Dorcas Stories: We are Here to Stay (1962 to the 1980’s)

In the foreground, part of a dress with a graphic bamboo pattern on it. In the blurred background is a sewing machine and a vintage handbag.

Dorcas Stories from the Front Room exhibition.

The beginning of the 1960s saw great change. In the Caribbean itself the two biggest islands Jamaica and Trinidad gained independence and in migration many people now arrived by plane as well as ship. In contrast to earlier arrivals who came alone, now families arrived together or children travelling alone joined their parents.Caribbean music is being played on the radio and there is a sense of permanence.

Vanley Burke’s photographs show how people dressed, their interior spaces and how and where they worked.

Regarded as the Godfather of Black British photography, Vanley was born in Jamaica in 1951, moving to Britain to join his parents in 1965. Gifted a camera by his mother at age 10, he documented what he saw around him, focusing on the lived experiences of the African Caribbean community, and that of the wider diaspora. These photographs look specifically at crafts, fashions and the front room spaces from the 60s to the 80s. He captures the many facets of everyday lives, rituals and leisure activities of Black people ‘at home’,

AN old black and white photo of a man sitting at his sewing machine in a cramped room. There is a small sewing table, a dressing table with a mirror, an iron on the floor and stacked rolls of fabric on the mantle piece.

Tailor working from his one bed room accommodation by Vanley Burke.  

George Saunders, a master tailor, moved to Birmingham from St Kitts in the Caribbean in 1958. Like many migrants, George faced discrimination when he arrived in the UK. His skills were not recognised, and when he did gain work, he was paid less than his white British colleagues. However, George overcame these challenges, and went on to run several successful tailoring businesses. From 1974 to 2001 George operated from a shop on Hurst Street. George was one of the last tenants to work in Court 15, Hurst Street before it was donated to the care of the National Trust. His shop has been preserved and is an important part of Windrush and Caribbean heritage.

A portrait of an older black man. He has a tape measuer around his neck, a white shirt and braces on his trousers. He leans on a rail of clothes.
A cramped but drab looking sewing room. There are shelves of rolled up cloth, paper pattern pieces hanging on the walls and two sewing machines.

Images: George Saunders, George Saunders Workshop (Photo: National Trust Images, Robert Morris)

Rose Sinclair’s collection of 1960s/70s Jamaican Fashion Guild garments showcase young designers who were lighting up the catwalks and putting Jamaica on the fashion map.

A vintage dress. It is navy blue with small white graphic pattern , large white collar and a tie at the neck.

Images: Fashion Guild items from Rose’s collection.

Trinidadian, designer Althea McNish, (1924-2020), was one of the first designers of Caribbean heritage to gain international recognition in the field of textile design. She created designs for Liberty, Heals, Courtaulds, Danasco, John Lewis to name a few, as well as being a member of the Caribbean Artist Movement (CAM) 1966-1972. McNish was a pioneer and signposted the way for what was possible in the world of commercial art and textile design.

A close up of a bright vintage textile. Painterly squares are made up of purple, pink, yellow and drown brushmarks.

Images: Althea McNish, Theodoric (pink), c.1965–66. Printed cotton furnishing fabric, manufactured by Cavendish Textiles, retailer John Lewis & Partners. 

Find out more about a new generation inspired by their heritage and the skills of their ancestors.

Where Next?

Dorcas Stories: Windrush Arrivals (1948 to 1962)

Finding craftspeople on the Windrush.

Evelyn Wauchop's landing card. A recreation of the card with her name and 'stowaway' written on it.

Dorcas Stories: We are Here to Stay (1962 to the 1980’s)

Stories of Caribbean immigrants.

In the foreground, part of a dress with a graphic bamboo pattern on it. In the blurred background is a sewing machine and a vintage handbag.

Dorcas Stories: Windrush Futures

Stories of the Windrush legacy.

Three women stand in a line with their backs to the camera and the sky visible in the background.

Dorcas Stories: Who or What is Dorcas?

Read about the history of Dorcas groups.

A bright vintage magazine with an illustrated cover showing a cotton reel, paint palette and rolling pin. Along side are a Dorcas label on a sewn item and a pin tin branded Dorcas.


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