London Blue Plaque Honours Groundbreaking Star Evelyn Dove
A blue plaque celebrating a pioneering singer and performer was unveiled in September.
The plaque marks the former home of Evelyn Dove, the first woman of African heritage to be broadcast singing on BBC Radio. This is the second of three plaques sponsored by Sony Music UK’s Social Justice Fund, in partnership with charity Nubian Jak, to commemorate Black Britons’ contributions to music culture and history. The plaque marks the house where Evelyn once lived at 25A Barnard Road, London SW11 1QT.
Born in 1902 to a London-based barrister from Sierra Leone and his British wife, Evelyn studied at the Royal Academy of Music – another SJF partner charity. After graduating in 1919, she had hoped for a career in opera or the concert hall circuit but found the worlds of jazz and cabaret much more accommodating. By the 1921 Census, Evelyn was performing with the Southern Syncopated Orchestra, a band comprising Caribbean, West African and African American musicians, widely credited for pioneering jazz in the UK and Europe. She then toured Europe, Asia, and America.
Starring in various productions for BBC Radio during the ‘30s and ‘40s, Evelyn had her own music series, ‘Sweet and Lovely’. In 1945 she hosted ‘Serenade in Sepia’ with Trinidadian folk singer Edric Conner which ran for forty-five weeks, proving so popular that it also aired on television. After the war Evelyn left the BBC to work in cabaret in India, France, and Spain. On her eventual return to the UK, she had a variety of jobs and worked as an understudy in a few productions, before securing stage and TV roles once more.
In 1972 Evelyn was admitted to a nursing home in Epsom, Surrey, where she died of pneumonia in 1987.
Charlotte Edgeworth, Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Social Impact at Sony Music UK, said: “Sony Music UK is delighted to support the creation of this plaque for Evelyn Dove, a trailblazing performer who wowed audiences across the world. Dove made revolutionary contributions to music and we’re so pleased she will be getting the recognition she deserves at the home where she once lived in Battersea.”
Dr Jak Beula, CEO of the Nubian Jak Community Trust, said: “The Nubian Jak team is delighted to honour Evelyn Dove with a London blue plaque. The plaque will be the first ever to a woman of colour within the borough of Wandsworth.”