This project was devised by Artist Donna Griffiths for The Bucks Heroes Project based at Discover Bucks Museum.
At the start of the project in May 2023 Donna visited the Museum store at Halton. Discover Bucks Museum Keeper of Social History shared many highlights with Donna of the Museum’s social history collection including a series of banners or wall-hangings held within the Museum collection. Many of the wall-hangings viewed were designed and created by local community groups over the last hundred years such as the Women’s Institute (W.I.)
The wall-hanging that has been produced is a culmination of thoughts regarding the identity of African Caribbean residents in Buckinghamshire, representing elements of their culture in a way which has symbolic and historic significance. A number of different community groups were approached to be involved in the project, including SV2G, Akacia Saturday School, the African Caribbean Elderly group from Aylesbury, Movers and Shakers (an African Caribbean elderly group from High Wycombe), and a sewing group made of members of people with a mixture of ages from the community in Aylesbury and online through a local BME advisory group. The groups were asked if they’ d like to consider sharing something of their culture in Buckinghamshire.
Pen strokes, fabric cutting and stitch making came together, the designs each individual made was often shared with a story of how they came to arrive in England. Coach trips, parties and food formed a key part of life together. Moments of reminiscence followed in each workshop, with comments such as:-
“We used to dress up in our high heel shoes and go to town.”
“The community was very close. We had a lot of fun!”
“I never went to church without my hat.”
These stories carried a sense of adventure and discovery, as well as adversity and challenge as they encountered mixed responses to their arrival and inclusion in the workforce, places of education, an acknowledgement of the difference of food and flavours, and community life. There were the experiences of segregation during the 1970s where black people stuck together and for the younger participants, there was a hint of disillusionment and sense of not being entirely welcomed in their homeland:
“I’m not putting a Union Jack in my design because I was told “There ain’t no black in the Union Jack.” “But I’ll support Britain every step of the way.”‘
Out of these designs came an enjoyment of creativity, sports and the importance of education came to light as they created their designs, for some a sense of understanding of who they are as young people; and for others pride about where they’ve come from. All of these elements feed into the journey of each of them and Buckinghamshire’s role within that. With sincere thanks to all those who were willing to be involved in the project.
The Wall Hanging will be on display in our Community Gallery until 6 November 2023.