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Book Launch, Author Talk and panel discussion about THE MARVELLOUS ADVENTURES OF MARY SEACOLE

May 12, 2021, 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm


A talk by author, actor and blues singer Cleo Sylvestre about the writing and performance of her one-woman play The Marvellous Adventures of Mary Seacole. Cleo was also involved in the long campaign to erect a statue of Mary Seacole outside St Thomas’ hospital. Mary Seacole was voted the Greatest Black Briton but her achievements were airbrushed from British history for many years.

Followed by a panel discussion to discuss the legacy of Mary Seacole and the standing of black medical practitioners in the UK today. May 12th is International Nursing Day.

Speakers include:

Patrick Vernon, Jak Beula and others tbc.


“You brought the spirit of Mary to life.” – Zoe Gilbert, Florence Nightingale Museum

“Thank you for such an excellent rendition of Mary. It was truly brilliant.” – Lord Soley

“Be prepared, Cleo Sylvestre will transport you back to the Victorian age and leave you thinking that you had actually met Mary Seacole.” – Dame Elizabeth Anionwu


Theatre: Cleo made her West End debut in Wise Child by Simon Gray with Sir Alec Guinness for which she was nominated Most Promising New Actress. She then went on to be the first Black British actress to have a leading role at the National Theatre in The National Health by Peter Nichols followed by seasons at The Young Vic including tours to Broadway and Mexico. She has performed in a wide range of theatre productions including touring with Northern Broadsides and Oxford Playhouse. For twenty years until June 2016, Cleo was joint Artistic Director of the award-winning Rosemary Branch Theatre.

Film: Cleo was in Ken Loach’s films Cathy Come Home, Up The Junction and Poor Cow and has acted in numerous tv shows from Grange Hill, to presenting Playschool, and guesting in the Christmas 2020 special of All Creatures Great And Small. She made several shorts for Isaac Julien including Vagabondia (Turner Prize shortlist), was in Kidulthood and Tube Tales (dir. Jude Law) and Paddington. In 2019 Cleo received the Screen Nation Trailblazer Award.

Music: Having made a record with the (then unknown) Rolling Stones while at school, she recently returned to her first love, music, forming the blues band, Honey B Mama & Friends, who have appeared at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Ealing Blues Festival among many other venues.


Patrick Vernon OBE social commentator, cultural historian and health activist. Patrick is a Clore and Winston Churchill Fellow, Fellow of Goodenough College, Fellow at Imperial War Museum, Fellow of Royal Historical Society and former associate fellow for the department of history of medicine at Warwick University. Patrick is also founder of Every Generation Media and 100 Great Black Britons, which develops education programmes, publications and films on cultural heritage and family history. Patrick was made Pioneer of the Nation for Cultural History by the Queen in 2003.He is a leading expert on African and Caribbean genealogy in the UK. Patrick was a leading campaigner for a national Windrush Day for the last 10 years. He also played key role in campaigning for the Windrush Generation in helping to expose the scandal with over 180,000 people signing his petition for an amnesty for the children of the Windrush Generation in 2018. He also launched the Windrush Justice Fund with JCWI to support grass roots and community organisations help victims resolve their legal status and claim government compensation scheme.

Patrick was awarded an OBE in 2012 for his work on tackling health inequalities and ethnic minority communities. In 2018 he received an honorary PhD from Wolverhampton University and was selected as one of the 1000 Progressive Londoner by the Evening Standard. In 2019 he was awarded lifetime achievement award for campaigning and advocacy work by the SMK Foundation. In 2020 Patrick was selected by British Vogue as of Britain’s top 20 campaigners and was included in the 2020 Power list of 100 influential Black People in Britain.


Dr. Jak Beula started his illustrious career as a singer-songwriter, before becoming a social worker with Islington Council. After working with disaffected young people, he decided to produce an “uplifting” board game which offered positive role models of people of African descent. The game was named “Nubian Jak” and became a multi-award winning success both in the UK, and parts of the US. The Nubian Jak game today now includes books, a mobile app, and an English Heritage approved African history commemoration programme considered by some to be the most renowned plaque and sculpture scheme in the world.