Celebrating a legacy
2019 feels like a lifetime ago, when community photography projects at bustling town hall celebrations were both possible and safe. We’ve been sifting through some of the remarkable images that have come out of Autograph’s collaborations with our local community in Hackney, including these selfies taken with The Real Selfie Project at the borough’s Windrush Generations Festival on Windrush Day, 22 June 2019.
The Real Selfie Project was set up in 2017 by photographer Rafael Hortala-Vallve and filmmaker Nick Francis, with the intention of taking their analogue photobooth from the 1970s on tour, to capture portraits and collect personal stories of their local community. Like us, Rafael and Nick are based in Hackney, and feel passionately about contributing to the visual and archival story of our borough. According to Hackney Council “it’s believed the borough is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of the Windrush generation, and many more from Commonwealth countries across the globe”. So, we partnered with The Real Selfie Project to bring the photobooth to Stoke Newington Town Hall, for Hackney’s annual celebration of the Windrush Generation.
The selfies are now part of Hackney Archives, where they will continue to contribute to future framings of the borough’s rich histories. Keep scrolling to see some of the photographs taken and read four of the Windrush Elders’ stories.
Between 1948 to 1971, successive British governments invited thousands of people from Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean to relocate to Britain to address labour shortages following the Second World War. They were named the ‘Windrush generation’ after the ship HMT Empire Windrush on which the first group arrived. Windrush Day was established in 2018 in the wake of a national scandal in which many hundreds of people, who had been living in the UK for decades, were unable to prove their legal immigration status following the implementation of the British government’s new hostile environment policy. As a result, many members of the Windrush generation were denied access to benefits, healthcare, social housing and employment, while others were forcibly detained or deported.
Age: 79. Place of birth: Grenada. Arrived in the UK: 1960.
"The Windrush is the boat that brought Caribbeans to England three years after the Second World War. They brought us here to rebuild the broken infrastructure of the country. And as a first and second generation from Caribbean background, we have contributed so much to the economy and to the reconstruction of England. I came to England when I was 20 years old, as an aspiring young man from Grenada. I came here for a better standard of living. Having heard of all the iconic buildings, for example London Bridge, The Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and of course, the River Thames, I looked forward coming to England. I knew more about England than I knew about my own country - because we learnt about Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves.
No one told me about the conditions or the weather what’s going to be like, or the exclusiveness. When we came as people of the Caribbean, with a different colour, different ideology, different outlook, we were not accepted as such. For example, when we wanted a place to live, we’d go to a home and said is there any rental here in this home? All that you would see on the door is ‘no blacks, no dogs, no Irish’. What came to me is that we were not needed here. We really endured to get ourselves together and decided to work. We all decided to work for five years earn enough money and go back and build a mansion, but it did not work like that I’m afraid. I’ve been here for over 58 years."
Age: 66. Place of birth: Montserrat.
"I remember coming over from Montserrat and I remember coming on the boat. I was seven years old and I’m 66 now. I’ve worked all my life in Hackney, I’m a Hackney person.
I remember my school days and I remember how it was in the Sixties. It was good and it was bad. I remember the snow, the furnishings, going shopping.
The Windrush were brought in because they needed help in Britain. They needed help to clear Britain up but now that it’s cleared up they want to throw us out again. So I think that is wrong.
The Windrush are part of the Caribbean, so we should be accepted as we are."
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With thanks to The Real Selfie Project and Hackney Council for their support in making this project happen.
Top banner images: 1) Deloris Francis and Nobert Edward, 2019. Courtesy The Real Selfie Project 2) Inez Clarke, 2019. Courtesy The Real Selfie Project 3) Joseph Russell, 2019. Courtesy The Real Selfie Project 4) Sherlene Barker, 2019. Courtesy The Real Selfie Project 5) Edwin Bailey and Lucy Rayside, 2019. Courtesy The Real Selfie Project
Images on page: 6) Bishop Elon Charles, 2019. Courtesy The Real Selfie Project 7) Bernice O'Garro, 2019. Courtesy The Real Selfie Project 8) Joseph Russell, 2019. Courtesy The Real Selfie Project 9) Gloria and Valerie, 2019. Courtesy The Real Selfie Project
Bottom banner images: 10) Althea Russell, 2019. Courtesy The Real Selfie Project 11) Trevor Stewart, 2019. Courtesy The Real Selfie Project 12) Joy Allen, 2019. Courtesy The Real Selfie Project