Exhibition to commemorate lives and journeys of Jamaicans who settled in Leeds

The family of the late Errol James MBE, JP. Left and right daughters Lynne James holding Mr James MBE medal awarded for his work in community and race relations, and Susan Holliday: middle-granddaughter Grace Holliday, front his seven-year-old great-granddaughter Esme Holliday. 'Picture: Paul Floyd Blake.
The family of the late Errol James MBE, JP. Left and right daughters Lynne James holding Mr James MBE medal awarded for his work in community and race relations, and Susan Holliday: middle-granddaughter Grace Holliday, front his seven-year-old great-granddaughter Esme Holliday. 'Picture: Paul Floyd Blake.
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A special exhibition in Leeds is all set to commemorate the lives and journeys of Jamaicans who settled in the city during the 1940’s to 60’s and who have since passed away.

Staged by Jamaica Society Leeds, the Eulogy Exhibition will run from August 2 for five weeks in Leeds Central Library as part of the Chapeltown based charity’s Eulogy Project, which is celebrating the pioneering generation who made the journey from the Caribbean island.

The late Errol James MBE, JP arrived from Jamaica in 1944'aged 18 having volunteered for the RAF. Mr James was one of the six'founding members of the Jamaica Society Leeds and a founding member of'the Caribbean Cricket Club in 1948 Leeds West Indian Centre in 1982.'He received an MBE for his services to community and race relations.'Mr James died after illness in 1994. The portrait of his descendants'will sit next to Mr Jamess picture at the Eulogy Exhibition.

The late Errol James MBE, JP arrived from Jamaica in 1944'aged 18 having volunteered for the RAF. Mr James was one of the six'founding members of the Jamaica Society Leeds and a founding member of'the Caribbean Cricket Club in 1948 Leeds West Indian Centre in 1982.'He received an MBE for his services to community and race relations.'Mr James died after illness in 1994. The portrait of his descendants'will sit next to Mr Jamess picture at the Eulogy Exhibition.

Jamaica Society Chair, Reverend Dorothy Stewart said: “The UK’s first-generation Jamaicans and other West Indians left their homes and loved ones behind to answer Britain’s call for help in World War ll. “Just a few years later they would answer the call once again to fill the post war labour shortage in the NHS, textiles, transport, engineering and other sectors.

“Yes, they did so for their families and to fulfil youthful ambitions, but we must never forget that their quest for opportunity helped to build our cities including Leeds. The Eulogy Exhibition will help us to recognise that Leeds would not be the great city it is today without them.”

The exhibition will feature the photography and eulogies included in the traditional Jamaican funeral programmes for 76 first generation Jamaicans who settled in Leeds.

Gathered during a series of community collection events, the exhibition will also feature other family keepsakes, items from their arrival in Leeds, oral history interviews with family members and peers.

Patrick Francis, son of the late Delores Vi Francis. Patricks portrait will sit next to his mothers in the Eulogy Exhibition, celebrating first generation Jamaicans in Leeds who are no longer with us. Picture: Paul Floyd Blake.

Patrick Francis, son of the late Delores Vi Francis. Patricks portrait will sit next to his mothers in the Eulogy Exhibition, celebrating first generation Jamaicans in Leeds who are no longer with us. Picture: Paul Floyd Blake.

Exhibition Curator Susan Pitter, whose parents came from Jamaica in the early 60’s, and are included in the exhibition said: “This exhibition goes beyond perceptions of Windrush Generation victims. So, ordinary stories of triumph and heartbreak, of young couples in love, families, people making a living will be showcased with equal importance alongside the achievements of trailblazing community activists and RAF servicemen. These are human stories that everyone can relate to.

“The exhibition is a powerful reflection on the contributions of that pioneering generation and their continuing impact on our city. Between them, the 76 men and women featured spent a combined total of almost 3,500 years as citizens of Leeds. It is a privilege and an honour to be a part of helping to ensure that those years of contributions by Jamaicans to the economic prosperity and cultural richness of Leeds that we enjoy today, are ingrained in the story of our city.”

Twenty Family Legacy Portraits will sit next to those of their first generation loved ones in younger days. Including an item belonging to their family member, the portraits were taken on the site of the former Gerald Donne Photo Studio on Chapeltown Road, where most Jamaicans and other new to Leeds West Indians had formal studio portraits taken shortly after arrival, to send home to family back in the Caribbean.

Exhibition images will be featured in a Eulogy photo book to be published later this year.

The late Delores Vi Francis before she came to Leeds from'Jamaica in 1954 and became the citys first black female bus'conductor. 'Picture courtesy of: Frasers Studio, Kingston Jamaica

The late Delores Vi Francis before she came to Leeds from'Jamaica in 1954 and became the citys first black female bus'conductor. 'Picture courtesy of: Frasers Studio, Kingston Jamaica

The free Eulogy Exhibition has been made possible with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Leeds Inspired and Windrush 2019 and opens to the public on August 2 until September 8 at Room 700 in Leeds Central Library, Calverley Street, Leeds 1.