Celebrations of Sheffield’s Windrush generation

The Black History Month exhibition at Sheffield Winter Gardens
The Black History Month exhibition at Sheffield Winter Gardens

A series of Black History Month events are taking place in Sheffield to celebrate the contributions made by the Windrush generation of migrants from the Caribbean and their descendants, many of whom were born in the city.

In 2018, we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush ship to Tilbury Dock, Essex in June 1948, bringing the first, large group of 492 eager, young people from the Caribbean, hoping to build a new future in the UK.

Francesca Peterson's picture, called It's All About Culture, part of the Windrush pioneers exhibition at the Winter Gardens, Sheffield

Francesca Peterson's picture, called It's All About Culture, part of the Windrush pioneers exhibition at the Winter Gardens, Sheffield

A small group representing the Black Majority Churches and community organisations have come together in recent months to organise events which will help the Sheffield population to reflect on the reasons why men, women and their children began migrating to the UK in the late 1940s, 50s and 60s, and what they have contributed to British society.

As the UK began rebuilding after the destruction of the Second World War, it required men and women to fill the many vacancies in industry, as well as to staff the newly-created National Health Service and its expanding transport systems.  

The UK looked to its ‘colonies’ and invited young, adventurous men and women to come to the UK to help rebuild the ‘Motherland’ and improve their own life prospects in the process.

Our exhibition in the Winter Garden, Sheffield that eneded yesterday, Friday, included over 20 life stories of the Windrush era pioneers who arrived in the UK in the 1950s and 1960s and then settled in Sheffield.  

Self-portrait by Lerleen Willis, part of an exhibition of black artists' work at the Art House, Sheffield

Self-portrait by Lerleen Willis, part of an exhibition of black artists' work at the Art House, Sheffield

Their stories and photographs tell of their experience of migration, discrimination and ultimately of finding their place in a new country.

 The diverse ways in which this generation of pioneers have contributed and continue to contribute to the rebuilding and flourishing of the UK economy through their work makes fascinating reading.  Their photographs also charts their life journeys from the fresh, young, eager individuals who arrived on foreign shores, to older, wiser and more mature citizens.

A small art exhibition at the Art House, 8 Backfields, in the city centre,running to October 31, presents 17 paintings and drawings by local, amateur and aspiring African-Caribbean artists.  

The aim is to celebrate the often-hidden talent and creativity of the Windrush generation and their descendants.  A number of gems can be found in this small exhibition, among them a couple of exquisite pieces by young, aspiring artist Francesca Peterson, aged 20.

Finally, we will be reflecting on the many ways in which the Black Majority Churches have sustained and encouraged the African-Caribbean community in Sheffield over six decades at a one-day conference at the Family Life Centre, 40 Nursery Street, Sheffield, S3 8GG on November 3, 10am-4pm.

The exhibitions have been made possible by the support of Sheffield City Council (Equalities and Involvement) who have contributed to the cost of framing some of the art exhibits, paying for the exhibition space in the Winter Garden and covering the cost of printing the stories presented there.  

We are indebted to the Art House charity which generously donated their Wellbeing exhibition space to our art exhibition for the whole month of October, free of charge.  

Lerleen Willis is writing here on behalf of the Black History Month planning group, that also includes Sandra Bell, Clinton McKoy and Leroy Wenham.

For more information, see http://www.sadacca.co.uk/black-history-month-1st-to-31st-october-2018/