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Celebrating contribution of Windrush generation

Posted onPosted on 3rd Nov

Curators and researchers at Mansfield Museum have been busy discovering Caribbean culture and history in the district.

The Cultural Services team at Mansfield District Council, which operates the museum, is documenting oral histories from local people of the Windrush generation and their descendants.

These pieces of history will form part of a temporary exhibition at the museum that will encourage residents to learn more about Mansfield’s black history, and the contribution made by the Windrush generation.

Among the stories unearthed is that of Samuel Case, the first black man elected as deacon by a 120-strong congregation at Mansfield Baptist Church — the highest honour the church can bestow.

Samuel left his family in Jamaica in his mid-20s and was among the first wave of Black and Asian people to come and seek work in the UK in the 1950s and 1960s. He worked as a miner at Welbeck Colliery in Meden Vale and lived on Western Avenue, Mansfield.

His son, Carl Case, lives in Sheffield and is now working with the museum to create a short video documenting his father’s life, which will be shown in the exhibition.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) awarded the council a grant of £17,949 in May to support the education of the Windrush generation.

Stuart Richardson, portfolio holder for Regeneration and Growth at the authority, said: “The team has been so busy behind the scenes to make black history a part of what we do throughout the year, not just for a month (October is Black History Month nationally).

“This project aims to bring together people of all cultures, faiths, and races to celebrate one of the world’s most-influential cultures and an unforgettable contribution by a generation. This shared history and heritage of Great Britain will create opportunities for pride among all communities.

“It will also highlight the importance of migration and inclusion, reflecting on this story’s significance through today’s events.

“This ambitious project and exhibition will raise awareness and give thanks to the community who helped rebuild Britain after the war.”

The ‘It Runs Through Us’ temporary exhibition opens in Mansfield Museum on 28th February 2023 and will be on display until the middle of November. It will shine a light on local Windrush elders, such as Samuel Case, and also collate and give a profile to existing research by Black History Ambassadors.

As well as Samuel’s story, the museum team has been delving into the background of the Laetitia Hollins’ portrait, which is already on display in its collection, by an unknown artist.

Laetitia was the wife of William Hollins and their family ran the cotton mill at Pleasley, producing Viyella, the first branded fabric from 1890. In the portrait she is depicted wearing a black Victorian dress, interpreted as mourning the death of her husband, William Hollins.

Sian Booth, cultural services manager, added: “We would like to know more about her story. Her picture is the largest portrait we have in our collection, and our gallery assistant, Tony, is convinced there is a hidden second figure that has been painted over.

“Having been inspired by Yinka Shonibare’s artwork, Mayflower, All Flowers, exhibited locally at the Harley Gallery, Welbeck, we have exchanged panels of Laetitia’s black mourning dress for colourful Ankara wax prints. This new version of Laetitia’s portrait will be displayed alongside the original, perhaps promoting conversations around gender, race and colour.

“There is currently no archive of black-led oral histories in Mansfield, and we risk losing that valuable heritage and history to time.”

If you have Caribbean historical items for the museum exhibition, such as suitcases, passports, letters and clothing, particularly from the 1960s and 1970s, contact Kirsty at [email protected]