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I-MMIGRATE Exhibition: From the Inception to the Reception at the Cheltenham Town Hall

Mr Dennis, Black Elder from the Windrush Generation

In September 2018, Lives of Colour set out on a project to showcase and give voices to members of the black communities in Gloucestershire. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of when the Empire Windrush Ship docked into Tilbury, as well as with the aim of honouring Cheltenham's connection with Kisumu Kenya as a twin town, we decided to centre our project on the stories of both the Windrush generation in Gloucester and the African diaspora in Cheltenham. Our first exhibit, titled I-MMIGRATE, focussed on those who chose to leave their countries and move to Gloucester and Cheltenham, with the aim of sharing their immigration experiences. Through photography and audio recordings, it was important for us to showcase the stories of communities which often times get ignored. I knew roughly what I wanted to achieve as we set out on our project plan but since I had not curated an exhibition before, the process was a huge learning curve.

After planning the details of the exhibit, the first thing that we needed to do was to commission some artists to work on the project. We luckily met the incredibly talented Noemi Filletti and Miriam Hauertmann, photojournalist students at the University of Gloucestershire, who were eager to join our endeavour. We were mesmerised with their talent, passion and enthusiasm for using their skills as photojournalists to help highlight these untold stories. As a result, we were very confident about the next phase of the project. Following suit, we got in touch with members of the black communities in Gloucestershire asking if they would like to get involved. Having nurtured relationships with these communities in Gloucestershire over the years, the volunteers felt enough trust and confidence in Lives of Colour to gift us with their time and personal stories. Because of this, it was important for us to safeguard these stories, and show their experiences in the best light possible. By the end of the academic year, we had achieved an abundant amount of photos and audio recordings and therefore the focus shifted to booking venues for the exhibition.

After receiving a great reception from the Cheltenham Trust, we were delighted to book the monumental Cheltenham Town Hall as the first destination of our roaming exhibition. As a business not fazed with taking on new challenges, we were keen to tackle every barrier that we were faced with when curating an exhibition in the period property. This included deciphering how to hang the portraits without picture hanging systems in place.

After getting everything set up for our launch on 25th September 2019, we had the best time celebrating with the Black Elders of Gloucester, the African Diaspora and the wider Gloucestershire community. An evening of sharing stories and discussing the importance including diverse stories in history, we are so grateful to those who have worked on this project, those who contributed their stories, those who came to our exhibit and for all that we have achieved with this exhibition.

Our roaming I-MMIGRATE exhibition is currently being displayed at the Gloucester Museum, so don't miss out on hearing these untold stories!


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