Pioneers and Protest

The Black People’s Day of Action – A legacy

Students lead a protest inspired dance performance
Image: ‘No Justice, Just Us’ IRIE! dance theatre student site-specific performance in Fordham Park (2021).

Inspired by the legacy of the 1981 Black People’s Day of Action, this project led by IRIE! dance theatre has been working with Goldsmiths students to collect oral histories, personal and photographic archive material and delivered a series of creative workshops in local schools exploring the theme of protest.


On Tuesday 2 March 1981, the Black People’s Day of Action saw thousands of people gather in Fordham Park in the aftermath of the New Cross Fire, a tragedy that killed 13 young people at a house party 6 weeks earlier. The total who died as a result of the fire would rise to 14 two years later.

The day of action was in response to the national reaction to the fire, characterised by hostile media coverage, government indifference, and the culmination of historic racist and inadequate policing. It was a pivotal event in Black British history.

The demonstrators passed the house on New Cross Road where the fire had taken place, marching through London to Hyde Park and gathering support as they went.


IRIE! dance theatre is a pioneering organisation established in 1985 and now leading the first BA Diverse Dance Styles in the U.K.

The company is based at the Moonshot Centre, a location of historic Black-led community action of the 1970s and now a centre of dance, culture and African Caribbean heritage and practice for the whole community.

These factors have been key in the development of the Pioneers and Protest project.

Community day poster
Image: Community Day poster for the event held in Fordham Park (2022).

IRIE!’s Community Day at the Moonshot Centre in Fordham Park brought the community together for a screening of ‘Pioneers and Protest: Seeking Change’, a film combining the oral histories and personal and photographic archive material about the day of action.

The event also featured community performances and protest-themed activities.

Share your memories of the Black People’s Day of Action and the local area in 1981.

Project team

  • Beverley Glean, Artistic Director & Chief Executive Officer, IRIE! Dance Theatre
  • Julia Honess, IRIE! Project Fundraiser and freelance Creative Producer