Newly opened square honours Hackney musical history

BRAFA Square in Hackney.

BRAFA Square in Hackney commemorates the British Reggae Artists Famine Appeal Team (BRAFA) who recorded a 1985 charity song for famine-hit Ethiopia. - Credit: Wayne Crichlow

Visitors flocked to a new square in Hackney which celebrates how a group of musicians raised thousands for famine relief in Africa.

BRAFA Square, at the entrance to the new Britannia Leisure Centre, commemorates the British Reggae Artists Famine Appeal Team (BRAFA) who recorded a charity song, ‘Let’s Make Africa Green Again’, in 1985 to fundraise for famine-hit Ethiopia.

It was followed by a benefit concert in Shoreditch Park in 1986 which was attended by 10,000 people.

An original copy of the 1985 BRAFA record, Let's Make Africa Green Again.  

An original copy of the 1985 BRAFA record, Let's Make Africa Green Again. - Credit: David Corio

BRAFA secretary Raymond Dangarembizi told people at the square’s opening ceremony on October 6: “Unity is strength – what people can do when they work together.”

He was one of the team who worked with Leon Leiffer of the reggae band the Blackstones who came up with the idea for a fundraiser.

Leiffer first thought of staging a concert in 1984 at a venue like the Royal Albert Hall but it proved difficult to find backers.

BRAFA Founder Leon Leiffer With his original unopened album at the launch of BRAFA Square. 

BRAFA Founder Leon Leiffer With his original unopened album at the launch of BRAFA Square. - Credit: Wayne Crichlow


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He said: “I thought if Africa was having a problem with famine we should do something. It is for humanity to help prevent people from starving to death.”

The following year, Bob Geldoff and Midge Ure staged the Live Aid concert in Wembley.

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Gene Rondo came on board with BRAFA after meeting Leiffer at the Roots Pool Community Centre on Sandringham Road in early 1985.

BRAFA Square celebrates Hackney's musical history. 

BRAFA Square celebrates Hackney's musical history. - Credit: Wayne Crichlow

The BRAFA team soon included fellow musicians, including Courtney Carr, Raymond Dangarembizi, Ras Elroy Bailey, Jah Bunny, Tony Douglas, Ken Kendricks and Fay Addison.

They were frustrated by the lack of African and Caribbean heritage artists on the Band Aid charity song and registered BRAFA at Gene Rondo’s home on Hyde Road, close to the new square.

Tony Douglas, Leon Leiffer, Geno Rand and Fay Addison Leiffer put pen to paper and wrote the lyrics for ‘Let’s Make Africa Green Again’.

The square officially opened on October 6, 2021. 

The square officially opened on October 6, 2021. - Credit: Wayne Crichlow

More than 300 singers, musicians, Hackney residents and school children performed on the charity song, which was recorded at Eddy Grant’s Hive Studios in Stoke Newington.

The money raised went to the Save the Children Fund for long-term development projects in famine-affected areas of Africa.

The BRAFA charity record.

The BRAFA charity record, Let's Make Africa Green Again, at the square named after it and the people who created it. - Credit: Wayne Crichlow

Leiffer brought his original and unplayed copy of the record to a special ceremony to mark the opening of the square.

BRAFA’s achievements are reaching a new generation after local residents suggested the name for the square when Hackney Council asked for suggestions to put to a vote.

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