It was when Adrian Murrell saw offensive social media comments impacting on local race relations that he knew something had to be done urgently.
He believed that the reaction following the death of George Floyd in America was becoming a catalyst for division not discussion, conflict instead of cooperation.
Adrian, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Windrush Initiatives in Preston, drew on his many years of experience in both community and youth work to look for a positive way to go forward.
He says he wants to ensure that his home city of Preston is a place where communities can work together in harmony, recognise wrongs which need to be righted and understand each other better.
So it was that #Project846, launched last night at Preston North End’s Deepdale HQ, was born.
Adrian said: “It’s called Project 846 because that’s the amount of time, eight minutes forty six seconds, the policeman was kneeling on George Floyd’s neck.”
The project will comprise a course entitled The Black Experience,looking at the history of black inequality and protests in the UK and much community outreach work, before further discussions are held with the council and police representatives to feed back the issues raised and consider potential solutions.
Initially some 40 local residents from the Windrush community (comprising Caribbean residents who came over and settled in the UK in 1940s,and their descendants) will join the project, after which other local groups will be invited.
Working in partnership with the football team’s community wing and it's planned, in discussion with the city council and police, it aims to make a real difference by improving opportunities and understanding of both the differences and shared experiences of communities within the city.
Adrian said part of the work will look at recruiting police officers from the African Caribbean community. He said: “It might help in the way that we see police if there’s people that look like us.”
He continued: “When people are in custody we’re going to look for one of our ambassadors to be there.”
Adrian already had good links with PNE, having made contact with Tom Drake, Head of Community at PNE’s Community and Education Trust, previously about racial tensions in football.
PNE recruited the black player Arthur Wharton who played for them from 1886 -88.
Adrian noted: “Having Arthur play for the club more than 100 years ago we still didn’t have black people turning up for matches.”
The club has been working with Windrush to make its community programmes and matchday experiences more inclusive.
Tom said: “Preston is a very diverse community and the beneficiaries of our programmes don’t match that directly. We said let’s work together to tackle discrimination in the community and we’ll use football to start that...we’ve got the opportunity to work together to make a positive impact on the community.”
Preston Council leader Coun Matthew Brown said: ”We’ve got to work together to eradicate racial discrimination in Preston.”
Coun Brown said he hoped the project would also help improve health outcomes and job opportunities.
* For more information about the project or The Black Experience course email [email protected]