Memories of Living Under One Roof in Hackney

The rich history of the Windrush generation will be explored in Hackney Museum’s new exhibition Living Under One Roof from 23 September to 15 November 2008.

Commemorating the 60th anniversary of the SS Empire Windrush’s arrival at Tilbury docks on 22 June 1948, the exhibition, in collaboration with Lorna Holder of Tuareg Productions, will present displays, rooms and memories from the Caribbean generation who first came to Hackney.

Earlier this year some of Hackney’s Caribbean elders from islands including Jamaica, Barbados, St Lucia, Dominica and Trinidad, participated in workshops at the Marie Lloyd Day Centre, William Morris Caribbean Centre and the Hackney Caribbean Elderly Organisation. They reminisced and shared experiences from as early as 1954, when they first settled in the area. But what did they find?

Their recollections and memories, good, bad and honest, form the basis for the exhibition, which covers all aspects of life for the first generation of Caribbean migrant workers who took the opportunity to come to England for what they hoped would be a better life.

The exhibition, set in the year 1962, will show room settings from a Victorian terraced-house in Hackney owned by a Jamaican couple who rented out most of the rooms to other Caribbean immigrants.

Visitors will see the kitchen shared by the landlord and five or more tenants. Also an early Caribbean front room; smart in readiness for guests, with the customary glass cabinet full of original 1960s china. The reconstruction will feature a rented room, where tenants did most things including cooking on their paraffin heater and washing their clothes.

The exhibition will also include screenings of the documentary Living Under One Roof in Hackney sponsored by Hackney Museum, photographs, memories and the possessions that people brought with them, including a ‘grip’, a bible and passports from the 1950s.

Councillor Nargis Khan, Cabinet Member for Community Services, said: “Hackney is a wonderfully diverse area and this exhibition celebrates and raises awareness of the contribution that Caribbean communities have made in the borough. I’d like to invite people from all communities and of all ages to visit the museum and share in the rich history that played an important part in the origins of multi-cultural Britain.”

As part of the workshops, the Hackney elders who contributed to the exhibition were also filmed sharing their heritage and offering positive messages to young people and communities in the borough. They will feature in a documentary, Building Bridges, by Lorna Holder supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, that will be screened at the British Museum on 28 November 2008.

Lorna Holder, writer and producer, said: “We must remember that the 60s was a period that shaped and defined Britain as we know it today. Caribbean elders from Hackney played an important part in this great social and cultural change, so it’s important for today’s society to understand and acknowledge this contribution.”

Living Under One Roof is on at Hackney Museum (TLC, 1 Reading Lane, E8 1GQ) from Tuesday 23 September until Saturday 15 November. The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday. Admission is free. For more information call: 020 8356 3500 or email: