Hidden histories of Birmingham’s Windrush generation reveal racial intolerance leading to the Handsworth Riots

Recordings chronicling the lives of Birmingham’s Windrush generation are available online a the campaign for compensation continues

Hidden histories of Birmingham’s Windrush generation is available to all through an online project with Birmingham Museums

Audio recordings of people who arrived in Birmingham as part of the Windrush Generation have been made available online by Birmingham Museums.

The oral histories, which were recorded in the 1990s, feature the life stories of 4 people who came to the UK from the Caribbean in the 1940s to the 1960s.

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The stories include personal experience of racial intolerance and the events which led up to the Handsworth Riots in the 1980s.

Deposited in the City Sound Archive at Birmingham Museums in the nineties, they were previously only available to researchers on CD.

Two decades later the recordings have now been digitised and catalogued and can be listened to via Birmingham Museums’ online library.

These stories are particularly poignant as the campaign for Windrush victims to receive compensation from the government continues.

A report to the home affairs select committee found that just 5% of Windrush victims had received compensation - four years after the scandal emerged.

Up to 150,000 people across the UK were expected to qualify. Some applicants said the process had become a source of further trauma rather than redress.

Twenty-three eligible applicants died before getting payment, the committee found.

Hidden histories of Birmingham’s Windrush generation are now available online (Photo credit Carlton Duncan © Kate Green BBOHP)

What do the Birmingham Windrush interviews say?

The Windrush interviews capture the personal experience and memories of people who emigrated to Britain from the Caribbean.

Their stories explore the places where they grew up, their journey to Birmingham and their lives in the UK.

They reveal the personal experiences of racial intolerance and the events which led to the Handsworth Riots in the 1980s - as well as stories of community, friendship and coming to terms with the Great British weather.

Hidden histories of Birmingham’s Windrush generation are available online (Photo credit Frank Scantlebury © Kate Green BBOHP)

How have the recordings become publicly available online?

The recordings were the result of the Birmingham Black Oral History Project, established in 1990 with the aim of preserving the memories of the oldest living generation of African Caribbean and South Asian migrants to Birmingham by recording, preserving and maintaining an archive of oral history and photographic material.

The wider collection of recordings includes the life testimonies of 19 people with over 40 hours of content.

Four of the newly digitised recordings were published online to coincide with Black History Month. They feature the stories of a range of individuals including Carlton Duncan – Britain’s first Black head teacher and Esme Lancaster MBE, a carer and community leader.

Birmingham Museums will continue to work with members of the Birmingham Black Oral History Project, and University of Birmingham, Cadbury Research Library to digitise the rest of the oral histories to be made available later this year. An additional oral history (recorded in 2016 as part of the Collecting Birmingham project) with community hero Mrs Eunice McGhie-Belgrave MBE, who emigrated to England in 1957, has also been made available online.

Hidden histories of Birmingham’s Windrush generation are now available online (Photo credit Esme Lancaster © BBOHP)

What have the people involved in the Hidden Histories of Windrush project said?

Ranjit Sondhi from the Birmingham Black Oral History Project said: “Those of us who were so deeply involved in capturing the extraordinary stories of the earlier migrant-settlers in the UK are delighted that they are available to the wider public.

“They will significantly enrich and widen the great wealth of oral histories that define the complex character of post-war Britain. We remain grateful to Birmingham Museums for making this possible.”

Jo-Ann Curtis, Curator at Birmingham Museums said: “In the 1990s the Birmingham Black Oral History Project aimed to ‘set the record straight’ and ensure the stories of Caribbean and South Asian people were documented and made available as a public resource. In doing so they created a valuable and rich record of the experiences of post-war migrants to Birmingham.

“Now two decades later, with the digitisation of these recordings the legacy of their stories can continue to be an important resource in understanding the Black British experience in the 20th century. Nothing can replace the directness of first-hand accounts and these recordings are like a time machine.”

To listen to the hidden histories of Birmingham’s Windrush generation please click here dams.birminghammuseums.org.uk

Hidden histories of Birmingham’s Windrush generation are now available online

Can schools access the recordings to help educate pupils?

The Windrush interviews will also be made available to schools as a learning resource for primary and secondary children. The free resources will include profiles of each individual and suggested activities to use with students created by Birmingham Museums learning and engagement team and is available from birminghammuseums.org.uk/school_resources

Please note….

The digitisation of the Birmingham Black Oral History Project has been made possible with a grant from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

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