Footballer Laurie Cunningham - promotional image used for N17 radio programme

Hearts for the Arts 2021 Shortlist – N17

Haringey Council's radio programme - N17 - has been shortlisted for Best Arts Project in the 2021 Hearts for the Arts Awards

N17 is a radio programme created in partnership by students of Harris Academy Tottenham, Kick it Out, Threads Radio, Haringey Council, RoughHouse Theatre and playwright, Dougie Blaxland. With the support of the Windrush Day Grant – the partners worked collaboratively to produce and broadcast a radio programme – N17 – to coincide with Black History Month. N17 celebrates the extraordinary contribution made to British Society by descendants of the Windrush generation who settled and brought up their families in Tottenham. The programme was researched and scripted by students at Harris Academy Tottenham with the support of award-winning playwright Dougie Blaxland. The same students also conducted recorded interviews (via zoom) with a number of people who come from Tottenham and have made a significant contribution to a wide range of areas: David Lammy MP, BAFTA-winning actress Letitia Wright, England cricketer Mark Alleyne, the family of England footballer Laurie Cunningham, International composer Dr Shirley Thompson, and rapper and social entrepreneur Mary Otumahana.

The programme was originally intended as a ‘live event’ to be staged at The Bernie Grant Arts centre in Haringey to coincide with the Windrush Festival 2020 in June. Because of COVID, however, the project was adapted to meet the needs of social distancing, and as a result a radio programme was produced and broadcast by Threads Radio in October 2020. After the first broadcast of N17 on October 2nd, the audience response was so positive that Threads Radio decided to broadcast the programme two more times during Black History Month.

The project was dedicated to celebrating the lives and achievements of British citizens descended from people enslaved under the rule of the British Empire, revealing the untold stories of the Windrush pioneers and the remarkable legacy that they have given to us. It provided a really important counterbalance to a dominant media presentation of Tottenham and N17 as an area associated with riots and knife crime perpetrated by young black males. In this context the interviews conducted with the younger citizens of N17 were deeply revealing and highlighted the powerful sense of community pride that exists in spite of the negative publicity. The project enabled the next generation of young Black British citizens – represented by students of the Harris Academy – to articulate their individual and collective hopes and aspirations.

N17 has brought local educational, political, cultural and artistic organisations together in pursuit of a common goal to celebrate cultural and racial diversity in our society. The project undoubtedly helped everyone involved retain a sense of purpose and balance during the weeks of lockdown and the months of social isolation.

What the judges said:

“A valuable and accessible project, which engaged young people during Black History Month, teaching them new skills and allowing their work to be distributed to a wider audience. By highlighting the lives of the Windrush generation and their descendants in their local area, the project had relevance and significance both to the young people involved, and to the wider UK audience who were able to listen to the programme.”

“An inspirational project targeted at a clearly identified community need and formed on the foundation of a strong cross-sector partnership. The level of engagement and coproduction with the young people involved in the project was very impressive.”