A new square at the entrance to Britannia Leisure Centre in Hackney has named BRAFA Square after a fascinating, yet forgotten, part of Hackney’s African Caribbean history. The name reveals the story of the British Reggae Artists Famine Appeal (BRAFA) which became Hackney’s answer to Live Aid in 1985.
When Band Aid was set up in response to the Ethiopian famine in 1984, Hackney resident, Leon Leiffer of The Blackstones was frustrated by the lack of African and Caribbean artists taking part. Inspired by his wife Fay Addison, Leon formed the British Reggae Artists Famine Appeal (BRAFA) with fellow musicians Courtney Carr, Ras Elroy Bailey, Tony Douglas, Raymond Dangarembizi, Jah Bunny, Ken Kendricks and Gene Rondo, who lived in Hyde Road by the site of the forthcoming square.
Two hundred reggae artists and members of the public answered a call from the BBC to help BRAFA record an alternative charity single ‘Let’s Make Africa Green Again’, which was produced in February 1985 at Hive Studios in Stoke Newington. The song was released by Island Records and performed at an open-air concert in Shoreditch Park the following year in 1985 raising thousands for the Save the Children Ethiopian famine appeal.
BRAFA’s legacy was rediscovered in 2019 during the Shoreditch Park Improvement Project when historical research was conducted to find a name for the new square and a local resident recalled the story. After making the final naming shortlist overseen by the Council, the public voted BRAFA as their favourite.
Emma Winch & Leon Leiffer would like to thank all who was part of the ceremony. ‘It was a great honour to welcome you to BRAFA SQ for such a momentous occasion for Hackney and for BRAFA family around the world – we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did’.
‘Over the past two years many of you have generously given time to the project – sharing stories, photos and memories for the film, helping with recordings, licences and permissions, supporting me to track down BRAFA members all over the world, helping to organise the ceremony, all sorts of tasks that have helped to get us to where we are today… We are extremely grateful for your help, support and belief in the BRAFA SQ project’.