News from 180991 — You’ll see how the past shapes the future.

Dr David Dunkley Gyimah
3 min readJul 27, 2022

Some exciting and impacting news on 180991: The importance of archive for Black British people and scholars, its agency, and how it threads autobiographical stories and challenges representation.

The email said congratulations 180991 has been selected for a major conference focusing on the BBC’s history of Radio.

This was the pitch below.

The lack of archive documenting Black British people diminishes the public and scholars’ knowledge of Black people’s lived experience told in their own voices, says academic and media producer David Dunkley Gyimah.

How is the tragic death of George Floyd reflected through the brutal beatings of Rodney King? How would Herman Ouseley (now Lord Ouseley) overhaul race relations in Britain by becoming the first Black CEO of the CRE? And how did a small UK band D-Influence become the support act for Michael Jackson?

In the early 1990s London’s BBC station GLR appointed two graduates, first generation Black Brits, to helm a new speech-based show catering for a new audience.

The show “Black London” became the focal point for social issues and a stopover for Black British and US celebs, such as: Eartha Kitt, Alice Walker, Fela Kuti, Norman Beaton and Spike Lee. The Voice Newspaper called the show “informative, interesting and lively (Gyimah, 2020).

GLR never kept any recordings of the show but thirty years later during lockdown, its co-presenter and producer (this author) Gyimah discovered recordings which submitted to FIAT/ IFTA was deemed historically important and digitised (ibid).

“180991” is envisaged as a visual auditory exhibition that provides an opportunity, not unlike BBC Radio 4’s Rewinder, to trace the significance of archive impacting Black people’s lives that threads the future.

When I played recordings of Kwame Kwaten’s D-influence, whose career now includes producing for Jay-z, he was overwhelmed. “Wow, wow, wow! It’s amazing”, is all Kwaten could say before adding this collection has huge importance for reflecting what it was like growing up in the 90s.

Amongst the archive, the listener discovers from interviews the first jeans company to buck the trend of not hiring black models. the first Black and brown students into Oxford via its new scheme, how the Black Lawyers Society campaigned against Suss laws, Afro-aerobics, the new premiere season and black players.

The talk situates 180991 in a political and social timeline creating a contextual value to the archive. It will draw on recent conversations with interviewees at the time, or otherwise people connected to them.

This author is an accomplished photographer and international award-winning filmmaker, hence integral to the exhibition will be stories from listeners or people influenced by the content in 180991.

He has written about their initial findings in Representology, the journal he cofounded with the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity at Birmingham City University. The journal attracts leading writers exploring ideas around equity, inclusion and diversity.

IThis exhibition speaks to the value of archive, identity, media representation, and autobiographical stories. My deep thanks to archive producer Jose Velazquez, MA who led the digitisation of the archive.

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Dr David Dunkley Gyimah

Creative Technologist & Associate Professor. International Award Winner Cinema journalist. Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled Top Writer,