By Dermot Kavanagh
A biography of England's first professional black footballer, who represented Leyton Orient, West Bromwich Albion and became the first Englishman to play for Real Madrid
Sunday, 27 March 2016
LAURIE CUNNINGHAM REMEMBERED IN N19
Almost three years ago, in summer 2013, I helped organise an exhibition about Laurie Cunningham in Archway. It ran for a week on Junction Road in N19 in a disused shop that Islington Council had made available for twelve months as an art space. Now, of course with its proximity to Dartmouth Park 'village' (an ever- rising property hotspot), it is a glossy estate agent's with a silly and pompous name : Century 21. I didn't realise it at the time but Cunningham was born virtually opposite the shop on a road called Brookside Close although the house has long since been demolished. The exhibition was well put together by a local charity called All Change Arts and Arsenal in the community who work with teenagers on the nearby Elthorne estate just behind Archway roundabout. The Elthorne boys slected pictures of Cunningham to exhibit and one boy wrote an essay about Cunningham's life as part of his application for a college course in America. The exhibition opened on a sweltering July evening and everybody crammed into the tiny corner shop, which with its glass surround took on the atmosphere of a greenhouse in the evening sun. The best moments were hearing Laurie's brother Keith and his ex-teamamte Cyrille Regis speak so movingly about him and his ex-girlfriend Nikki who had come all the way from Cornwall was fascinating too. Also two of his team mates from his first football team Highgate North Hill were there. Robert Johnson was Laurie's striking partner at the age of eleven and together they tore up the youth league's of London and beyond. Although the exhibition was shortlived, it only lasted five days, looking back it was then that I realsed I could write the story of Laurie Cunningham.