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'A celebration of those who started new lives'

CELEBRATION: Hand, Kingston Jamaica by Andrew Jackson will be on display during the event

LEADING VENUE the Midlands Arts Centre Birmingham, locally known as the MAC, is gearing up to host a major celebration of art, photography, dance, music, debate and even some rum tasting from next month.

Beyond Windrush will take place from May 4 - July 8 to mark the 70th anniversary of the journey nearly 500 people made from the Caribbean to London in 1948 on board the passenger liner, SS Empire Windrush.

The programme is designed to highlight the impact and experience of migration through new commissions of artistic work by local and international artists – and has been supported by Birmingham-born actor Adrian Lester.

Entertainment and a host of participatory events will also be on offer for audiences and visitors of all ages.

Photography will form a major strand of the programme represented by local talent, with works from rising-star Andrew Jackson to veteran Vanley Burke, plus the late London-based Jamaican Raphael Albert, taking pride of place.

Andrew Jackson, whose parents migrated from Jamaica to England in 1956, explores the psychological impacts of migration through first, second and third generations of migrants from Jamaica in his photographic exhibition From A Small Island.

Jackson said: “The experiences of my parents act as a catalyst to explore the political landscape of Britain during the last 60 years as well as the story of Jamaican migration, within a dialogue of race, identity and the global movements of people.

"These movements cast lives in an arc of what was, what has become and what could have been."

Jamaican-born Burke has been taking photos since his mother gave him a Kodak box Brownie camera at the age of 10. When Burke moved to the UK as a teenager he decided to document the Black community and lifestyle in British cities – his reportage style photos of street protests in the city of Birmingham have become almost synonymous with growing up in the Second City with his work commonly featuring in documentaries, record sleeves and book covers, as well as major exhibitions.

Beyond Windrush will feature Burke’s 5,000 Miles And 70 Years collection, which draws on memories from his family’s experiences who emigrated to Britain in the 1950s and will be displayed on the windows of the MAC so the work will be visible inside and outside the building.

A jukebox containing Burke’s legendary collection of 7 inch singles will also be on show.

Raphael Albert, who passed away in 2009, spent nearly 50 years celebrating the Caribbean communities in the London area, often through home-studio photographs of local residents and neighbours. Often employed to photograph black British beauty pageants and aspiring models, in 1974 he established the Miss Teenager and Miss West Indies in Great Britain contests. His contribution will be celebrated at Beyond Windrush with the presence of his Miss Black and Beautiful exhibition of black and white photography.

Beyond Windrush will also feature the talents of Leeds-based Phoenix Dance Company, spoken word and song in celebration of reggae music and its contribution to British society, with segments hosted by Sue Brown and featuring women in reggae, music and its contribution to British society, with segments hosted by Sue Brown and featuring women in reggae, including Empress P.


Rum tasting will be on offer courtesy of self-styled Rum Ambassador, Ian Burrell, who is among the most travelled and acclaimed figures within the rum industry and regularly features on Channel 4’s entertainment show Sunday Brunch. Children and young people haven’t been forgotten by event producer Tina Pringle-Hamilton, who has also programmed family-friendly workshops and activities including steel pan drums demonstrations, storytelling for all the family, discussions and a weekend takeover for younger audiences.

Adrian Lester, whose credits include the BBC One crime drama Hustle and Primary Colours alongside John Travolta and Emma Thompson, said of the celebration: “MAC’s Beyond Windrush is a celebration of the people who journeyed to the ‘mother country’ to start a new life, not knowing how hard they would have to fight to be accepted.

“The season recognises the contributions made by those who have now made the UK their home, and that of their children and grandchildren – a new generation that have made strides in business, the arts and public service.

“This is a season for everyone offering exhibitions, dance, music and family activities.

“I hope you will all celebrate with the MAC and support what promises to be an uplift- ing and thought-provoking programme.”

MAC artistic director Deborah Kermode added: “In recognition of this anniversary, the MAC is proud to present a celebratory season with exhibitions, dance, spoken word, and special events – to celebrate the real-life experiences of the Caribbean community and to recognise the contribution of newly arrived citizens coming to the UK today.

“The now familiar debate about identity and citizenship was sparked when the first Caribbeans arrived. In our new pre-Brexit world these issues are as relevant, if not more so, than they were 70 years ago.”

For more on Beyond Windrush, visit

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