Windrush pioneers celebrated in Mansfield Museum exhibition

It Runs Through Us exhibition

A new exhibition opens at Mansfield Museum on Tuesday 28 February to celebrate the district's Windrush generation, migration and black history.

‘It Runs Through Us’, the first exhibition of its kind at the museum, will remain on display until the end of November.

It invites residents to learn more about Mansfield’s black history, and the contribution made by the Windrush generation.

It is part of an ambitious ongoing project, led by Mansfield District Council, to document and collect oral histories from local people of the Windrush generation and their descendants. 

These videos will be shown in the exhibition and will form the first archive of black-led oral histories in Mansfield.​

Among those local Windrush pioneers was Samuel Case,  a coal miner, and the first ever black man elected as a Deacon by a 120-strong congregation at Mansfield’s Baptist Church, the highest honour the church can bestow on a person.

Samuel, who lived on Western Avenue in Mansfield, was among the first wave of Black and Asian people in the 1950s and 1960s to come and seek work in the UK.

After leaving Jamaica in his mid-20s, he worked as a miner at Welbeck Colliery in Meden Vale. His son, Carl Case, who lives in Sheffield, has been working with the museum to create a video to be shown in the exhibition documenting his father's life.

The museum  has also delved into the background of a portrait in its collection of Laetitia Hollins, painted by an unknown artist. 

Laetitia was the wife of William Hollins whose family ran the mill at Pleasley that produced Viyella, the first branded fabric, from 1890. In the portrait, which is the largest in the museum's collection, she is depicted wearing a black Victorian dress, interpreted as mourning the death of her husband. 

For the exhibition a new version of it has been created and displayed next to it, inspired by Yinka Shonibare’s art work 'Mayflower, All flowers' exhibited locally at the Harley Gallery, Welbeck. 

Panels of Laetitia’s black mourning dress have been exchanged for colourful Ankara wax prints and it is hoped the contrasting version will promote conversations around gender, ethnicity and colour.

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to interact with video screens, visit a House through Time, add memories to a Living Wall and contribute to the Wings of Hope display.

To help to bring the exhibition to life objects and artefacts have been loaned to the museum by local people, including clothing and homewares from the 1950s 

Stuart Richardson, the council's Portfolio Holder for Regeneration and Growth, said: “This is proving to be a fascinating and unifying project to shine a light on the massive contribution of the Windrush generation to life in this country and this area.

“I am very proud of the part Mansfield played in Britain becoming a multi-cultural nation and how migration and inclusion helped to shape this country for the better and helped to rebuild it after the war.

"I would encourage everyone to go along to this interesting and illuminating exhibition. The oral histories are particularly rich and colourful and I am so pleased we have been able to collect these accounts before they are lost to time."

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) awarded the council a grant of £17,949 last year to support the Windrush project.

In another strand of the project, on Saturday 17 June, there will be a carnival hosted by Mansfield District Council's Cultural Services in Mansfield Market Place.

It will be the first of its kind in the district and will see a whole day of fun including live music and a parade to celebrate Mansfield’s Windrush generation. 

Windrush educational sessions are also available for schools. Teachers can book or find out more by contacting Rachael Boaler by email (link opens in email app).

Mansfield Museum can be found on Leeming Street and is open 10am to 3pm, Tuesday to Saturday. It can be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using the tag @mansfieldmuseum or visit its website (link opens in new window) for more details of this and other upcoming events and exhibitions. 

Published: February 15th 2023