Theatrical send-off for community activist Peter Scott Blackman

Published: 29 March 2012

IT was more like a piece of theatre than a funeral as family and friends gathered to celebrate the life of Peter Scott Blackman on Friday.

It started with a service at Golders Green Crematorium where more than 200 people paid their last respects to Peter, who spent a lifetime fighting for racial and social justice through music and community activism.

Instead of hymns, people sang songs by Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff, there was live music by master kora player Tunde Jegede and  Steel ’n’ Skin, the drum and steel pan group Peter set up in the 1970s.

His eldest son, Peter, read the popular John Agard poem “Excuse me standing on one leg, I’m a half caste”, while another son, Rory, played a rendition of Marley’s Redemption Song on the trumpet.

But this was only the beginning.

Mourners made their way en masse to Kilburn High Road to take part in a parade toward Peter’s West Hampstead home that was led by Steel ’n’ Skin.

Then it was down to the Camden Centre in King’s Cross to join others for a reception hosted by Ghanaian-born drummer Lord Eric Sugumugu.

“Peter always thought the best way to break down the barriers between the races, between young and old was through arts and culture,” said Patrick Vernon, chief executive of health care equality body Afiya Trust, which Peter headed until his retirement in 2008.

Just how was demonstrated by the screening of a 30-minute film which followed Steel ’n’ Skin during a visit to Liverpool in 1979, where they worked with children and adults making costumes, masks and drums, and teaching them traditional African dance.

Led by Emmanuel Tagoe, Steel ’n’ Skin then took their older selves up on to the Camden Centre stage for a fulsome tribute to their founder, joined by members of Peter’s family, who all wore a strip of Ghanaian kente cloth on their shoulder.

Peter, of Queensgate Road, West Hampstead, died on March 1 aged 71 after a long illness.


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