Moving Here: The Windrush Generation in Leeds

Introduction

In June 1948 the ship HMT Empire Windrush arrived in the Port of Tilbury, London bringing migrants from Jamaica and other Caribbean islands. This was the start of a mass migration to the United Kingdom from the Caribbean in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

This was encouraged by the British government to fill a labour shortage following the Second World War. Many people from the Caribbean, especially the islands of St Kitts and Nevis, settled in Leeds. This display gives a snap shot of life in Leeds’ African-Caribbean communities.

We are grateful to everyone who contributed to this display. Material was collated from the local community by Khadijah Ibrahiim, poet and researcher.

Family Portraits

‘Do you remember the photographer, Mr Donne, on Chapeltown Road? Everyone went there for photographs!’
Quote from the Grandparent’s Social Link, Roscoe Church.

Many people did not own a camera, so visiting a professional photographer such as Gerald Donne was a way to record their life in Leeds.

Photographs such as these were sent to family members who were still living in the Caribbean, along with regular letters.

The Next Generation

As families grew, professional photographs became a vital way to introduce new members to those loved ones back home.

Arts Activists

Local activist groups such as Uhuru and the United Caribbean Association organised events and campaigns in the 1970s which fought for a sense of black pride and protested against racism.

Uhuru carried on a local Saturday School set up by their parents, which many children attended to learn maths, English and black history.

Annette Liburd, who was one of the editors at Chapeltown News and an activist in this movement, donated her archive of photographs to Khadijah Ibrahiim.

The images below are courtesy of Annette Liburd archive.

Carnival

The first Leeds West Indian Carnival was in 1967. It is one of the longest running carnivals in Europe and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018.

Community

Groups, people and spaces all contributed to a strong community spirit.

Girl Guides and Brownies were one of the first out of school activities young girls took part in.

The United Caribbean Association on Hall Lane in Chapeltown was bought by the Caribbean community in the 1970s. It hosted Saturday Schools and dance, theatre and art classes.

Tying the Knot

Wedding photos became another way of recording one of life’s milestones.

Chapeltown News

Events in Chapeltown’s African-Caribbean community were recorded in Chapeltown News.

Annette Liburd, one of the first black teachers in Leeds, was also an editor at the paper and Max Farrar was one of many prominent photographers.

Work

Work in Leeds was not hard to find, although it was not always well paid.

Ernest Williams was a cabinet maker and his wife, Birdie, was a seamstress.

Lucilda Wynter worked as a nurse at Leeds General Infirmary in the 1970s.

Mrs Gertrude Paul was the first black head teacher in Leeds. She worked at Elmhurst Middle School in Chapeltown. Now known as Bracken Edge Primary, in 2011 the school unveiled a blue plaque in recognition of her contribution.

Headley Golding was a bus conductor from 1960-1970.

Alford Gardner

Alford was born in 1926 in Jamaica and served with the Royal Air Force until 1947, but he returned to Britain in 1948 on HMT Empire Windrush.

He moved to Leeds to complete an engineering course and settled here.

St Claire Morris and a musical legacy

St Claire Morris was born in 1938 and arrived in Leeds in 1961. Already a keen musician, he started the Paradise Steel Band in the early 1970s. By 1976 he was Leeds’ first steel pan teacher in schools, travelling across the city and the country, breaking down boundaries with his pan and sticks.

Mr Morris, as he was known, was hugely influential in Leeds, until his death in 2017. The Paradise Steel Band reunited for his funeral. His legacy continues through a former student who teaches with the New World Steel Orchestra and his daughters Paulette and Annette Morris, known as Royal Blood, who are professional singers and vocalists.

Sound System Culture

Sound Systems were introduced to the UK by the Windrush generation. They are made up of very large speaker boxes, engineered to create a heavy bass, with a selector playing the records. Most records had an instrumental side called the ‘B side’ or the ‘flip version’ to which a toaster (an MC) would show his lyrical wordsmith skills.

Sound systems grew more popular around cities like Leeds during the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s with champion Sound Systems such as Mavrick, Jungle Warrior, Channel One and Ras Sparta to name a few. Prominent toasters from Leeds
included KD Ranks, Body Popper and Stylo and many more.

This culture has survived and has had an international impact across the globe.

Khadijah Ibrahiim | ROOTS RUNNIN II from Another Crossing

A video of  Khadijah Ibrahiim reading her poem ROOTS RUNNIN II from her book, Another Crossing, published by Peepal Tree Press. The poetry collection tells the  stories of an individual life, of a family, of the communities of Chapeltown and Harehills, and of crucial moments in the making of Leeds as a place where cultures meet.

The video was produced for Poets in the City and the British Library.

You can find out more information about the book on the Peepal Tree Press website.

Why do we tell our story?

‘We should speak to our kids about our story more.’
‘We are museum pieces now!’
Quote from the Grandparent’s Social Link, Roscoe Church

The people who contributed to this display wanted to share their stories and experiences.

This culture has survived and has had an international impact across the globe.

We are very grateful to everyone who contributed memories and photographs to this display:

Grandparents Social Link, Roscoe Church
Heather Nelson
Dana Williams
Jackie Brown
Khadijah Ibrahiim
Councillor Sharon Hamilton
Alford Gardner
Bridget Robinson
The Freeman family
The Morris family
Deonne Walters
The Armstrong family
Dahlia Wynter
Joan Fishley
Jeffrey Walwyn
Claude Hendrickson
Joe Williams
Marcia Linton
David Hamilton

Material was collated by Khadijah Ibrahiim, poet and researcher.