We are delighted that The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust is our London and Canterbury studios' charity of the year. Here, Architectural Assistant, and Charity Ambassador, Nyamoi Fall Taylor, reflects upon her experience as an alumni bursary student with The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and how our studios are looking forward to supporting the communities and young people that the Trust supports.
Stephen Lawrence was murdered in 1993 — a murder that shocked Londoners and called for an overhaul of police procedures and attitudes towards race. For my parents, this tragedy reinforced the realities of bringing up a black child in Central London and I think it was instrumental in their decision to move out of the capital.
I always knew I wanted to work in architecture. From having a family background in construction, it was subconsciously embedded in me from a young age. When I was applying for universities, my mother was researching funding options I could apply for and this was when I first became aware of Stephen’s case and The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.
Stephen’s mother, Doreen Lawrence, founded the charity in 1998, on the premise that inequality must be tackled in all its forms. This includes inequality of access, and of opportunity, wherever it occurs. The charity works to ensure that young people can get the opportunities denied to Stephen by his murder and inspires and enables young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and underrepresented groups into professional careers.
The Trust helps enable students to get into careers in architecture — a profession which Stephen wanted to enter — and that’s also why I applied. My first interview was a terrifying prospect. I presented a portfolio of my school work and extracurricular interests to Doreen Lawrence and a panel of trust representatives. Preparing for this interview was extremely formative and it was through visiting the recently opened Centre, designed by Sir David Adjaye, that I started to understand the breadth of opportunities that the bursary could bring me.
When I received the news that I had been granted a bursary I was overwhelmed, it was amazing. The SLCT offered me a bursary for 3 years — £3000 a year towards my studies which I could use for materials, books, study trips and what every architecture student will understand the expense of — printing! From this point on, my awareness of the charity and its aspirations encouraged me to feel secure in knowing that I was in the right place and deserved to be there, as much as anyone else.
My bursary and the SLCT’s support was my only foot in the door. It was hard to get work experience paid or unpaid, I worked part-time throughout my studies and during the holidays I tried to work within the industry. I always had someone I could call at the Trust, to give me support and guidance. Through the Trust I was able to network and pick up the phone to architectural practices who wanted to take my call, I didn’t have to rely on a long-awaited response from an email enquiry sent four months previous. The SLCT invited me to events (lectures, exhibitions, award ceremonies) which were great opportunities to meet interesting people in the field and grow connections. Being invited and included, that’s important.
In 2018 I was invited to attend the Stephen Lawrence Memorial, at St Martin’s in the Fields in London. This event had a lot of press; speeches from Prince Harry, Dame Cressida Dick, Sadiq Khan and Lenny Henry, it was very impactful. Theresa May announced that the 22nd of April will become a national memorial day for Stephen Lawrence, saying the day will be used “to encourage and support young people and to reflect on Lawrence’s life, death and the positive change he has inspired.” It will be interesting to see what comes from creating a national memorial day for Stephen. I hope that it is widely recognised and raises awareness about injustices not just within the community that it affects.
Through fundraising and the SLCT ‘Building Futures’ initiatives, I hope that Purcell will develop a long-standing relationship with the Trust. It’s great to see that the SLCT has a good relationship with Historic England and has worked with students who are interested in conservation. With a wealth of engaged students who are associated with the charity, I am excited that Purcell has this opportunity. We have some amazing projects across our studios that would be extremely interesting for students to be involved with, and as our London and Canterbury studios’ chosen charity of the year, we’re really looking forward to working with the Trust.