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Friends of Greenwich Park

Paterson Joseph opens the Ignatius Sancho Café in Greenwich

On Saturday, 23 March 2024, The Royal Parks charity welcomed actor and author, Paterson Joseph to formally open the Ignatius Sancho Café in Greenwich Park.

The charity, which manages London’s eight Royal Parks, has funded the new community facilities as part of the ‘Greenwich Park Revealed’ project, alongside a grant from the Parks for People programme that is jointly funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund. 

The Ignatius Sancho Café honours the remarkable writer, composer and abolitionist who lived by Greenwich Park in the 18th century. 

Actor and author, Paterson Joseph, officially opened the café in a lunchtime celebration attended by guests from the local community and further afield.

Accompanied by long-time musical collaborator, Ben Park on the cello, Joseph delivered readings from letters written by Ignatius Sancho which were published in 1784, alongside excerpts from his life, in Joseph’s first novel, ‘The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho’.

Local musicians performed music composed and inspired by Sancho.

The café is a vibrant community space with accessible toilets, transformed from a private, residential lodge. The café sits within a new, landscaped community location, called Vanbrugh Yard, which was previously an underused private, commercial yard. In addition to the café, this new public space includes a volunteer hub, and a community kitchen garden.

Wesley Kerr, OBE, Trustee of The Royal Parks charity, who chaired the event, said: 

"Greenwich Park is an astonishingly varied public space. It is a Grade 1 listed park in a World Heritage site and a dearly loved local landscape, with thousands of trees, hills, valleys, watercourses, a deer park, and great horticulture. All embrace the most celebrated views of London. 

"Greenwich Park Revealed is the most significant investment in restoring and refreshing the park since the 17th century, when the famous avenues and Grand Ascent were created. It is improving facilities across all 183 acres of the park.

"The history is incredible, from Roman times and involving royals from Anglo Saxon and then six dynasties since 1433 when the park was enclosed. But our parks are also about the social history of England and the UK, and people come from near and far in their millions. We are delighted to recognise an essential story in opening this wonderful new community space, celebrating the remarkable life of Ignatius Sancho - who lived next to Greenwich Park for much of his early life and became the first person of African descent to vote in an election.

"Paterson Joseph's expert support and knowledge have been invaluable in enabling us to bring Sancho's story to life. We hope that by sharing this vital chapter of the park's past, we will inspire visitors from the local community and further afield to discover more about this remarkable man for generations to come".

Paterson Joseph, actor and author, said: 

“The opening of the new Ignatius Sancho Café is tremendously important in the quest to make British history inclusive of all its participants. By choosing to name this café after Ignatius Sancho, The Royal Parks has encouraged us all to know the value of our multi-ethnic history – a sign that Black British lives matter.

“Ignatius Sancho as a son of the borough is being venerated by his hometown in a way that would surely have made his heart soar. And what a wonderfully creative way to honour this icon of Black British History!”

Greenwich Park Revealed is a four-year project to protect, revive, reveal and future-proof the park, part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, for the local community and park visitors to discover and enjoy for generations to come.