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Neil Kenlock’s photos of black community leaders head home to Brixton

a photo of a man with beard, beany hat and roll neck sweater

Darcus Howe (broadcaster and civil rights campaigner) © Neil Kenlock

Neil Kenlock’s photographs capture the pioneering black leaders of London in the 1960s and 1970s in a new exhibition at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton

Seventy years on from the arrival of the Empire Windrush into Great Britain, a new exhibition in London celebrates British Black community leaders, many of whom come from that same Windrush generation.

Seventy photographic images from the archive of photographer Neil Kenlock, capture pivotal community figures like broadcaster and civil rights campaigner Darcus Howe and Lord David Pitt (Baron of Hampstead, Labour Party politician, GP and political activist) in the 1960s and 1970s during a time of discrimination, struggle and achievement.

A major figure in documenting the lives of black people in Britain in the post war era, Kenlock was born in Jamaica and arrived in London in 1963 and became a professional photographer recording the fashions and lifestyles of black people in the UK.

As staff photographer of West Indian World, the first national newspaper aimed at the black community and as co-founder of black glossy lifestyle magazine Root, Kenlock’s images offer a window into the lives and experiences of black people in London.

a photo of two women sitting in a large wicker chair

(Right) Olive Morris (anti-discrimination, womens and squatters’ rights campaigner) © Neil Kenlock

a photo of a tall man talking two men

Arthur Stanley Wint OD MBE (first Jamaican Olympic gold medallist and Jamaica’s High Commissioner) © Neil Kenlock

a photo of a young black woman pointing to a door graffiti'd with the words keep Britain white

Keep Britain White – Barbara Grey. © Neil Kenlock

In 1968 he joined the British Black Panther movement, a Brixton based group, which shared a name with the gun toting revolutionary group in the US but styled itself as a movement aiming to educate black people about their heritage and to fight injustice and discrimination through peaceful protest. Kenlock became their in house photographer.

One of his most famous images captures the racist graffiti sprayed on the door of the International Personnel training centre in Balham, South London, 1974, by the National Front.

Called there by the Brixton Neighbourhood Community Organisation as a freelance photographer with West Indian World, Kenlock photographed the centre’s secretary Barbara Grey, standing calmly next to the graffiti, which was just one example of the racist graffiti that could be found everywhere from schools to workplaces during the 1960s and 1970s.

The famous photo is one of 70 photographs from the Kenlock archives featured in the show, which has been curated by Kenlock and his daughter Emelia Kenlock to focus on the lives and experiences of first generation African and Caribbean leaders who settled in the UK and those who influenced the community in Lambeth and the surrounding boroughs.

“Many young Black people from our community only engage with heritage when they visit museums during their educational studies,” says the acclaimed photographer, whose exhibition will take over the entire Black Community Archives in Brixton for two months.

“Steve Barnard was the first black person to play reggae music on British radio in the 1970s”

“This project aims to give access to examples of Black leadership, as well as archive material outside of the normal educational environment.”

The luminaries include the anti-discrimination and womens rights campaigner, Olive Morris who founded the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD) in London, the Brixton Black Women’s Group and was a member of the British Black Panther Movement.

Also featured are Arthur Stanley Wint OD MBE, who served as a flying officer with the RAF during the Second World War, before becoming the first Jamaican Olympic gold medallist and Jamaica’s High Commissioner, and Steve Barnard who in the 1970s became the first black person to play reggae music on British radio with his reggae music show on Radio London.

a photo of a man holding a glass

Steve Barnard (first black radio presenter with a UK reggae music show) © Neil Kenlock

a photo of a man in suit and waistcoat

Lord David Pitt (Baron of Hampstead, Labour Party politician, GP and political activist) © Neil Kenlock.

As well as these powerful portraits, Kenlock’s photographs on display also capture important historical moments like historic meeting between the community pioneer Courtney Law and of the Home Secretary at the time, Lord Jenkins.

“Over fifty years since the concept of ‘Black excellence’ first manifested and 70 years on from the Windrush, I truly hope the exhibition will add to the national cultural narrative and resonate with new audiences,” adds Kenlock of the show, which promises to be a ‘live exhibition’ that invites the local community to respond and share their ideas and impressions of the photographs.

Paul Reid, Black Cultural Archives Director describes Expectations as “the first ‘exhibition takeover’ project of its kind at the BCA and one that “aims to increase public access to Black cultural heritage whilst documenting past and present histories using unseen images.”

The full archive of photographic images will be available on the dedicated website expectationsproject.com from August 7.

Expectations: The Neil Kenlock Archive is at the Black Community Archive from August 7 until September 28 2018.


Black Cultural Archives

London, Greater London

Black Cultural Archives is the only national heritage centre dedicated to collecting, preserving and celebrating the histories of African and Caribbean people in Britain. The relevance of our history is universal. By supporting BCA, you are helping to embed our stories within the history of Britain, ensuring that our contributions…

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