Stars among voices to campaign for BME figure to be on new £50 note

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More than 200 people including stars, cultural leaders and politicians have added their voices to a campaign to put an historic figure from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background on the new £50 note.

The Bank of England in November appealed for public nominations for the person to appear on the new polymer £50 note, with nominations closing on Friday.

The final choice will be made by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney in 2019.

Mr Carney has already indicated a scientist will be featured on the note.

In a letter to The Sunday Times the campaign calls on the Bank of England to “reflect modern multicultural Britain” by putting a person of colour on a note.

The letter is signed by more than 200 people including Lord Victor Adebowale, comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar OBE, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, comedian and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig, Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman, and Trevor Sterling, chair of Mary Seacole Trust.

Suggestions for who to be the first ethnic minority face on a £50 bank note include British’s first Muslim war heroine Noor Inayat Khan or Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole.

Mary Seacole statue
Portrait of Mary Seacole, painted by Albert Challen in 1869 (National Portrait Gallery/PA Images)

“We do not lack candidates, and arguably their achievements were the greater for having been made at a time when many careers and were effectively closed to them, whether through colonial rules, racism, or the legacy of slavery.

“However, no one from an ethnic minority has yet featured on a banknote.”

The campaign is led by Stand Up director Zehra Zaidi and and Patrick Vernon OBE, director of Every Generation Media.

The group said putting a hero or heroine from an ethnic minority background on the new notes this would show that their contribution to Britain was “valued and recognised”.

It added: “Changing this would send a message that the contribution of ethnic minorities to Britain’s history, culture and economy is recognised and valued.

“What better representation of “global Britain” could there be?”

Dr Wanda Wyporska, executive director of the Equality Trust, said: “It’s time our black heroes and heroines were recognised for their contributions to our society.

“Now more than ever, we need to celebrate the rich diversity of UK society: representation on bank notes is a great way to do this.”

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