In 1948, the first post-war Caribbean migrants stepped off the Empire Windrush ship and onto the banks of the Tilbury Docks in London. Before embarking on their 30 day journey from Kingston, Jamaica, all 492 official migrants paid £28 to get to Great Britain in response to job adverts in their local papers. 70 years on, and the Caribbean community make up a huge part of contemporary British identity. Talking Textiles, an event at Goldsmith’s College next weekend, commemorates this legacy through the university’s own textile collection.
Rose Sinclair, a PHD candidate at Goldsmiths will discuss the relevance of these works within a broader canon of aesthetics in textiles, paying special attention to the discourse around black women, their arts and crafts practice, and migration. Works by renowned Trinidadian textile designer Althea McNish will also be on display for the event.
On the 22nd of May that historic year, passengers began to disembark the ship, causing quite a stir in local English papers. The mens’ fashion in particular was a source of great excitement, as reports of their ‘dazzling tie designs’ spread throughout the city. Also noted by locals were the mens’ ‘Zoot suit styles’ said to have been made from high quality Canadian blankets, issued for bedding on board the ship.
The creativity that once boarded the Windrush all those years ago can still be found in the fabric of British society today, and in the year of its 70th anniversary, there's no better time to celebrate Caribbean textiles, wherever you are in the world.
For more information on 'Talking Textiles' at Goldsmiths University, click here.