Southwark announces new library named after local hero Una Marson

22 October 2021

Southwark Council has named its latest library after Una Marson: local poet, playwright, campaigner for equality and the first Black woman programme maker at the BBC.

The council’s new Una Marson Library will open in the spring of 2022, inviting people in from a ground floor entrance that opens out on to a public square between Walworth and Old Kent Road. It will extend Southwark Council’s excellent offer for children and young families, through to work spaces for students, and also space for computer skills, dementia group, stay and play, homework clubs and more.

The council consulted people about the name for the new library, offering a selection of three and the majority of respondents said that they wanted it to be called the Una Marson Library.

Southwark Council embarked on embedding a ground-breaking new initiative to tackle racism, discrimination and inequality, a little under a year ago. It aimed to reconsider its values on an individual, organisational and borough wide level.

As part of this work, the council is looking to reflect the diversity of the communities who have populated and enriched the local area since Una Marson arrived in Peckham in 1932, as well as those before her and right up to today.

Because of its rich cultural history, Southwark already has a foundation of positively named streets and buildings, such as its Damilola Taylor Centre, Maldonado Walk and Bridgetower.

In order to build on this, the council is now working to produce a structure for future naming and renaming of public streets and buildings. This is being finalised, but criteria for people to be commemorated in this way will likely include local people who represent the borough’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities.

Una Marson is already recognised as a local in hero in Southwark. In 2009 a Blue Plaque was unveiled at her former home on Brunswick Square, in Camberwell. On arriving in the UK she was helped by Dr Harold Moody, another of Southwark’s great Black activists, who offered her a room at his family home on the Queen’s Road in Peckham.

It was during the Second World War that Una became the BBC’s first Black programme maker. She broadcast messages from servicemen and women in England, to their friends and families in the Caribbean, in her popular weekly series: Calling the West Indies.

Cllr Alice Macdonald, Cabinet Member for said: “Una Marson is a wonderful example to the people of Southwark and beyond. She overcame the challenges of arriving in a new country, and those presented by both her race and gender, in a time that was even more challenging than today.

“We hope that our Una Marson Library will inspire people to learn, grow, seek help and embark on new adventures, as well.”

Page last updated: 22 October 2021