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City pupils to open Windrush exhibition at the Library of Birmingham

Published: Monday, 21st May 2018

Birmingham school children will meet members of the Windrush generation, as they open a community exhibition marking the 70th anniversary of Empire Windrush’s arrival in Britain, this week.

The Windrush Generation exhibition - organised by VOWS Community Enterprise, co-ordinated by Shanti Bromfield - will bring together the experiences of those who arrived from the Caribbean between 1948 and early 1970s to help rebuild post-war Britain.

Pupils from Benson Community School in Hockley will officially open the exhibition at the Gallery, on Level 3 of the Library, on Thursday (24 May 2018) at 11am.

Eunice McGhie-Belgrave MBE, who travelled from Jamaica with her family in 1957 to start a new life in Birmingham, will be among the special guests at this event.

An ardent campaigner, Eunice worked with young offenders following the Handsworth riots in the Eighties until she retired in 1999. She also worked to highlight the value of allotments and encouraging Afro-Caribbean women to grow their own vegetables. In 2002, she was awarded an MBE, and received the Queens Golden Jubilee Medal for Voluntary Service in 2004.

Artwork produced by pupils from Benson Community School, also illustrates what the Windrush Generation’s contributions to British life and local communities means to them.

Photographs by Vanley Burke – who arrived in Birmingham from Jamaica in 1965 - capture the lives and experiences of the Afro Caribbean community, along with works by historian Ras Habte Wold and photographer Anthony McFarlane, will feature in the exhibition which runs until 30 June 2018.

Original luggage, passports and family histories depicting what life in Birmingham was like for the new arrivals plus a recreation of a traditional family living room using original furniture, will also be on display.

VOWS (Various Outreach Working Services) is a Birmingham-based organisation that works with young people and senior citizens to create better community cohesion.

Paul Rose, CEO and founder of VOWS, said: “This is an ideal opportunity for the city’s Afro Caribbean community to share their stories as part of the Windrush generation.

“Memorabilia, artefacts, documents, photographs and oral histories have been sourced from the community, which provide a valuable insight to their experiences over the past 70 years. These highlight the legacy of their contribution to British society to the next generation, represented by local school children who have also contributed to this exhibition.”

Councillor Tristan Chatfield, Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Community Safety and Equalities, said: “The Windrush Generation, who first arrived on British shores in 1948, were symbolic of the many people we have welcomed to our city from the Caribbean. This exhibition recognises their positive impact and contributions to Birmingham life over the past 70 years.”

The exhibition coincides with the city council’s Empire Windrush exhibit at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which runs from 22 to 26 May.

The display, which aims to capture the pioneering spirit of these passengers, will be rebuilt in Victoria Square in time to mark the anniversary of Windrush landing on British shores on 22 June. The Windrush garden willl then be moved to Handsworth Park later this summer.

Birmingham City Council would like to hear from citizens with Windrush connections – whether a passenger themselves or a relative of someone who was – to share their stories for use as part of the Chelsea Flower Show display and promotional material. To share your story, please email birminghamchelsea@birmingham.gov.uk