This Stunning Windrush Exhibition Lands In London In June

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 13 months ago

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Last Updated 18 May 2023

This Stunning Windrush Exhibition Lands In London In June

Discover things to do on and around Windrush Day (22 June) in our dedicated roundup.

A woman singing in front of a small group of people
Audrey Scott sings her hit 'Goodbye my Love' at the launch of the exhibition, Lovers Rock, a genre of reggae introduced by the second generation, in the Windrush Generation Legacy Association in the Whitgift Centre in Croydon. Image: Jim Grover

"It was incredible the response we had when we opened... in the first week we had to buy boxes and boxes of tissues because people would come in and they would reminisce and share their stories... we were full of emotion," says Deborah Klass, remembering an exhibition at the Windrush Generation Legacy Association in Croydon's Whitgift Centre, which she established in 2019.

Klass is one of many spirited women who feature in Windrush: A Voyage Through the Generations — a new photo essay by Jim Grover, celebrating the rich legacy of Windrushers (people who came from the Caribbean to live and work in Britain post-war), on the 75th anniversary of the SS Empire Windrush docking at Tilbury.

Elderly women in hats sitting around a table, eating their lunch
Lunchtime soup for the Stockwell Good Neighbours; a community group formed in 1974 for the over 60s, most of who are first generation Caribbean migrants. Many are grandmothers and have passed on their skills, such as cooking Jamaican food and crochet, to their grand and great grandchildren. Image: Jim Grover
A woman sits in the dark illuminated only by her screen
Monica Blair, who arrived from Jamaica in 1964, joining St James' Church night-time prayers by Zoom. Image: Jim Grover

"As I looked for examples of individuals doing inspiring things to keep the culture and traditions alive, I kept finding women," Jim Grover tells me, ahead of the launch of the exhibition at Clapham Library, which runs from the start of June 2023. "The first generation of women played a huge role, whether it be professionally, for example as nurses in the NHS, or whether it be as homemakers, mothers and grandmothers and they have become an inspiration for some."

Windrush Day events 2023. Jerk chicken and rice being dished out into containers
Elaine Roberts, second generation from Jamaica, prepares from scratch the free Thursday lunch, comprising traditional Jamaican food, for the local community in Clapham. Image: Jim Grover
A woman stand in her living room - gazing at framed family pictures over the mantelpiece
Monica Blair in her front room in her home in Clapham. The room is now largely silent following the death of her husband, Soney, who used to sit in it. The wall is covered with Harry Jacobs Studio portraits of her family through the generations. Image: Jim Grover

Among the subjects in Grover's paean to London's Caribbean community we meet the Stockwell Good Neighbours; a community group formed in 1974 for the over 60s, most of whom are first generation Caribbean migrants; Elaine Roberts, a second generation Windrusher from Jamaica who prepares free takeaways for the local community in Clapham; and singer/songwriter Audrey Scott, launching a lovers' rock exhibition at the Windrush Generation Legacy Association.

Then there is 110-year-old Merah-Louise Smith — amongst the oldest, if not the oldest, woman of Caribbean heritage alive today in the UK. "I used to go to the gym…I was kick boxing and line dancing," Smith told Grover recently. "She only gave these up at the age of 103 on doctor's orders!" laughs Grover.  

An elderly woman in a bright pink cardigan smiles at the camera
Merah-Louise Smith is 110 years old. Originally from Jamaica, she lives in her Croydon flat of some 50 years where she is looked after by her son, Tony. She has three children, six granchildren, 11 great grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren. Image: Jim Grover
An old man in a blue jumper smiling at the camera
97-year-old Alford Gardner who was born in Jamaica and who is one of only two known surviving adult passengers from the Empire Windrush in 1948. Image: Jim Grover

Back in 2018, Grover had his first Windrush-themed exhibition, Windrush: Portrait of a Generation, which saw 13,000 visitors in 17 days — a record for gallery@oxo. "Most importantly for me, around half were of Caribbean heritage and they loved it… and it made them feel proud to be recognised and celebrated in this way," he tells me. As a white man, Grover — who likes to get to know, and earn the trust of, his subjects before photographing them — was keen to tell visitors and subjects alike: "This is your story…not mine…feel proud!"

A blurred image of a woman in pink celebrating over a dominoes match
The Diamonds, a recently-formed women’s domino team in south London take, on the WASPs in Clapham. Games won are celebrated with exuberance! The Diamonds won the match by 11 points. Image: Jim Grover
Jayanne and Jordan Davis, third generation siblings, release white doves at a traditional Jamaican burial of their mother in Lambeth Cemetery. The white doves symbolise the transportation of the soul of the departed to heaven. Image: Jim Grover

This time around, Grover says he was keen to do something a little different. Aside from focussing on women, he also wanted to continue the story of the Windrushers. While photos of first generation figures like Merah-Louise Smith and Alford Gardner (one of just two known remaining adult passengers who came over on the Windrush in 1948) check in with old faces, this photo essay is very much about 'what came next'.

"The new work explores how the subsequent generations are leading their lives today and what is becoming of the distinctive traditions that the first generation brought with them," says Grover.

Two young women in floral dresses sat on a couch, looking into the lens
Kerryn Ghann and Krystyna Antoine are third generation twin sisters. Both work for the NHS, like so many of the first generation migrants, and have young families. Image: Jim Grover
A young woman in a blue apron funnels sauce into jars
Jayanne Davis, founder of ‘Jay’s Favourite Cuisines’, packages her Jamaican seasoning mix. Jayanne is the granddaughter, and thus 3rd generation, of Floris Bailey who arrived from Jamaica in the 1950s. Image: Jim Grover

The passing-of-the-torch for hobbies, jobs and traditions is at the heart of of Windrush: A Voyage Through the Generations. Doves are released in Lambeth Cemetery by siblings, marking the life of their departed mum. Kerryn Ghann and Krystyna Antoine, third generation twin sisters, both work for the NHS — a career path taken by many original Windrushers. Says Kerryn: "I don't want my Caribbean culture to fizz out and I don't want 'my girlies' to question their Jamaican roots."

A young girl in a white frock is baptised at the font
The Baptism in St James’ Church, Clapham of Sariyah, the great granddaughter, and thus fourth generation, of Floris Bailey who arrived from Jamaica in the 1950s. Image: Jim Grover
A young boy and a bearded man study a table with dominoes on it
The Brixton Immortals Domino Club teaching the young generation how to play the game as part of a collaboration with Lambeth Libraries. Jeremiah is nine. Image: Jim Grover

Some of the 70 photographs — which are also available as a book — feature the newest generation; one shot captures the baptism of Sariyah, the great granddaughter, and thus fourth generation, of Floris Bailey who arrived from Jamaica in the 1950s.

Elsewhere, nine-year old Jeremiah learns the art of dominoes — a Caribbean favourite — from older members at the Brixton Immortals Domino Club. "He loves to play dominoes… he loves to win… he is always asking for a round of dominoes," says Jeremiah's mum.

Windrush: A Voyage Through the Generations, Clapham Library, 1 June-2 September, free