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The Windrush Generation: Norman’s experience

2019 was the first year the UK celebrated Windrush Day as an officially recognised anniversary so we took this opportunity to talk with Caribbean elders and hear their experiences.

Rachael Minott, Horniman’s Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice), with the help of Shasti Lowton, created a series of events where multiple generations of Caribbeans could gather and share food, stories and advice.

Here, Mr Norman Mitchell, shares his experience and thoughts of the Windrush scandal and memories of coming to England in a moving interview by Shashti Lowton.

What are your early memories of life in England?

When the boat came in with us at 5 o’clock in the morning, we were meant to come out but unfortunately the ferry boat that should take us off the Fairsea wanted to charge them. Men were determined that they were not going to pay no more money because we had paid the fare to England. So when they see that the men refused to pay, then we did not come off until 2 o’clock that day. Anyway, we came off and we landed in Plymouth and then train took us from Plymouth to London. We had three trains, one to London, one to Bristol and one to Leeds, there was 300 of us that came on that boat. On the train coming up, we never see house have chimneys, so when I saw all these chimneys on these houses, I say ‘oh my gosh, look how many boiling house!’ Boiling house is where we make sugar. So that’s the only thing we see chimney with. So I say ‘what a lot of boiling house they have there’. So when I get home that is when I realise that is the house, true they had the fire and they had the chimney to take away the smoke. So that was my experience of coming in to London.

  • Mr Norman W Mitchell, Mr Norman W Mitchell, Photo by Sarah Duncan
    Mr Norman W Mitchell, Photo by Sarah Duncan
 

I came in on Sunday night, then on Monday I was to go and sign on, and luckily, a friend that was at the house told me to follow him on Tuesday morning where he works and I got there and I got the job. So yeah, I came in on Sunday night and then by Tuesday I was working! But unfortunately we loading a lorry with brick and one the brick on my side, six of us out there on the lorry, went cross the lorry and hit one of the Irish man in his head. And all of them said it was my brick, they didn’t know which brick but they all said it was mine, so because of that I was dismissed.

I still went out and tried to get another job, so it was a little difficult at first because there was no hot water in the house, there was no heating and there was no bathroom.

Where did you bathe?

We went to the public bath, every Friday we went to the public bath. So, even the small house lav was outside, so you’d have to come out the house sometimes and go round the back. It was quite difficult sometimes but we made it through.

It was again difficult finding room because the English people wouldn’t let the black people no rooms, and the Irish, they used to put a sign on the door saying ‘rooms for let but no dog, no Irish and no black’. But in the long run, things change and we get through.

So what day did you arrive in England and how much was your ticket?

I arrived on a Sunday, 1955.

And how much did you pay for your boat tickets?

In those days? £75.In those days it was a lot of money but it was reasonable.

Where did you grow up and were you like as a child?

I grew up in Jamaica. I was a very good boy, well most of my early days I grew up in church, Sunday school and from Sunday school I make a member of the Pentecostal church. My days were with church people and I lost my father at age 14 and then I took the responsibility at age 14 to assist my mother in everything that I could to assist her in until I was 27.

What was the best advice you’ve heard?

Well the gentlemen who was at my father’s age, they used to come to me and say, ‘boy you surprised me, I didn’t expect you to stand you to your mother as you do, and because of that I love you’ and all the big men became my friend.

And did they help and support you and give you advice to look after your mother?

Yes, well my father was a farmer so we needed to see about the farming and see that everything gets in place and in order to move on.

So what is the hardest lesson that you had to learn?

Well, I really do not make things bother me, don’t care how it is difficult, I try to make some way through. And I think that is what helps me that I am able to be here today.

Well we would say, to make the decision, and leaving home to be in England, in place that you no know no one or the land or what it is about. That’s a very big decision and something that you had to think about and over, because you going to somewhere where you don’t know no one. But I succeed.

What is your favourite family tradition?

Tradition? Well we was in corporation in unity. And the family tie was quite good and valuable, we used to counsel and have good consultation to try to sort out things when it becomes difficult.

I have one more question, and it’s a little bit more serious, what are your thoughts on the Windrush scandal?

Oh it’s very interesting, when I understand what was going on with the Windrush people, it makes me feel a bit distressed because when we came here, it was very difficult. It was hard because of the snow, because of the frost and because of the cold. We didn’t come from a cold country, so to make it was quite difficult. As I said to my friend ‘did you know, God give us a new body?’ Because a lot of us, do not think of it, because when we think of it we have sun, ninety-five degrees, seventy-five, eighty degrees, we came here, zero!  It was a great change, and away from the change…. The first time I saw the snow falling I didn’t know what it was and I was like, ‘a what dis falling down?’ so the foreman that I was working with he called us together and he asked us we want to go home. And I was so glad because I wanted to go home! Because I don’t know what dis…but it was when I get home that I realised what it was, it was snow! But it did stop. I get to understand the movements was in those days very difficult. For some of us, nine men used to be in one room. Sometimes they had 3 beds with 1 wardrobe or just a bed. You had to put your case underneath bed. Those were difficult days but we didn’t let those things bother us or trouble us. Well time long gone, thank God. Until today we are enjoying it.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us that you’d like to say?

We had a lot of Windrush meetings that have been organised and going on but one of the things that I would really love to see, is the people were deported, that they bring them back. Because they struggled in the early years through the snow, rain and cold and when they should be enjoying a fair life, they were put on a plane and sent back to the West Indies without relatives, without a place to live, that is most difficult and I really think about that and I wish that they could consider it. Some people have their houses here, they left their house, they lost their house, their pension and all what they worked for. It’s sad. Yes, yes, I trust that something better could be done for them.

The Windrush Generation: The Journey through to Life

2019 is the first year that the nation celebrated Windrush day as an officially recognised anniversary, so we spoke with Caribbean elders and heard their experiences.

Rachael Minott, Horniman’s Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice), with the help of Shasti Lowton, created a series of events where multiple generations of Caribbeans could gather and share food, stories and advice. 

Here, the group shares challenges in the education system, career successes and aspirations, through letters to their parents.

Morella Forde

  • Morella Forde, Morella Forde
    Morella Forde

Mum tells us how fortunate we are, she was born during wartime and had little schooling. She always looks up at us when she needs to write her letters or complete forms.

She tells us stories of her childhood days, sometimes not attending school and having very little to eat as it was difficult in the war.

I must say I am grateful for what I have achieved in my education here. I believe the education system in the Caribbean overall is much better than here. All of my friends who went to school with me always talk about how we were left behind when we came to school here.

We had already learnt all the subjects which was being taught according to our ages in the class. However, when you get older to 18 years on, you do need to leave Dominica and seek to travel to another country to study at university level as Dominica doesn’t have a university.

Catherine Ross

 

Mum and Dad - Your courage and persistence helped you succeed in creating a home for your family, providing for your growing family needs and inspiring your family and others to reach for the stars and follow their dreams.

What you will be delighted to know is the little clan you have created did just that.

  • Catherine Ross, Catherine Ross
    Catherine Ross

The name Ross is now associated with entrepreneurial activity and a range of business ventures - children’s nurseries and playschools, fashion and beauty salons, art and culture, and catering.

All these businesses have the same ethos as the one you created in your early days in England, bringing people together and helping them to survive, thrive and navigate their way around English society.

Your house parties were legendary; people still talk about them today. Many people say they don’t know how they would have coped in the early days of settling into the country if you hadn’t generously opened your home and hearts to them.

Shebeens and Blues Parties developed from house parties, but Caribbeans needed these spaces where they could escape the racism of those days.

Rachael

  • Rachael Minott, Rachael Minott
    Rachael Minott

Mum and Dad - Despite your knowledge and experience you had to start over with work here, because no one trusted what you knew.

You went from managers to receptionist, sat through interviews for jobs - which no longer existed - just to be tested.

You conducted yourselves in the constant pursuit of excellence and told us that it did not matter what we chose to do, but that we were the best we could be in that role.

You encouraged excellence and we too pursue excellence until this day. However, it means I expect excellence in return. Sometimes it means I am disappointed, by the world, the people I interact with and in myself.

Dunstan Creavalle

Pops - It's been nine years since you passed but not a day goes by without us celebrating your love of photography.

With me on my Samsung 8 plus and Vanes on her IPhone 8, we continue capturing magical memories and to make our own mark documenting history.

Your journey meant you were known throughout London (especially east London), as Andy the Photographer who did weddings, christenings, passports and many other celebrations.

  • Dustan Creavalle, Dustan Creavalle
    Dustan Creavalle

I am pleased that you got to see the start of my Photography Journey, with Soca News, then the City of London Black Police Association, which led to my connection with the 100 Black Men of London, and becoming their Official Photographer in 2002.

I know you will be pleased to hear that Vanes is continuing photography for 100 Black Men of London and taking things even further by creating videos that highlight the work we do.

In fact, last week she was representing at Caesars Palace Las Vegas!

I know as a boxing fan, that's one place you would have loved to capture Muhammed Ali.

The Windrush Generation: Teaching the Other Generations

2019 will be the first year that the nation celebrates Windrush day as an officially recognised anniversary, so we took this opportunity to talk with Caribbean elders and hear their experiences.

Rachael Minott, Horniman’s Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice), with the help of Shasti Lowton, created a series of events where multiple generations of Caribbeans could gather and share food, stories and advice. 

Here, the group discussed what they wish they could teach the generations.

Vanes Creavalle

I think maybe the power of accepting change.

Because it’s really hard to accept change, especially when you’ve seen a lot and experienced a lot of things, and I feel like you need to be more accepting of change in that there are different people. 

We have a really multicultural society but we seem very sheltered and isolated within our communities, which in some cases is good cos its nice we can develop our cultures and traditions, but in other senses, it's limiting what we can do.

Like saying, because I’m Caribbean I’m only going to have with Caribbean people, it stops us from making a much greater impact.

I think to have the diversity in that, telling your story to Caribbean people, but telling your story to others is important because there can be a mutual understanding. And I feel like until we have that understanding we are not really going to go anywhere.

Because you can always say, 'this is my story, this is my story'. And you can tell your family that story, but apart from that, where is your story going?

I don't think there is any further conversation.

  • Windrush: Howard, Vanes and Catherine laughing together, Howard, Vanes and Catherine laughing together
    Howard, Vanes and Catherine laughing together

So I think there needs to be more acceptance of change, as well as more conversations with not just your family, or the people in your race, or people you talk to normally - but more open conversation with everybody so we can come together and share what we have.

And then when we share we can create something much better in the future.

Catherine Ross

My granddaughter is eight going on eighty - she knows everything.

She’ll come up to me and say - cause she thinks I know nothing, I’m only her Grandma - she’ll say, 'I bet you don't know' or 'Did you know?' And I’m like, I’ve been here sixty-odd years, I think I will know a few things!

But you have to put on these things and be like, 'Really? And what happens next...' cause I’m pushing her with follow questions to see how much she does know, so then I can give my input.

She always feels like she has to teach me when I come visit, something she feels I won’t know. And I feel like that is really, really good.

But there are things that she does know that I’m sure I didn’t know until I was fifteen! You know what I mean, so I think the younger generation know a lot more than we ever did, and I certainly knew more than my dad.

  • Catherine Ross, Catherine Ross
    Catherine Ross

But only because they came from the Caribbean to here, and you know I grew up here, so I felt I knew everything and now my granddaughter is doing it to me, she knows more than I do.

I think it’s nice each generation can help the next.

Howard Richards

That's the goal though, you raise a child, the child learns you, then they go out and learn the world - and then they come back and teach you. Simple.

So the child becomes stronger. 

  • Windrush - Howard Richards, Howard Richards
    Howard Richards

The Windrush Generation: Memories of Family

2019 will be the first year that the nation celebrates Windrush day as an officially recognised anniversary, so we took this opportunity to talk with Caribbean elders and hear their experiences.

Rachael Minott, Horniman’s Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice), with the help of Shasti Lowton, created a series of events where multiple generations of Caribbeans could gather and share food, stories and advice. 

Here, the group shares some of their thoughts and memories connected to family.

  • Windrush: Howard, Vanes and Catherine laughing together, Howard, Vanes and Catherine laughing together
    Howard, Vanes and Catherine laughing together

Catherine Ross

Mum and Dad - Did you think when you settled your family of six in Nottingham from St Kitts all those years ago that one day you would have 210 descendants!

That through a series of marriages and romantic liaisons they would all claim and assert their familial link to you both with such fierce pride and love.

Many of these have Caribbean blood running through their veins and not just from St Kitts! In some of them, the blood of the English and the Irish have a presence and a vibrancy, but all of them have your indomitable spirit, that marvellous trait that brought you from sunny shores to a place that couldn’t be more different.

Where your courage and persistence helped you succeed in creating a home for your family, providing for your growing family needs and inspiring your family and others to reach for the stars and follow their dreams.

  • Catherine Ross, Catherine Ross
    Catherine Ross

Many a time I recalled a phrase you used when it was taking one of us a time to grasp things you were trying to teach us, “Yuh ears hard?”

That’s what I remember, Mum and Dad, the many Caribbean sayings you used in so many situations – from teaching us good manners to expressing your delight or annoyance over matters.

One thing all my siblings and I say when we get together for family reunions, is how much we are like you both in this regard. We hear ourselves chiding our children in the phrases we were regularly admonished with. We laugh and thank the Lord for you, the best parents ever.

Have we become more like you since your passing over a quarter of a century ago? We all say we hope so, and if we keep trying to be then the world will be a better place, how could it not be if we put our faith into practice and we try and help others less fortunate in whatever situation and community we find ourselves. 

We now realise, as you said, the best gift we will ever be given is family, they are a blessing and so we should treat them well and kindly because “You never miss the water till the well runs dry”.

If we had realised the importance of this saying of yours then we would have asked more questions of you: learned more life lessons from you and would have had even more of your wisdom to share with others - the world would have been an even more beautiful place.

We thank you for what you have shared with us and many others do too.

As people of the Windrush generation, you brought hope to these British shores, showed what rewards courage can bring and left a vibrant legacy, a beacon for all who inhabit the British Isles to be grateful for those who came from the Caribbean Isles.

I applaud you for your efforts, I recognise you for your achievements and I love you for showing us that it’s the people who make a difference to life. Thank you.

Vanes Creavalle

My Grandad. He was a photographer and the idea that he was capturing moments in history - I think it’s just really amazing to capture single moments. I think that's really beautiful.

As they say, pictures can tell a thousand words, so capturing moments in history, family moments and peoples smile even - I just think it’s so beautiful to take pictures.

In our house there is actually a picture of my granddad taking a picture and, as my dad always says, there are not many pictures of the people who take pictures.

I think that kind of capturing someone in their element doing something that they love, I think that's really powerful - that's always inspired me.

  • Windrush - Howard talking to Vanes, Howard talking to Vanes
    Howard talking to Vanes

Howard Richards

The best childhood memory I’ve got is my grandmother.

My mother and father came to England, leaving me in Jamaica. I was born in St Andrews in my father’s house where I was left with my Hanti.

My grandmother lived in Trewlany, which is on the north coast, St Andrews is in Kingston, in fact. My grandmother came from Trewlany and took us from my Hanti and brought us to Trewlany to live with her.

We walked with no shoes on the foot: beautiful. We walked through cane trees: beautiful.

I used to think about coming to England. I’m going to go to England one day and see my mother and father. But when I left Jamaica to come here I cry for all three, four weeks, because I missed my grandmother.

The Windrush Generation: Reflections on Food

2019 will be the first year that the nation celebrates Windrush day as an officially recognised anniversary so we took this opportunity to talk with Caribbean elders and hear their experiences.

Rachael Minott, Horniman’s Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice), with the help of Shasti Lowton, created a series of events where multiple generations of Caribbeans could gather and share food, stories and advice. 

Together, the group planned a meal and shared some reflections about food.

  • A composite from the Windrush project, The group shared memories of food and drink. Clockwise from top left: Normal and Dunstan, the group eating, Catherine and Lyn, Shasti and Morella.
    The group shared memories of food and drink. Clockwise from top left: Normal and Dunstan, the group eating, Catherine and Lyn, Shasti and Morella.

Morella Forde

Mum goes to church on Sundays but as teenagers we were left to make our own choices so sometimes we too went to church.

When we came back home we had to help her in the kitchen to prepare the Sunday meals of our stewed red beans, rice, ground provisions like yams, sweet potatoes, macaroni cheese, etc, not forgetting our green bananas with fried fish and stewed chicken.

  • Windrush - Morella Forde, Morella Forde
    Morella Forde

On Saturdays mum still cooks our national dish of broth, and we have conversations of Dominica and England as mum tells us stories when she first came to England, and the problems she had with the racism in finding a place to live and work.

She believed she could come to England to get some money and go back to build and improve her lifestyle, and instead she was in a worse position.

She rented one room - sharing with other people - and money was to the minimum.

Dad would have his friends round to play dominoes and have their rum or whiskey drinks, as they played just like in Dominica. The men have not lost playing dominoes tradition after dinner.

Dinner time was always a time we made to give jokes and stories - remembering the Anansi stories which were always so funny. We played calypso and soca music, and danced.

It’s lovely that we kept these traditions because it reminded me so much of my homeland and these memories are precious to me.

Howard Richards

My grandmother’s cooking was beyond my comprehension, beyond anyone’s comprehension.

She could twiss up hot chocolate, anything she touched her hands on, it was something out of the world!

  • Windrush - Howard Richards, Howard Richards
    Howard Richards

Lynda Louise Burrell

Whenever I smell Dettol, I remember Grandma. It transports me back in time to Grandma’s house - clean, and comforting, and a range of childhood memories tumble over each other.

Caribbean spiced bun and cheese, stewed chicken, Guinness punch, and ackee and salt fish, the smells that make up the quintessential Caribbean Home.

Something that Grandma instilled in me early was that you should always have food on the stove, as you never know when someone may stop by and a good Caribbean must always be able to offer visitors something to eat.

  • Windrush - Lynda Louise Burrell, Lynda Louise Burrell
    Lynda Louise Burrell

Well, my modern busy lifestyle doesn’t always allow me to follow this social etiquette, but again who would have thought in those days that one day society would have a system for cooked food to be delivered from a restaurant to your home with just a phone call, within minutes, and some of the suppliers can deliver drink too!

So, within minutes of the arrival of guests, and some great welcome and engaging conversation, you could be wining and dining - and as the Caribbean saying goes, “telling jokes!”

That’s what I miss most - not just Grandmas' good advice, advice for all seasons and reasons, but her laughter and the jokes we shared.

  • Windrush menu, The menu for the day
    The menu for the day

The Windrush Generation: Stories, memories, food and advice

2019 will be the first year that the nation celebrates Windrush day as an officially recognised anniversary so we took this opportunity to talk with Caribbean elders and hear their experiences.

Rachael Minott, Horniman’s Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice), wanted to use the World Gallery at the Horniman as a tool to better appeal to the people of Forest Hill, as 24.5% of Forest Hill population is of Caribbean descent.

Rachael, with the help of Shasti Lowton, created a series of events where multiple generations could gather and share food, stories and advice. These events would allow a discussion of the Windrush generation’s impact within families.

Who are the Windrush generation?

On 22 June 1948, the HMT Empire Windrush, arrived at Tilbury Docks, Essex, having sailed from Kinston, Jamaica.

Among its passengers were 492 people from the Caribbean who arrived, as all colonials were, British subjects of the Empire, with the same rights of movement and settlement as all who lived in Britain.

  • HMT Empire Windrush, HMT Empire Windrush, at sea between 1945 and 1954. , Royal Navy Official Photographer, Imperial War Museum via wikicommons
    HMT Empire Windrush, at sea between 1945 and 1954. , Royal Navy Official Photographer, Imperial War Museum via wikicommons

This date is now regarded as the symbolic starting point of a wave of Caribbean migration, with those who migrated between 1948 and 1971 referred to as the Windrush generation.

As a part of the post-war relief effort, these people helped to build the NHS, staffed the transport systems and worked in the industrial heart of the UK.

Music, food, language, fashion and art have all been transformed by Caribbean cultural influence, and fundamental human rights were championed by this community, among others, as they fought for equality.

This generation of migrants were pioneers, changing a cultural landscape and facing challenges of ignorance and prejudice. Their legacy can be felt across the world, but it is within the intimate connections of communities, within families and between friends, that their legacy touches our hearts.

What is the Windrush scandal?

On 18 June 2018, the government announced that a National Windrush Day will take place on 22 June every year to celebrate the contribution of the Windrush generation and their descendants.

However, 2018 also saw what has become known as the ‘Windrush Scandal’ where it emerged that for years this generation has faced deportation, withdrawal of care, and evictions due to failures by the Home Office to keep records of their legal status.

How did this happen?

The Immigration Act of 1971 firmly established a distinction among British subjects concerning rights to enter and stay in the UK, but it preserved certain immigration rights of Commonwealth citizens who had already settled.

A decade later, the British Nationality Act 1981 established what is now known as British citizenship. However, at this moment many Commonwealth citizens ceased to be British subjects, but did not become British citizens.

Changes to Immigration law in 2012, required people to have documentation to work, rent a property or access benefits, including healthcare. The Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016 imposed compulsory immigration checks for access to these services.

Residents were expected to hold expensive biometric residence cards introduced in 2008 with formerly accepted documents deemed invalid proof of status.

This led to a number of people from the Windrush generation being wrongful classified as illegal immigrants. They were unable to use the Home Office database to prove their right to remain, as the government had destroyed all the landing cards in their care in 2009.

  • Windrush Scandal protest – from Parliament Square to the Home Office. London, Windrush Scandal protest – from Parliament Square to the Home Office. London, Steve Eason via Flickr CC BY 2.0
    Windrush Scandal protest – from Parliament Square to the Home Office. London, Steve Eason via Flickr CC BY 2.0

What was the result?

Nationwide protests, speeches in parliament and a swell of public support saw a change in Home Secretary, an apology from Theresa May and a commitment to support and compensate those who have been affected.

Since then, the Home Office has admitted that of the 164 people who were known to be wrongly detained or removed from the country, at least 19 died before officials were able to contact them to apologise; another 27 have not been traced.


Windrush Day must not be separated from the Windrush scandal that highlights the mass injustices still faced by this generation of Caribbean migrants.

The influence of this group on Britain and British identity has been staggering and we owe them so much.

This Windrush Day we will celebrate their contribution to our country, through sharing some of their thoughts and memories as well as pictures from these gatherings, so watch this space.

The Mantle of Animism

Marcelo Camus from the Arts Team at St Christopher’s Hospice tells us about a project initiated through the Horniman’s new art programme The Studio, which was performed at one of our summer Big Wednesdays.  

Her mantles are made from the finest materials, including gold threads, and her mantle covers all of her body apart from her face and hands...her devotees can touch her mantle, leave prayer notes beneath her feet or place their head on the back of her mantle and ask for a miracle. This is the custom of the shrine... The Handbook of Contemporary Animism by Graham Harvey

What inspired the project?

The Horniman’s new co-curated area The Studio with a programme and commissioned exhibition have offered opportunities for community groups to create their own project for visitors for the family summer programme.

  • The Mantle of Animism, Planning the Mantle of Animism, St Christopher's Hospice
    Planning the Mantle of Animism, St Christopher's Hospice

Patients and carers visited the Horniman with the St Christopher’s Arts Team to see the collections and to understand ideas of ethnographic curating and collecting. Inspired by the theme of animism in nature, introduced by The Studio Collective and artist Serena Korda, but looking at it from a perspective of healing and medicine - two topics very close to the hearts of those in end of life care.

Inspired by this visit to the Horniman, patients began working on a large-scale magical mantle and other animals and objects. Made of a myriad of hand-felted imagery to create a large human-animal mask, the Mantle was worked on intensively and was majestically performed at the Hospice as part of our annual summer exhibition.

What processes were involved in making the Mantle?

We ran groups every day of the week and brought the animism concepts into all of them. On Mondays the community choir, made up of 80 members, created a song for the performance.

  • The Mantle of Animism, People making the Mantle of Animism, St Christopher's Hospice
    People making the Mantle of Animism, St Christopher's Hospice

On Tuesdays, our Open Access Art Group explored dry felting to create a large surface fabric, while on Wednesdays, the group designed masks made into flying bird-like puppets.

Thursdays and Fridays we continued to work with the mantle through dry and wet felting techniques.

We also invited school groups to come to work with the patients on the theme and to contribute to the project. This enabled young people to visit the Hospice and dispel fear, taboos and stigma around death and dying.

Eventually, after tremendous effort, we created a magnificent magical beast!

Seeing the Mantle take shape and progress week after week was so exciting. The stories, conversation and imagination that take place in sessions from each person is powerful. We hope this was communicated to audiences at the Big Wednesday event at the Hormiman.

  • The Mantle of Animism, The Mantle of Animism during a performance, St Christopher's Hospice
    The Mantle of Animism during a performance, St Christopher's Hospice

Tell us about St Christopher’s Hospice

The Hospice has been building their partnership with the Horniman over the last two years, and have a dedicated team of arts therapists and artists who run workshops for patients, families, carers and community members.

As neighbours in Sydenham, we think it is important to establish a working partnership with the Horniman. The many collections available right next to us, from anthropological funerary and ritual items through to musical instruments, all play a role in the importance or moment of death in our lives.

No one goes untouched by this, yet our tools to deal with it are underdeveloped and unspoken.

The Arts Team at St Christopher’s places this at centre stage, creating artworks in response to what people are thinking and feeling at the end of their lives. What better place to showcase this powerful message that a Museum dedicated to the objects we leave behind?

Tell us about yourself

For St Christopher’s, I have helped lead on many large-scale collaborative projects both in and out of the Hospice.

My own artistic practice sits within what is termed Social Art Practice. I have been commissioned by organisations to create live immersive events, installations, social interventions and outdoor arts with communities and the public.

I contribute this experience to the Arts Team at the Hospice to consider how we can enable the patients and give them agency to create powerful social gestures. The focus of my work is about collaboration, co-authorship and positive group dynamics.

See The Lore of the Land exhibition from 20 October in The Studio.

Artist Commission: The Studio 2019

We are looking for an exceptional artist with a collaborative practice for our 2019 Studio commission. 

What is the Studio?

The Studio is an exciting, new contemporary arts space at the Horniman, as well as a collaboration between the Horniman, artists and local community partners. The successful artist will join the Collective, the working group who programme the Studio. The chosen artist will be commissioned to create a new artwork as part of an exhibition opening to the public in October 2019.

The Studio will open for the very first time in October 2018. We will commission a new exhibition programme each year inspired by the Horniman’s collections.

The Studio aims to be a hub for exciting events and activities alongside its exhibitions programme, co-curated by artists, community groups and partners working with the Horniman.

The Commission

The Studio in 2019 will focus on Memory. Museums play a vital role in mediating memory, since they often present objects, images and stories from the past. 

Anthropology museums have a particular responsibility in how they present the way the past speaks to the present.

They need to provide a space for contested and alternative forms of memory to flourish. Such memories often challenge and re-orientate the Horniman's curatorial voice, creating both social cohesion and disruption amongst its visitors.

Selection Criteria

We are looking for an artist with great experience of working with people, and involving communities within their work. The artist will also have experience of exhibition-making in their portfolio of works but is not required to have had past experience of working with museums or museum collections.

  • Artists with a practice in social arts or socially-engaged arts, who work together with people and community as part of their practice. We will also consider applications from artist-led organisations where artists share a collaborative practice.
  • Artists who have a track record of creating exhibitions as an outcome of participatory process.
  • Artists who can demonstrate best practice and ability to engage the public in critical enquiry through their work.
  • Artist’s Expression of Interest statement on why the area of enquiry is of interest and interest in the Studio.

Please note: we are not looking for a proposal idea response to the enquiry in your Expression of Interest at this stage of application.

Next steps and application

Download and read the Guidance in the open call document below:

Then submit

1. A brief Expression of Interest statement of no more than two A4 sides that include the following information:

  • Why you are interested in the area of enquiry (see above section Commission Area of Enquiry). No more than 500 words.
  • How you may work collectively or collaboratively with community partners and curators. No more than 700 words.
  • How this opportunity will support your own artistic practice. No more than 500 words.

2. Visual examples of your work. Select three examples that best represent your practice in relation to the criteria outlined in this brief. Please send these as a separate document or signpost us to links of these works online. Please note that if you are emailing us images we are unable receive emails over 9MB.

3. An up-to-date CV (Curriculum Vitae).

To Anila Ladwa, Curator of Studio Programmes (aladwa@horniman.ac.uk) by 5pm on Tuesday, 3 April 2018, with the subject line ‘Studio 2019 Expression of Interest’.

A Blank Canvas

Joe from the Studio Collective updates us on their work on our exciting new Studio project.

It seems like an age since I joined the Studio Collective as a community partner representing St Christopher’s Hospice, basically not knowing what to expect. Whilst traveling to the first meeting, I felt a nervous anticipation of what was to come. I knew I was an open book, a blank canvas, and would be bringing to the table my organisational skills from running businesses, but I also hoped that my basic love for art and a musical background would be an added bonus.

So the journey begins. My early days in the collective were like being a fish out of water, struggling to think where and how I would fit into the process but I sat, listened patiently, and soaked up what extra information I could from my more knowledgeable colleagues.

Personally I think it could be true to say that this fantastic journey has been a massive learning curve thus far and still is for many of us on the project. We are all feeling a certain degree of excitement and anticipation, and this could well be because this is the first time that the Horniman has embarked on creating a studio exhibition in this way.

The process so far has had its twist and turns, with incredibly lively debates along the way but with a respectful tone. We had to select an artist from a shortlist that we felt would be the ideal fit as a partner to the Collective going forward.

The process of selecting an artist was a simple one - it was done by a selection of different colour post-it notes for our first, second, and third choice. Simple, clever and effective. When the post-it notes were counted the successful artist was announced as Serena Korda.

I felt we had selected an artist who would be a welcome addition to the Collective. The prospect of collaborating with her and the ideas she would bring to the table was exciting. I felt a real connection with her, her love of sound creation, and the linking of sounds to various objects. As a musician, this seemed right up my street. Since Serena’s appointment, she has introduced the Collective to a range of her ideas for the studio exhibition. I was especially drawn to Mike - he’s adorable - you may have read about him in another blog, a wonderful bodiless head that records sound all around him. Hopefully, he might find his body soon and could make an appearance in the exhibition.

Since then we’ve been discussing exhibition themes. At our latest meeting, the scene was set with three tables awaiting the Collective. Members were seated in even numbers at each table ready to discuss in more detail and to get a better understanding of each of the three concepts. Each table, led by a facilitator, was given approximately ten minutes for discussion.

When the meeting of minds came to an end it was time to decide on the concept for the exhibition, and oh yes you’ve guessed it, it was time to dig out those lovely post-it notes. In our previous vote we had the luxury of three post-its, this time it was just two, we had to choose only our first and second choice. The vote was close and I am pleased to announce that the winning concept is A******. Well you didn’t really think I was going to let the cat out of the bag now, did you? But stay tuned for further blogs from my Studio colleagues and exciting updates on the concept for the fantastic Summer 2018 Studio Exhibition.

Upon being a Horniman Studio Collective Member

Phil Baird tells us about his experiences so far as a member of the Studio Collective.

  • Phil_1, Phil Baird
    Phil Baird

My name is Phil Baird and I am this artist and a member of the exciting and innovative Horniman Studio Collective.

A decade ago, while recovering from the most serious mental health condition, I considered taking a volunteering post at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, possibly doing some conservation dusting. Little did I know that I was destined to be a part of the multidisciplinary Studio Collective, whose current aim is to curate an exhibition and related events with artist Serena Korda.

It is great to be a small part of what is a large group of about 19  artists, anthropologists, research specialists, publicists, service users and, like me, workshop facilitators for the many and various community groups that are the heart of the process. The project has an egalitarian, forum-style organisation that is new and innovative. It allows Studio Collective members to take part in various levels, and we can leave the areas that we are not specialists in to the other team members.

It is great for me to see behind the scenes of the Horniman and to work with professionals with an incredible vastness of collective knowledge. The whole process for me is a weaving together of ideas, of people in the form of a community, of sounds and their means of production, of places – the whole museum, environment and Gardens, and of objects – Serena's art objects and those from the Horniman Collection both currently displayed and in the ‘secret’ reserve collection.

I feel privileged to have access to hundreds of thousands of objects that we are all custodians of. Had I known anything about anthropology when I was younger I would have certainly considered a career in the profession.

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