School unveils mural of first Black Camden headteacher
- Credit: City Hall
A mural has been created outside a Camden school, commemorating the life of Dr Beryl Gilroy.
Dr Gilroy was the first Black woman to serve as a headteacher in Camden at Beckford Primary School, now known as West Hampstead Primary School, where she paved the way for people of colour in education.
The mural, which spans 15 metres, was commissioned by City Hall and Tate Collective in 2018 as part of the mayor’s #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign.
Beryl Gilroy's daughter, Darla Jane, attended the unveiling on a day she said was filled with "great sadness but great joy".
She said: “Her history and the history of that school will always be intertwined, because that's the place that's the school community where she realised her ambition to become a headteacher.
“In doing so, she became the first Black headteacher in Camden so that that piece of history and that legacy is always going to be there.“
Artist Fipsi Seilern, who was selected to create the mural, incorporated elements that are central to Dr Gilroy’s legacy such as the colours of the Guyanese flag and quotes from her book Black Teacher.
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Fipsi said: “I am honoured to have been given the chance to create artworks in homage to the wonderful Beryl Gilroy. Her achievements within the education system, and as a successful author, are a testimony to her tenacity, strength of character and positive outlook towards everything she put her mind to. I greatly admire her.
"My hope is that through these artworks, even more people will get to know Beryl Gilroy."
At the ceremony, students spoke of their personal connections to Dr Gilroy, hailing her as an inspiration and a trailblazer for equality.
Headteacher Sam Drake said: “It feels really significant that a woman of colour could achieve something in an era where you know how difficult it was to achieve that kind of role."
"We're just really proud that that's being represented in our school.”
The mural is the final piece in a series called LDN WMN.
Debbie Weekes-Bernard, London's deputy mayor for communities and social justice, said: “Dr Gilroy’s story is a significant part of London’s history and this work captures her outstanding achievements.
"It shows that education does not always happen in a classroom, and that information and knowledge can reach so many more people through the medium of art and culture.”