South London Memories: Telling stories of black culture

The impact of an influx of activists of the Windrush Generation on cultural life in South London is celebrated in an exhibition in their heartland next month.

Black Cultural Archives (BCA) is to host a new exhibition, Expectations: The Untold Story of Black British Community Leaders in the 1960s and 1970s, which will take over the entire building for two months, launching with a VIP opening on August 7 and running until September 28.

The show, in Windrush Square, Brixton, has been curated by acclaimed photographer Neil Kenlock – founder of Choice FM and former official photographer to the British Black Panthers – and his daughter Emelia Kenlock, to raise awareness of untold stories from Black British culture.

They also hope it will reveal some of the stories of change to younger generations. And they want it to spark discussion, inviting the community to respond and share their ideas and impressions of the photographs.

Many of the pictures are from Mr Kenlock’s own archive.

He will also give two public talks, Untold Story of Black Community Leaders in Lambeth, and Black Women and Leadership.

A group of 70 photographic images, to mark the 70 years since Windrush, will be divided into three themes of challenges, collaboration and change throughout the two decades from the 1960s to the 1970s.

Among those images will be the notorious Keep Britain White campaign from 1972 that depicted the resistance to black immigration.

It will give a unique insight into the lives and experiences of the first generation, African and Caribbean leaders who settled in the UK and influenced the community in Lambeth and the surrounding boroughs.

Among those depicted are broadcaster and civil rights campaigner Darcus Howe, anti-discrimination, women’s and squatters’ rights campaigner Olive Morris, Lord David Pitt – Baron of Hampstead, Labour Party politician, GP and political activist, Arthur Stanley Wint, the first Jamaican Olympic gold medallist and Jamaica’s High Commissioner, and Steve Barnard, the first black BBC radio presenter with a reggae music show.

Steve Barnard

Neil Kenlock said: “Many young black people from our community only engage with heritage when they visit museums during their educational studies.

“This project aims to give access to examples of black leadership, as well as archive material outside of the normal educational environment.

“Over 50 years since the concept of ‘black excellence’ first manifested, and 70 years on from the Windrush, I truly hope the exhibition will add to the national cultural narrative and resonate with new audiences.

“I would like to thank the BCA and the Heritage Lottery Fund for their support in the realising of this vision.” Black Cultural Archives director Paul Reid added: “BCA are proud to host Expectations.

“It will be the first exhibition takeover project of its kind at the BCA, that aims to increase public access to black cultural heritage whilst documenting past and present histories using unseen images. We would like to thank the trailblazer and thought-leader that is Neil Kenlock for the access to such an incredible and unique collection of images.”

The full archive of photographic images will be available at the dedicated website which goes live from August 7.

Details of Neil Kenlock’s two talks are yet to be confirmed.

The show is funded by a grant of £79,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, made possible by money raised by National Lottery players.

Introducing Five Key Players:

Darcus Howe: Was a writer and broadcaster who campaigned for black rights for more than 50 years and organised the 1981 Black People’s March after the New Cross fire in which 13 black teenagers died.

Darcus Howe

Mr Howe was born in 1943 in Trinidad – his father was a vicar and his mother a teacher.
He came to the UK in 1961 and lived in Brixton for more than 30 years.

He started his journalism career with the magazine Race Today, where he was editor for 11 years, and more recently he was a Voice newspaper columnist.

He made his name in the British Black Panthers, successfully challenging racism in the police during the Mangrove Nine trial at the Old Bailey in the early 1970s.

Olive Morris:  Born in 1952 in Jamaica, Olive Morris came to live in South London aged nine.
From her early teenage years, she became involved in community and political activism in Brixton.

Olive Morris

She was a member of the Black Panther Movement, helped set up women’s groups, including the Brixton Black Women’s Group and the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent, and was central to the squatter campaigns of the 1970s.

During her student years in Manchester (1975-78), Olive also became involved in the community struggles in Moss Side, contributing to the formation of the Black Women’s Mutual Aid and the Manchester Black Women’s Co-op.
Olive Morris died tragically young in 1979, aged only 27, of non Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

In 1986 Lambeth council named a building after her, Olive Morris House in Brixton Hill, in recognition of her lifetime achievements.

More recently, Olive Morris was voted by members of the public to feature on the one pound note of the Brixton Pound, a local currency created to boost the economy in Brixton.

Lord David Pitt:  The longest serving black Parliamentarian, he was granted a life peerage in 1975. He spent his life speaking out for the underrepresented black community in Great Britain.

Lord David Pitt

Born on the island of Grenada in the West Indies, Mr Pitt was raised a devout Roman Catholic.  In 1932 he won Grenada’s only overseas scholarship to attend the prestigious medical school at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. There he met and married Dorothy Alleyne; they had three children.

In 1943 Mr Pitt helped found the West Indian National Party and served as its president until 1947, advocating independence.

In 1959 Pitt sought to become MP for Hampstead and became the first West Indian black to seek a seat in Parliament. After a campaign plagued by racist insinuations, Pitt lost the election.

He did win in the ethnically mixed, working-class Hackney district in 1961 on the London County Council and when it became the GLC, he served as deputy chair from 1969 to 1970 and in 1974 became the first black chair, a post he held until 1975.

In 1970 Pitt ran for Parliament again, this time as a candidate in Clapham. He lost the safe Labour seat of Clapham in 1970 by an unusually large margin, where race became an issue. In 1975 Prime Minister Harold Wilson appointed Pitt to the House of Lords as Lord Pitt of Hampstead.

Arthur Wint: (main picture above: centre)

In the 1948 London Olympic Games, Wint won Jamaica’s first Olympic gold medal for the 400m (46.2 seconds), beating his team-mate Herb McKenley.

In the 800m he won silver. Wint missed a probable third medal when he pulled a muscle in the 4 x 400m relay final. In Helsinki 1952 he was part of the historic team setting the world record while capturing the gold in the 4 x 400m relay.

He served as Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Britain and ambassador to Sweden and Denmark from 1974 to 1978.

Steve Barnard:   Was the first person to play reggae music on British Radio.

The show was called Reggae Time and it was broadcast for two hours on Radio London in the early 1970s.

He also played rhythm and blues, soul and calypso, a range of black music, and also took a look at what and who was on in and around London at the time.

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