Documentary charts Huddersfield Caribbean immigrant community

THE UK experiences of people of African-Caribbean descent over four generations are charted and explored in an ambitious new film that draws on more than 80 newly-recorded interviews with individuals whose ages range from 11 to well over 80.  It focusses on the African-Caribbean descent community in Huddersfield, and the town’s University – staff and students – contributed to the project’s diverse production team, with the project archive being made available at Heritage Quay.

Now, as part of Black History Month, the 70-minute documentary, titled Windrush: The Years After – A Community Legacy on Film, is to have two showings at the University of Huddersfield where it was first screened last summer.  A public screening in association with the University of Huddersfield Archives will take place in Heritage Quay as part of the Windrush Huddersfield Exhibition on Saturday 19 October (12 noon to 3pm).  This event includes a Q&A session with key community members and opportunities to look at extensive displays.  The Department of History is also to host a screening on Thursday 24 October (2.15pm to 4.15pm), in the Joseph Priestley Lecture Hall (room JPG/18) where there will further opportunities for discussion. 

The prime mover in the project is Milton Brown, the son of invited economic migrants who came to Huddersfield from different parts of the Caribbean in the post-war years.  He is now chief executive of Kirklees Local TV (KLTV) and is also studying for a PhD at the University of Huddersfield, so involving the University was an ideal way of linking research and community interests.  A key collaborator was the film historian Dr Heather Norris Nicholson, who has been a Senior Research Fellow at the University’s Centre for Visual and Oral History.​

“We needed to put this story together for a wider audience,” said Mr Brown.  “I was doing it purely to give the African-descent community a voice, rather than another generation dying out without being able to tell the story.”

As the interviews progressed, the constant theme was one of struggle, as newcomers from the Caribbean and their families, faced economic and social pressures, including day-to-day racism, continued Mr Brown.

“They had to take jobs that nobody else wanted and it was a question of ‘how do we overcome this?’.  They retreated from the mainstream of society and started to build social and economic dependence within their own community.  There was a quiet dignity among the majority who came here and they showed an ability not to quit, even though the odds were stacked against them.”

Funding for the film included £34,500 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.  The University of Huddersfield also provided financial support.  In addition, Professor Barry Doyle, who heads the Department of English, Linguistics and History, in discussion with Milton Brown, enabled PhD researcher Joe Hopkinson and a number of undergraduate students to contribute to the project as part of their own studies and work alongside volunteers and the 14-strong production team at KLTV.

“While a lot of the people involved in it are University people, they weren’t doing it for the University, but working within the community.  And there were people from a lot of different ethnic and social backgrounds involved,” said Professor Doyle.

Mr Brown added that having such a diverse team was a major aid in understanding the historical and cultural journey that was being recorded.  “We created a community within a community and learned a lot from each other.”

The team conducted 80 new interviews and the film includes footage from 45 of them.  All of the material – plus a research copy of Windrush: The Years After – is archived at Heritage Quay.

“Making the film was only one part of the project,” said Dr Norris Nicholson.  “Running alongside it was a process of creating educational resources, gathering papers, posters and memorabilia, and then cataloguing the material and depositing it at Heritage Quay, where it is available now.”

The team agree that the findings and the testimonies from the project have a relevance to all peoples who experienced migration, wherever they settled.  “But there are also dimensions that are specific to Huddersfield,” said Dr Norris Nicholson, citing the district’s industrial history and patterns of post-war re-development.

“Some people we interviewed talked about their journeys to the UK and how they reached Huddersfield.  Others reflected on their own lives as Yorkshire-born peoples of African-Caribbean descent.  We were conducting oral history and tracing individual life stories, so a lot of details came out about experiences and attitudes during different decades.  The film tells a story of national and international significance from a local perspective.”

Story originally published at https://www.hud.ac.uk/news/2019/october/windrush-the-years-after-huddersfield/

This entry was posted in News.

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