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Visions and Voices from the Windrush: A Cultural Legacy

  (c) Kadija George 2015

(c) Kadija George 2015

Join us, as we delve in to explore the rich history and contributions of the Windrush Generation in the UK. From carnival to music, literature and art; the cultural legacy of the Windrush is yet to be fully unpacked and appreciated.

Come along and participate in this talk as we discuss how the critical role that the Windrush generation played in popularising Art, Poetry and Literature from the Caribbean and how this influenced the British Landscape.

We will be joined by extra-ordinary panellist cultural activists: Eric Huntley publisher and co-founder of Bogle-L’Ouverture, the London-based publishing company and John Lyons painter, poet, Lecturer and winner of 2003 WindRush Arts Achiever Award.

Tickets are £5.00

This talk is part of the #Windrush70 celebration. Find out more about the family fun activities. Read more.

Biographies

John Lyons, painter and poet

John Lyons, born in Trinidad, educated at Goldsmiths College School of Art and the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, is a prolific painter, prize-winning poet and winner of the 2003 WindRush Arts Achiever Award.  He has made a nationally acknowledged contribution to the visual arts and literature in the UK as is testified by his involvement in Arts Education as an art lecturer and facilitator of visual and creative writing workshops in schools and colleges for over forty-eight years; his adjudication in art and poetry competitions; being a co-founder and director of the Hourglass Studio Gallery 1997 in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire until its demise in 2005 through lack of funding. It was a creative hub for the community with its exhibitions, courses in visual arts and creative writing. In the 1980’s he was a member of the purchasing panel for the Arts Council’s National Collection.

His works have been exhibited internationally and regionally and are privately collected and represented in national public collections:  Huddersfield Art Gallery Collection, Rochdale Touchstone Art Gallery Collection, the Arts Council National Art Collection and the V&A Museum Word and Image Collection.  His most recent exhibitions include No Colour Bar at the Guildhall Gallery, London, November 2015 to 24 January 2016; and Cultural Connections at The Babylon Gallery, Ely, April 2016.

As a poet and painter he feels intuitively a link between painting and poetry and in practice, believes that the use of metaphor and the play of psychological associations in our human experiences can live with equal validity in the creation of visual art as in poetry.

He is a prize-winning poet; and his collection for young readers, Dancing in The Rain, was shortlisted by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) CliPPA Award 2016. He has seven published poetry collections and a recent publication, ‘Cook-up in a Trini Kitchen’, which contains over one hundred and fifty of his recipes, poems, drawings and watercolour illustrations. His poems are numerously anthologised and a selection of them are presented on The Poetry Archive. He has been a part-time tutor on the creative writing module of the Combined Studies BA Hons degree, at the Bolton Institute of Higher Education from 1991–97. He has also tutored creative writing at the Arvon Foundation residential courses on numerous occasions.

John comments, “The pastel drawing, ‘My Mother Earth is Black Like Me’ was inspired by an experience of standing on a bare patch of garden earth at the back of a terraced house in Kensal Rise the morning after my arrival in the UK many years ago.  An awareness, which can only be inadequately described as a ‘spiritual’ awakening, struck me: I have a human right to be here, to belong to this planet earth wherever I am.  The painting is a visual metaphor accommodating a certain ambiguity: is the figure emerging from the earth, or gently returning it?”

Website:  www.jcmlyons.co.uk


Eric Huntley, publisher Bogle L'Overture Publications

The unique personal and political partnership forged by Jessica (née Carroll) and Eric Huntley lasted more than 60 years, spanning their native Guyana and the Britain where they migrated towards the end of the 1950s. Bogle-L’Ouverture, the London-based publishing company they co-founded a decade later in 1969, may be considered the pinnacle of their activism - and is central to their archive collection - the Huntley Archives.

From its inception in 1968, the BOGLE L'OUVERTURE Bookshop was the base of one of the first Black-owned independent publishers in the UK. Bogle-L’Ouverture Publications (BLP), with had strong social, cultural and political roots. This was not least because its very name was inspired by two revolutionary African leaders, Paul Bogle (of Jamaica) and Toussaint L’Ouverture (Haiti), who had bravely fought against European imperialists during slavery. BLP’s first publication, Groundings with My Brothers (1969, began as a free pamphlet, produced in response to and to raise awareness of the Jamaican government’s banning of Guyanese historian Dr Walter Rodney from re-entering the country. Rodney provided BLP’s co-founders, Eric and Jessica Huntley, with some of the talks and speeches that provoked the Jamaican government’s reaction to his growing popularity as a political voice of the people. The speeches became the basis for Groundings. The founders of BLP did not regard the publication as a business; rather, its thrust was for the wider dissemination of information about Black history that would empower ordinary people.

Rodney’s next book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1972), became BLP’s most influential publication. Considered ground-breaking in its analysis of European exploitation of Africa’s resources culminating in the underdevelopment of Africa. It has been translated into several languages and is required reading on a number of academic courses on politics and economic development.

Following his assassination in 1980, the bookshop was named The Walter Rodney bookshop in his honour. Visitors to the No Colour Bar exhibition could get a semblance of the hominess and community hub of the book shop that drew Black people from different parts of London in search of culture and history.

BLP also published several books by Andrew Salkey, who was one of its co-founders. These included Anancy’s Score (1973), Joey Tyson (1974), Writing in Cuba Since The Revolution: An anthology of Poems, Short Stories and Essays (1977), featured in the exhibition and all conveying wide ranging themes of history, culture and politics of Africans in the diaspora.

Emerging voices, like Jamaican dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson were promoted, not only in print, as with Johnson’s first collection, Dread Beat and Blood (1975), but also through performances and inspiring launches held at the bookshop.

The celebrated Guyanese writer Beryl Gilroy’s Black Teacher (1976), with its bold yellow cover, a sketched brown face posing as the wise teacher, is still in demand. Through the publications BLP sought to engage and inspire black people of all ages. Nine-year-old Accabre Huntley’s two volumes of poetry, At School Today (1977) and later Easter Monday Blues (1983), gave voice to the experiences of second-generation Africans growing up in the UK during the 1970s.

Folk culture and Caribbean oral traditions were promoted by writers such as Jamaican poet Valerie Bloom in her poems Touch Mi! Tell Mi (1983) and in her wonderfully illustrated children’s book, using tropical fruits, Ackee, Breadfruit, Callaloo: An Edible Alphabet (1999).

The exhibition also featured poet Lemn Sissay’s poetry collection Tender Fingers in a Clenched Fist (1988) and Eric Huntley’s Marcus Garvey - A Centenary 1887-1987 (1988) and Two Lives: Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole (1993). These are just a few examples of what was featured in the exhibition and small portion of the many titles published by BLP over the years.

The bookshop finally closed in the early 1990s but the publishing company, nearing its 50th year, with a new logo to reflect its rebranding, remains committed to providing a platform for African and Caribbean writers to articulate their social and cultural experiences.