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New £50 note should feature ethnic minority figure, say campaigners



Pressure is growing on Bank of England governor Mark Carney to choose an historic figure from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background for the new £50 note.

More than 200 people including prominent stars, cultural leaders and politicians have backed a campaign – led by Stand Up director Zehra Zaidi and the director of Every Generation, Patrick Vernon – for the new banknote to “reflect modern multicultural Britain”.

Among those who could become the first ethnic minority face on a British banknote include Noor Inayat Khan, Britain’s first Muslim war heroine, or Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole.

It comes after the Bank of England appealed for public nominations for a person to appear on the new polymer note, with nominations closing on Friday.

Mr Carney, who has already indicated a scientist will be featured, will make the final choice next year.

Ms Zaidi told Sky News she wanted the Bank of England to “commit to the policy of trying to source this first ethnic minority figure” as “inclusion matters”.

Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole has also been put forward
Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole has also been put forward

Campaign backer Lord Victor Adebowale, the chief executive of social care provider Turning Point, said it was an opportunity to “educate the country”.

He told Sky News: “I think it’s quite shocking – 400 years of the Bank of England and not one black face on any currency in multicultural country like Great Britain?

“We’re a global country, it’s obvious we should have a black face on the currency.”

In a letter to The Sunday Times, signed by the likes of comedians Sanjeev Bhaskar and Sandi Toksvig and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the campaign said a BAME figure would show their contribution the UK was “valued and recognised”.

“Ethnic minority communities represent 14% of the British population,” it said.

“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.”

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The executive director of the Equality Trust, Dr Wanda Wyporska, said it was time BAME “heroes and heroines” were recognised for their contributions to British society.

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

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