Evelyn Dove
Evelyn Dove

Evelyn Dove

Evelyn Dove, born in 1902, was the daughter of Francis Dove, a barrister from Sierra Leone, and his British wife Augusta. The 1911 Census reveals that Evelyn and her mother resided at 25a Barnard Road, Battersea, South London. Despite Francis’s work in Ghana, he maintained regular contact with his family, providing them with financial support. The Census also indicates that Augusta and Evelyn enjoyed a middle-class lifestyle.

After receiving a private education, Evelyn Dove pursued her passion for music at the Royal Academy of Music, specializing in piano, elocution, and contralto. Her graduation in 1919 marked the beginning of her professional journey. Initially, she aspired to a career in opera or the concert hall circuit. However, her path led her to the worlds of jazz and cabaret, which she found more alluring.

By the time of the 1921 Census, Evelyn was already performing with the Southern Syncopated Orchestra, a band renowned for pioneering jazz in the UK and Europe, and had embarked on tours across Europe, Asia, and America.

Evelyn achieved several firsts throughout her life, but her most notable achievement was becoming the first woman of African heritage to be broadcast on BBC Radio three years after its launch in 1925. She starred in various productions for the station during the ’30s and ’40s and 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, work proved difficult to come by, and she took odd jobs and worked as an understudy in a few productions before securing stage and TV roles again. As she got older, her work and health began to fade, and she lost contact with her family.

In 1972, Evelyn was admitted to a nursing home in Epsom, Surrey, where she died of pneumonia in 1987. In 1997, the historian Stephen Bourne became the custodian of her archive, which he later included in a biography, Evelyn Dove - Britain’s Black Cabaret Queen, published by Jacaranda Books in 2016.

To launch the 2023 BHM season in the UK, Nubian Jak Community Trust partnered with the Sony Music UK Social Justice Fund with support from The Battersea Society to install the plaque at 25a Barnard Road, Battersea SW11 1QT on 29th September 2023

“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 was the first woman of African heritage to be broadcast singing on BBC Radio. We’re so pleased she will be getting the recognition she deserves at the home where she once lived in Battersea.” Charlotte Edgeworth, Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Social Impact at Sony Music UK
“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.” Dr Jak Beula, CEO of the Nubian Jak Community Trust
"Evelyn Dove defied convention. She was an adventuress who broke away from the constraints of her English middle-class background to tour Europe and become one of the most glamorous and charismatic entertainers of the jazz age. It is fitting that she should be honoured with a plaque." Stephen Bourne, author of Evelyn Dove - Britain's Black Cabaret Queen