Caribbean Takeaway Takeover in Essex
An art and sound installation of stories from Caribbean elders will be on display at S&S Café & Takeaway, St John Street, Colchester this summer, running from 23 June until 22 July. It is part of a project organised by Evewright Arts Foundation, made possible by National Lottery players through a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Photo: Windrush passenger Alford Gardner © EVEWRIGHT all rights Reserved 2018
The Caribbean Takeaway is an important cultural meeting place in the Caribbean community. A home from home, the kitchen is where meals are prepared, but also where stories are exchanged and shared. Going back to African roots, cooking and the Dutch pot or cooking pot was the central place for the family activity. The takeaway has just as much cultural importance as the barbershop and the hairdressing salon for black communities living and working in the UK.
Evewright Arts Foundation has decided to take over and appropriate the only Caribbean owned takeaway in Colchester Essex to create an exciting art and sound installation to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the landing of the SS Empire Windrush in Tilbury Essex in June 1948.
Ten selected Caribbean elders who arrived in the UK between the 1940s and 1960s volunteered to share their stories with the public using voice and sound recordings. Their stories reveal their journeys, their lives in Britain today, the impact of their contribution to British society and the legacy they will each leave behind.
Artist EVEWRIGHT will create a further intervention in the takeaway café space creating special limited-edition portraits of the participants using photo etching as a medium. This project, Identities and Stories Caribbean Takeaway Takeover, is to be displayed in a free exhibition open to the public at S&S Caribbean Café & Takeaway, a working café, and focus for the black community in Colchester. The space will be taken over, repurposed and transformed into art installation where sound recordings of the elder’s stories are played throughout the day during the weekend. The takeaway will continue to function as an eatery allowing visitors an opportunity to sample Caribbean cuisine. The installation will remain in situ for a further month. Over the opening weekend programmed spoken word events will take place on the Saturday. Members of the public can pop in and view the exhibition or add their stories to our memory box. It will be a place to takeaway a slice of culture and learn about the lives of Essex Caribbean elders.
A website as a resource will be launched and once the project is completed members of the public can access the full audio recordings at Essex Records Office in Chelmsford Essex.
Artist EVEWRIGHT, said: “This will be the first time such an exhibition will be hosted in this unique setting giving a platform to people whose untold stories can be share with the wider community.”
About the Participants
The ten elders who shared their stories live in or have connections to Essex. They are, Alford Gardner, Albertina (Tina) Aparicio, Carlton Darrell, Nelzine (Nell) Green, Don Sydney, Carol Sydney, Lenore Sykes, Alton Watkins, Gloria Whyte and Hamilton Williams.
Five women and five men took part providing a rich blend of inspiring, heart-felt, and sometimes courageous stories. Participants originally came from islands across the Caribbean from Jamaica, Bermuda, Trinidad, St Vincent and Grenada all sharing a common goal to make a better life in Britain the Motherland, with ambitions, by some, to one day return to their homeland.
One participant Alford Gardner joined the war effort as a Royal Airforce (RAF) recruit in 1943 and was demobbed back to Jamaica in 1947. He returned to England as one of the few original passengers still alive today who travelled on the SS Empire Windrush from Jamaica to Tilbury Essex in 1948. At aged 92 Alford can remember his journey and his life as vividly as if it happened yesterday. Alford said he was, “proud that a man who wouldn’t learn British history is now history.”
At 93, Tina Aparicio is the oldest interviewee. She first came to England from Trinidad in 1958 to undertake her nursing training. She returned to Essex in the early 1960’s and became a midwife in Thurrock district for over 25 years having delivered more than 2000 babies during that time. She has amazing stories of nursing not only ordinary people but a member of the British Aristocracy too.
Two female participants, Lenore Sykes and Nell Green were nurses from Trinidad and Jamaica who both married English doctors in the 1960’s. Their stories shine a light on mixed relationships during this period and brings a fascinating first-hand account of attitudes from both black and white people to such unions then and now.
Carlton Darrell aged 78 arrived in the UK from Bermuda in 1960 and worked as a teacher in Grays in Thurrock for over 40 years where he became the first black deputy and head teacher of a primary school in Essex. His stories of his time in education are fascinating and his contribution to sports earned him an MBE in 2010
Another retired teacher interviewed was Alton Watkins aged 89 who had ambitions in his youth to become an Olympic long-distance runner. He arrived in England in 1956. “The streets were filled with gold, metaphorically,” he said because he took every opportunity to get an education to become a Geography teacher. He was proud to, “contribute to society” and see pupils he taught become useful members of society.
There are many more stories from men and women who worked as midwives, nurses, post office worker, teachers, professional singer, factory workers and mechanics.
The project was oversubscribed with requests from elders and organisations, not just in Essex, who wanted to be involved in the project. It shows there is a demand for this work to continue. This project will encourage dialogue and increase understanding amongst young people, elders and the wider community of this period in history and the contribution that these pioneers from the Windrush generation has made to Britain.
The National Lottery funded project was created by EAF Project Director Artist EVEWRIGHT and co-ordinated by Project Manager Ionie Richards who is a writer and historian. Ionie Richards said, “It was a rewarding experience for us to work with young volunteers to meet and listen to the lives of ordinary but extraordinary people. Most participants were in their 80s or 90s so this project will help towards building a local archive of first-hand accounts of untold stories of a disappearing generation before it is lost.”
About Evewright Arts Foundation
EAF is an Essex based not-for-profit voluntary community organisation that works with young Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people to advance and develop contemporary arts, culture and heritage within BAME communities. They are passionate to seek out, find and preserve valuable untold stories from marginalised Black communities and present them in informal settings in an innovative and engaging way bringing hard to reach young and older generations together.
Everton Wright (EVEWRIGHT), a Black British artist, uses a diverse range of media spanning moving-image, drawing, performance, painting and sculpture. Influenced by his heritage his practice explores the relationship between the body, identity, Britishness, and spaces they inhabit in public and virtual realms. Evewright studied at Central St Martins and Middlesex University. He’s exhibited internationally including Royal Academy of Arts, BFI (British Film Institute) and currently exhibiting as part of the Britishness Project -Firstsite Gallery Colchester.