Important new exhibition celebrates rich heritage of the Derby West Indian Community Association

Grandad, tell me your story (detail) by Samantha Hudson aka Sam Carnival, oil and mixed media on canvas, 2021 (c) Oliver Taylor-Derby Museums – landscape crop

Main image: ‘Grandad, tell me your story’ (detail) by Samantha Hudson aka Sam Carnival, oil and mixed media on canvas, 2021 (c) Oliver Taylor-Derby Museums

An important new exhibition exploring the rich heritage of the Derby West Indian Community Association (DWICA) opens at Derby Museum and Art Gallery later this week.

Entitled: Derby West Indian Community Association: Culture and Legacy, the exhibition is part of The Centre that Powers the Road; a 12-month project, generously supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, that aims to explore and document the heritage of the Derby West Indian Community Association (DWICA). The project aims to ensure the history of DWICA and Derby Caribbean Carnival is better preserved, more accessible and understood.

The exhibition explores how the Association has positively responded to challenges over six decades in the city, supporting its local community and building a legacy in Derby through its many social, cultural, educational and sporting achievements.

It shares Windrush generation memories alongside stories and experiences from DWICA members who settled and grew up in Derby. It also celebrates the vibrancy and spirit of the Derby Caribbean Carnival and the local, national and international connections that make this the highlight of Derby’s cultural calendar every summer.

Image: Carnival Queens Sam Hudson, Alice Burton and Charlene Stephenson, Derby Caribbean Carnival 2012 © Soshain Bali Photography

Adam Slater, Elders’ Officer at the Association, who has collected the oral histories for the exhibition, said:

“There are so many moving stories about how and why people came from the Caribbean to Derby – the heart-breaking decisions they had to make in leaving home, the difficulties that they faced and how time and again they triumphed in the face of adversity.”

“We also hear from great achievers who have made Derby their home, from international stars like legendary West Indian cricketer Michael Holding to local icons like Devon Daley who hosts his own show on BBC Radio Derby.”

“A lot of the stories will bring a tear to your eye, but they provide a real insight into what Caribbeans who made England their home had to go through and how organisations like DWICA provided much-needed support.”

The cast of characters telling their stories include Olga Marr, one of seven Percy sisters from Jamaica that all ended up training to be nurses at the now-closed Derby Royal Infirmary, and Joyce Mitchell, 86, who travelled over to Derby for an arranged marriage to an older admirer.

Some of the stories tell of the painful realisation that England, the land of opportunity, was also England, the land of racism. Beatrice Phillips, 91, tells of the difficulty finding housing in the 1960s and how white residents would work together to stop black families from moving onto their street.

The exhibition and oral histories will also celebrate the cultural achievements of the West Indian community in Derby. Egerton Perry remembers his younger years as a ‘selector’ in a reggae sound clash group and Samantha Hudson recounts her personal journey involved with Derby’s Caribbean Carnival.

Speaking on the exhibition, Derby West Indian Community Association Chairman, George Mighty, 86, said:

“I hope this exhibition will reflect the great work of the Association and its forbearers. I want it to give the younger generations something to aspire to and show how we left our legacy on the city of Derby across many decades of struggle.”

Tony Butler, Executive Director of Derby Museums said:

“We are thrilled to have been involved in co-producing this important new exhibition in partnership with the Derby West Indian Community Association. The exhibition and the wider Centre that Powers the Road project will create an invaluable archive for the city, documenting the building of a community from the 1950s and the continued vital work of the Association today.”

The exhibition opens at Derby Museum and Art Gallery on Friday 18th March and runs until the end of July 2022. Admission is free and visitors are invited to Give What You Think in support of Derby Museums. More information about the exhibition can be found here.