A typical Caribbean ‘front room’ and diverse personal histories in exhibition
This Saturday the London Borough of Brent will kick off a series of events to mark the 70th anniversary of the arrival of The Windrush with an exhibition about the life experiences of Borough residents who came her from the Caribbean between 1948 and the late ‘60s.
Willesden Green library will be filled with Caribbean music, dance and activities with a wide variety of events suitable for all ages. Windrush Celebration Day on Saturday 23 June (12 noon to 4 pm) at the Library at Willesden Green will be an afternoon of free events for all ages including live music from St Michaels and All Angels Steel Orchestra and the Reggae Choir, dance performances from Namron Dance and a specially commissioned dance theatre piece by Impact Dance along with Caribbean themed face painting and craft workshop. The accompanying exhibition will run until the end of October.
The Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury on 22 June 1948. Some 500 of the passengers on board had come from the Caribbean to Britain to work, invited to help with the post-war rebuilding of the country because Britain was so short of workers in many areas including transport and the newly formed NHS. Consequently, that generation of immigrants who came to Britain from the Caribbean between the 1940s and 1960s came to be known as The Windrush Generation.
The Brent exhibition is about the lives of Brent residents who were part of this generation with their stories old through words, objects and portrait photography. It also seeks to examine the cultural impact this generation made on Britain “through carnival and music” and a highlight of the exhibition will be a replica of a traditional West Indian ‘front room’.
It includes intimate portraits of Brent’s Caribbean community by artist and photographer Nadia Nervo while two original poems by Malika Booker narrate the experiences of the community’s first arrival in the ‘Mother Country’. A commission by Mahogany Carnival Design – made by students from Queens Park Community School, Harlesden Primary School and Alperton High School – combines tradition with legacy.
An installation of a traditional ‘West Indian’ living room closes the exhibition representing the many homes that have been made in Brent. Zerritha Brown, Cultural Operations Manager and Artistic Director for Windrush 70 said: “It was important to mark the 70th anniversary particularly as Brent has a large Caribbean community.
The Caribbean diaspora is present in modern life, with influences evident in fashion, music, dance as well as the world of entertainment, sport and politics, yet still the story of Windrush is not widely known. I wanted the exhibition to provide a platform to showcase the stories of the Windrush generation.
“It has been an honour developing Windrush70. We have met some inspirational people and uncovered some truly emotional stories which has highlighted the resilience, pride and courage of the Windrush community who came here to strive for a better life.”
The people inter- viewed for the Windrush 70 project came here to work in a wide variety of fields including medicine, transport, industry, music, construction, entertainment, sport, politics and fashion. One of the oldest participants is 97- year old Mr Rev. Norman Watson Mitchell MBE. He came to Britain from Jamaica in 1955 to work as a Glass Quality Control Inspector. His first home in London was in Forest Hill where for two years he lived in cramped conditions sharing a house with fifteen other Caribbean migrants, his bedroom was shared with seven other people. Mr Rev.
Mitchell moved to Harlesden in 1957 where he decided to settle as he liked Brent and found the people “social” which reminded him of Jamaica. His family, including his daughter Liz Mitchell who would go on to become an acclaimed reggae singer and member of Boney M, then came over to join him. He still lives in Harlesden and was awarded an MBE for Community Work and Service in 2014.
The exhibition will be on 21 June – 29 October at the Library at Willesden Green, entrance to the exhibition is free of charge. Windrush 70 has been funded by Arts Council England with support from the British Library and Reggae choir.
For further information about Windrush 70 and Brent Culture please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Brent will also be holding a number of Windrush themed events throughout the rest of this year