Online gallery brings to life images of Leeds’ first generation Jamaicans

Early members of the Caribbean Cricket Club formed by Jamaican ex RAF servicemen in 1948, gather in Hyde Park, Leeds en route to a cricket match c. 1953. Back row (LR): Vince Stewart, Errol James, Bill Campbell, Warren Lawson. Middle row: Mr Morant (partly hidden), Mac McCarthy, Astley Thomas. Front : Unidentified man, Alford Gardner on guitar. Original black and white photo: Yorkshire Evening News.

Staged by Chapeltown-based charity Jamaica Society Leeds, the ‘Back to Life’ online gallery will showcase newly-colourised black and white photos of the pioneering generation who made the journey from the Caribbean island during the 1940s to 60s.

The new online gallery will launch on August 1 – exactly a year since the Eulogy exhibition was launched.

Daniel Sunny Man Bloomfield who came to Leeds from Jamaica in 1954. The original black and white formal studio photo is typical of those first generation Jamaicans and other West Indians had taken to send home to family. Original black and white photo: Gerald Donne

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Rev Dorothy Stewart, Jamaica Society chairwoman, said: “Bringing colour to our collection of black and white photos is a powerful way to remember and commemorate those we love from days gone by.

“For others, especially the descendants of Jamaicans who volunteered in the early 40s to support the World War Two effort or those invited to rebuild post war Britain from Windrush’s 1948 arrival – seeing them in full colour for the first time brings to life what they could only imagine.”

She added: “We are used to seeing images and film of Caribbean communities in black and white. At a time when the city’s black communities particularly our older members are amongst those at highest risk Covid-19 and are shielding, making these glorious colour images accessible to everyone both online and in print is essential and a great way to tackle loneliness and isolation.”

The gallery will feature all aspects of life for the newly arrived Jamaicans – everyday images of young couples in love, families and people making a living will be included with equal importance alongside those of trailblazing activists and RAF veterans.

Clarissa Louisa Sewell came from Jamaica in 1955. She and her husband Hugh raised 11 children, five of whom are seen here her sister Emily Hyde (r ) and family friend Pat (back row, centre.) Mrs Sewell was a nursing assistant at Meanwood Park Hospital until the couples retirement to Jamaica in 1995. She passed away in 2013.

Back to Life curator Susan Pitter, whose parents came from Jamaica in the early 60s, said it is “more important than ever” that the true story of our city is told.

She said: “Back to Life will help to illuminate the lives and contributions of Jamaicans who came not only in search of opportunity, but to build the Leeds, its industries and sectors we benefit from today.

“Seeing how colour transforms black and white pictures, some which I have seen for my entire life, is breathtaking.

“Bringing to life unexpected details from patterns on outfits, to architecture of Leeds buildings to capturing the hopes and dreams in the eyes of a generation who arrived as young people is both incredibly moving and an honour.”

Back to Life has been made possible with funding from Arts Council England’s Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund and launches from August 1st on www.jamaicasocietyleeds.co.uk

Prints of the online gallery will also be produced.

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