face to face events until further notice. However they have continued to provide support for the community through their Community Emergency Response initiative, find out more about their work on their website. They have also continued to hold events and performances online.

Black History Month Special Service

On Sunday 18th October Union Chapel held a special Black History Month service with performances from black musicians, take a look at some of the performances below:

“I can’t hear nobody pray” – CLAUDINA EDWARDS & OGO AJALA
“Blackbird” – OGO AJALA

Head over to the Union Chapel YouTube channel for more videos.

The Whole Truth Channel 4

Channel 4 recently filmed a programme to mark World Mental Health Day 2020. Hosted by Jordan Stephens, founder of the mental health movement #IAMWHOLE, the programme featured UK artists Che Lingo, Arlo Parks and Kojey Radical, and was filmed inside the Union Chapel. Take a look at some of the photos taken during filming of the programme:

Watch The Whole Truth on the Channel 4 website here.

Union Chapel Website:

All images and videos on this post have been provided by Union Chapel unless stated otherwise.


Trade – often copied, never equalled

Thirty years ago, in October 1990, an idea was born that changed the face of night clubbing forever!

03. Trade night club, early 2000s WP
          Trade night club, early 2000s

The 1980s’ London gay-club scene was already thriving, playing disco, alternative electronic and early house music in venues such as Heaven, the gay ‘superclub’ in Charing Cross. Then the arrival of dance music and a new drug, ecstasy, in the late 1980s changed the face of clubbing forever. Trade, the capital’s first legal after-hours dance club, was to take it to yet another level.

All-night bender
Advertised as ‘the original all-night bender’, Trade was launched in Islington by Irish-born Laurence Malice on 29 October 1990 at Turnmills, 63b Clerkenwell Road, EC1, near Farringdon Station. Laurence’s aim was to create a safe haven where people could be themselves and to help stop the risks gay men faced after clubs closed, such as ‘queer-bashing’ or arrest from cruising. Above all, he wanted it to be a place where clubbers could escape the fear and homophobic backlash that the AIDS crisis brought during the 1980s. Trade also had the unusual opening times of 3am and 5am (until 1pm) on Sunday mornings! This set it apart from other clubs and it soon became ‘the’ place to be. Its exclusivity further fuelled the desire to be a part of what Trade had to offer.

01. The first flyer for Trade nightclub, EC1, 29 October 1990

First flyer for Trade nightclub, EC1, 29 October 1990

Spiritual home
Clerkenwell itself was to become a spiritual home for the followers of Trade. For centuries the area had a history of being a sanctuary for those not wishing to conform to conventional living. Initially, the area seemed an unlikely place to go weekend clubbing; city workers frequented the district during the week, while the weekends were quiet with little passing business. The arrival, however, of Trade dramatically altered the situation.

Trade changed club culture through the people that it brought together. While the club night was perceived to cater for the LGBTQ+ community, as long as an individual had the right attitude they were welcome at Trade. The freedom to self-express through art, music and fashion saw this unique after-hours experience become a haven for creativity.

02. Entrance to Trade nightclub at Turnmills, 63b Clerkenwell Road, early 1990s WP
Entrance to Trade nightclub at Turnmills,
63b Clerkenwell Road, early 1990s

The host location, Turnmills, quickly became one of the UK’s most renowned and state-of-the-art night clubs presenting other famous events such as The Gallery, Heavenly Social (featuring The Chemical Brothers) and Smartie Party. On special events, such as Trade ‘birthdays’, the rear-located gym and other rooms were opened to cope with demand; club capacity could reach over 1000 people. It was Trade, however, that was most admired and the club’s motto quickly became “often copied, never equalled.”

Trade would regularly employ go-go dancers and drag queens and, on special occasions, such as its birthdays and themed nights, extra performers and singers were hired to intensify the production. Staff also enjoyed running other special Trade events. These included Pride, London’s annual LGBTQ+ march and festival, and Christmas Day when 10pm was the opening time and the atmosphere totally different; it felt even more decadent to be partying that particular night!

04. Poster for Trade’s 12th Birthday, 26 October 2002 WP
‘Trans Europe Excess!’ Poster for Trade’s 12th Birthday, 26 October 2002

Journey through sound
The music at Trade was innovative. It was first to offer club goers the concept of a journey through sound. Hard-edged Techno music intensified the whole experience. Due to the creativity of Trade’s DJs, who included Malcolm Duffy, Tony De Vit, Ian M and Pete Wardman, it became the birthplace of Hard House. As a result, albums were released and tours outside London were undertaken, boldly taking Trade’s distinctive sound to a mainstream audience. Gender at Trade was never an issue either. Among the sought-after female DJs brought in by Laurence were Smokin’Jo, Sister Bliss, Queen Maxine, Vicki Red, EJ Doubell and Rachel Auburn.

Trade went on to have a hugely influential and profound effect on the British and international club scene, as well as to all those who stepped onto its dance floors. The club didn’t restrict itself to just Clerkenwell. It often toured with its resident DJs, taking Trade music and the experience to new clubbers. From its base in EC1, Trade visited most of the UK’s major cities and it enjoyed its own arena at Creamfields dance music festival.

Trade across the world
Trade was also a brand whose name and music reputation was to spread across the world, with events in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Dublin, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur, Miami, Rio, Sydney, Tel Aviv and many more international locations. Trade enjoyed residencies in Ibiza, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and even Moscow. It made appearances on TV, most notably in 1998 with the Channel 4 documentary Trade: The All-Night Bender.

Last dance
Sadly, due to the closure of Turnmills as a clubbing venue,  Trade’s final club night in EC1 was Sunday 16 March 2008. The club opened its doors at 05:00, finishing over 12 hours later! During the event, Laurence Malice thanked clubbers and associates for their support and requested that everyone “really go for it!” Trade DJs past and present, including Malcolm Duffy, Ian M, Steve Thomas, Daz Saund and Pete Wardman, all performed to a sell-out crowd, and it fell to Wardman to play the last set – the final record being Schöneberg by Marmion.

05. Turnmill, 63 Clerkenwell Road, EC1, August 2020 WP
Turnmill, 63 Clerkenwell Road, EC1, August 2020. This six-storey
office building replaced the former club venue in 2015.

Glorious celebration
Trade continued having one-off events in venues around London before settling at Egg on York Way, Islington, and then only celebrating its birthday each year. It was decided that Trade’s 25th birthday event at Egg in October 2015 would be its last, ending in a glorious celebration of Trade history. The sheer drive and creativity of Trade saw it become the first gay super-club night, an innovator in music and fashion and a unique brand, promoting for many, a unique way of life. And, it all began 30 years ago in EC1!

Mark Aston
Islington Museum | Islington Local History Centre, 2020

Article first appeared in the EC1 Echo, No. 6, October/November 2020. Reproduced with thanks.

Images reproduced courtesy of Islington’s Pride Archive (at Islington Local History Centre), collecting and celebrating Islington’s LGBTQ+ Heritage.

Visit Islington Museum’s 2015 exhibition celebrating the 25th anniversary of Trade: Trade – often copied, never equalled

Black History Month 2020

Islington Organisations: black owned and providing support for black people

Islington is host to a number of organisations run by black people and providing support for black people. Here are a just a few of the organisations in the borough that have contributed to our online display for Black History Month, see the gallery of images here. If you would like to contribute to the display please get in touch by emailing or for more information go here.

Avril’s Walks and Talks

Avril Nanton set up Avril’s Walks and Talks in 2016, focusing her walking tours in particular on the African Caribbean histories and communities across London. In 1965 she moved to Britain from Dominica and grew up in Canonbury, Islington. She is now one of the few black female professional guides in London and a member of various institutions including the British Library and the London Metropolitan Archives.

Avril’s tours include historical sites across London such as Trafalgar Square and Cleopatra’s Needle in Westminster. In Islington, Avril’s Walks and Talks will take you on a journey through some of the prominent black histories in the borough from the British headquarters of the African National Congress (ANC) to the Eritrean Embassy in London.

Avril’s Walks and Talks website:

Every Voice

Every voice is an organisation, established in the borough of Islington in 2009, that works on anti-racist practices and co-creating spaces for healing and liberation. With three main steams of work they focus on: Research, Advocacy and Reflection, Healing and Liberation, and Critical Histories and Futures.

Every Voice’s campaign work aims to address persistent social inequalities affecting black and brown communities. The Islington Race Equality Forum is a network, bringing together community organisations, residents and activists, with quarterly meetings to discuss and reflect on issues of social inequality. Every Voice also collaborates with other organisations to provide events and activities for the community including Black History events. Find out more about the various work streams and projects that Every Voice is involved in on their website.

Every Voice website:


REWRITE is an organisation set up to support and champion black women and women of colour writers by providing the tools, space and confidence they need to achieve their writing goals. REWRITE is run entirely by women. Founded in 2018 by Christina Fonthes, a Congolese-British writer, after her own search for a supportive writing community focused on black women and women of colour, and noticing there was a need to create support in this area.

REWITE offers courses, masterclasses and workshops for women to explore their creativity and develop their skills. Their first courses took place at New Beacon Books, the UK’s first black publisher and specialist bookshop. They also review books of all genres and produce their own literary magazine titled REWITE READS which features work by black women and women of colour. Find out more on their website.

REWRITE website: /

Say It Loud Club

In 2010 the Say It Loud Club, a support group for LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers, was established in London by Aloysius Ssali. Aloysius set up the first Say It Loud Club in Uganda in 1994, where homosexuality is a crime. He was forced to flee from Uganda when the club was reported to the authorities and managed to gain asylum in Britain on the grounds of sexuality.

The Club provides community, understanding and improves wellbeing; in particular, caring for the mental health and reducing loneliness in the LGBTQ+ refugee and asylum seeker community. People using the service are often from countries in which homosexuality is criminalised and scorned. They are able to share their experiences through the club to give them the confidence to live openly with their sexuality.

Say It Loud website:

Talk for Health

Talk for Health is a programme developed by psychotherapists to teach people a method for therapeutic talking to improve health and wellbeing. The organisation was started in 2008 by Nicky Forsythe. In response to the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter campaign, a member of the Talk for Health community set of a monthly Black Lives Matter chair and share group. The group is going strong. Anyone wishing to join can get in contact by emailing

Talk for Health website:

Head over to the image gallery to explore more black culture and history in Islington


Blog Post Local History

Hitler’s Guy Fawkes Day Surprise: The Archway V2 Rocket Attack 1944

Where three residential roads in Archway, Islington, north London, meet is the site of a tragic loss of civilian life during the Second World War (1939-45).  A plaque commemorating the event can be seen at Giesbach Road Open Space, Giesbach Road, Islington N19 3EH. 

Scene at Holloway after a German V2 rocket fell in the evening destroying 18 houses and causing several deaths during the Second World War. ;Rescue workers search for surviviors amongst the rubble ;November 1944

The aftermath of the V2 Rocket attack in Archway, Islington,
5 November 1944. (Image: Mirrorpix)

Wartime strike
A little after 5pm on Sunday 5 November 1944, a V2 rocket was launched from its site in the Hague, Netherlands – its target was London. Just  minutes later, at 5.13pm, it exploded at the junction of Boothby, Giesbach and Grovedale Roads; nearby St John’s Way was also caught in the strike. This was the first enemy long-range V2 rocket to hit Islington.

Over 250 people were casualties of this wartime attack, which included 35 deaths and 219 suffering from injuries. The oldest person to die as a result of the explosion was aged 92 years, who passed away four months later, and the youngest was just five months old. Many houses were also destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

Vergeltungswaffe 2
The V2 (German: Vergeltungswaffe 2 or ‘Retribution Weapon 2’) was a long-range single stage missile or rocket, which used advanced technology to cause destruction and devastation. Standing at 14 metres on end, with a 1-ton warhead of high explosive, it travelled at 3,500 mph and could reach an altitude of 50-60 miles before arcing in a 120-mile trajectory. The V2 had a flying time of 10-30 minutes before crashing, exploding and usually causing a large crater. There was no indication or noise of its approach, as it could travel at supersonic speed at over six times the speed of sound.

The first V2 Rocket to hit London , causing three deaths, occurred on Friday 8 September 1944, falling on Staveley Road, Chiswick. This was the first of over 500 V2 rockets to strike the capital between September 1944 and March 1945.

V2 Rocket in the Peenemünde Museum, Germany 2005 LR

V2 Rocket in the Peenemünde Museum, Germany, 2005.
(Image: Creative Commons)

Diabolical weapon
In his unique and fascinating account of Islington during the Second World War, Civil Defence in Islington 1938 – 1945: an account of passive defence and certain aspects of the war as it affected the borough (1946), Islington Town Clerk and ARP Controller W. Eric Adams recalls the attack:

The enemy had in preparation an even more fearsome weapon in the shape of the long-range rocket. The first two of these heard in Islington was on the 8th September 1944. Although they fell at Chiswick and North Weald respectively, they sounded quite near. They were kept very hush hush and were facetiously referred to as “exploding gas mains”. The explosions were never acknowledged throughout the attack, as to do so would have given valuable information to the enemy for use at the launching sites in Holland. In sharp contrast to normal high explosive and [V1] Flying Bombs no warning at all was possible with rockets, in consequence of which the difficulties of the Rescue Service were greatly increased.

The first rocket to fall in Islington was at Boothby Road on a Sunday afternoon in November 1944. It was a ‘diabolical weapon’. At the moment of impact it was travelling at possibly 3000 miles an hour, which is much faster than the speed of sound; consequently, the first intimation of its arrival was the impact explosion. This was followed sometime after by the characteristic rumbling noise of its passage through the earth’s atmosphere. In some cases the effect was of a double explosion. The rocket, like the fly bomb, carried the high explosive in the nose, the remainder of its 40 ft. length being occupied by means of its propulsion.

Mr Adams continues:

Heavy rain
The Boothby Road incident occurred on a Sunday and the heavy rain which fell rendered the widespread clay, resulting from the explosion, very greasy and difficult to negotiate with casualties and heavy equipment. The work of the services was, however, eased to some extent by the employment for the first time in the Borough of an Army searchlight which proved invaluable. Although this incident which had occurred at 5.30 pm on the 5th, the last casualty was actually recovered on the morning of the 6th, the remaining time being spent in searching for persons whose whereabouts had not until that time been established. During this period the specially trained dogs made available to the Civil Defence Services were used in order to try to locate the persons believed missing.

Scene at Holloway after a German V2 rocket fell in the evening destroying 18 houses and causing several deaths during the Second World War. ;Rescue workers search for surviviors amongst the rubble ;November 1944

The aftermath of the V2 Rocket attack in Archway, Islington, 5 November 1944. This photograph was taken the following morning and shows rescue workers searching for survivors buried in the rubble. Nearby Archway Central Hall was used as a temporary mortuary. (Image: Mirrorpix)

W. Eric Adam’s account has, more recently, been supplemented by a number of eyewitness or secondary accounts from those who experienced the attack or who had members of their immediate family recount the incident:

Gillian Joel (née Stephens)

Mrs Joel’s account was published in the Islington Gazette in February 2020. She was six when her mother Sybil and brother James were killed after the rocket hit their home at 32 Grovedale Road, Upper Holloway, in 1944.


Mrs Joel in Grovedale Road, c.2019. (Image: Islington Gazette)

Her father, John Stephens, thinking Gillian dead, had gone so far as ordering her a coffin. However, she was in hospital after being saved from the rubble by Islington-based rescuers:

I remember going to the underground when the sirens started, it must have been Archway Underground. There was a green case at the door that dad would pick up. It had an eiderdown blanket in it and I would sleep with another blanket over me. It was our emergency pack, and I remember dad would carry me to the station. I don’t really remember anything from the bomb, except I was playing downstairs with my brother, James. I still have shrapnel and glass in me and only a few years ago a bit of glass came out of my head.

Read the full Islington Gazette interview with Mrs Joel here.

Ray Hardiman

Mr Hardiman recounted his memories of the attack on the excellent Archway Revisited Facebook Group:

I am somewhat familiar with this episode since I lived in one of the houses destroyed by that V2. I was just approaching my ninth birthday (December 44) at the time.

The V2 hit at about 5.30 pm on a Sunday in November 1944 … I do remember my mother saying something about “Hitler’s Guy Fawkes Day surprise” … I was in the Electric cinema at the Archway with my elder brother (aged 10) at the instant the rocket hit. In those days the first film showings on a Sunday was after 4.00pm (mustn’t clash with church going I suppose!). The film was Dive Bomber with Errol Flynn starring; Sundays films were always repeats of earlier releases; this one was first shown in 1942.

… Suddenly there was an almighty thump and dust drifted down from the ceiling. That was close, everybody thought  – the cinema is actually about a half-mile from the impact – and carried on watching the film. A little while later we became aware that the usherette was flashing her torch down the row where we were sitting. “There they are” somebody said, and we were beckoned to come out of our seats … When we got to the foyer we discovered that one of my elder sisters and her boyfriend had come to fetch us. I was amazed to see that they were covered in dust and dirt from head to toe! We were told that our home had been hit by a bomb/rocket and we were then to be taken to the boyfriends (parents) home somewhere not too far away.

At that time we had no idea whether any of the rest of our family were alive or dead … Eventually we discovered that all the family had survived although my parents had been cut about by flying glass. My baby sister was asleep in her pram in the front room of the house, and a tiny splinter of glass landed in the middle of one of her cheeks! Thankfully it never affected her eye but left her with a small scar . Not so fortunate was one of my playmates and his younger sister and parents. They lived in the house whose rear garden was the point of impact of the rocket.

V2 Archway image (ILHC) 02
The corner of Giesbach Road and Boothby Road, Archway, after the V2 rocket attack. The corner and destroyed houses are now covered by Giesbach Road Open Space. (Image: Islington Local History Centre)

We lived in number 38 Giesbach Rd, which is the second house from the end on the south side [now gone, replaced with Giesbach Road Open Space]. The family who died (whose name unfortunately I have forgotten) lived in the corner house on the north side of Grovedale Rd. I am fairly certain that the rocket impacted in the rear garden of their house. Thus this house took the brunt of the blast as well as the back of the house in St John’s Way and the sides of the end houses on both sides of Giesbach Road. All adjacent house were also heavily damaged of course. Our house being the second from the corner was a little protected, and also the blast must have dissipated to some extent up the middle of Giesbach Rd and across the front of our house rather than directly at it.

We obviously never went back to the house which was pulled down along with many of the other houses round about. Eventually new blocks of flats were built over the site of the bomb damage and also the top half of Boothby Rd so that it no longer intersects with St Johns Way. I never got to see the conclusion of the film Dive Bomber until about thirty years later when it turned up on television!

Read the full Archway Revisited posting with Ray Hardiman here.

Islington V2 rocket attacks
There was a lull of 11 days before the second V2 landed in Islington at 2.46am on Thursday 16 November at Mayville Road, killing seven and injuring 53 people.  During this second stage of the Third Reich’s V-rocket campaign, nine V2 rockets exploded in the borough killing 288 and injuring over 1000 people. The worst of these attacks were Mackenzie Road (26 December 1944) and Smithfield Market (8 March 1945) which, combined, witnessed 183 deaths.

The devastation to buildings in Islington (not including Finsbury) due to the V2 rocket explosions was immense. Serious damage, sometimes beyond repair, was caused to 18,000 houses, 72 public houses, 55 factories, 28 churches and 10 schools.

Islington remembers
Islington remembers all those who suffered in the tragic Archway incident, as well as everyone who died and were injured in countless other V rocket attacks and enemy air raids across Islington and beyond during the Second World War.  They will not be forgotten.

V2 Plaque roll of honour

Islington Civilian War Dead Memorial Islington & Camden Cemetery East Finchley (24 Jan 2018) (3)

Memorial to the civilian dead of Islington (1939-1945), Islington and Camden Cemetery, East Finchley, 2018: “This memorial has been erected to perpetuate the memory of those citizens who lost their lives as a result of enemy action during the Second World War, and whose remains lie buried in this cemetery.”

V2 plaque image

Islington Memorial Plaque unveiling on 23 July 2021 to commemorate the loss of lives and those injured in the first V2 rocket attack on Islington,
5 November 1944. L-R: Revd Nigel Williams, Islington Mayor Troy Gallagher, John Williams (whose lost his first family in the blast),
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Cllr Janet Burgess.
(Photograph: Copyright Em Fitzgerald Photography)

Mark Aston
Islington Museum | Islington Local History Centre
October 2020, revised July 2021

Related sources and links

V2 Rockets:

Islington and the Second World War: