Hackney events celebrate Black History Month

Hip girls in Hackney, a Gibson Studio portrait

Hip girls in Hackney, a Gibson Studio portrait - Credit: Archant

An exhibition showing how Hackney has changed over the years is among the programme of events celebrating Black History Month.

A portrait of a Caribbean nurse, taken at the Gibson Studio, displayed as part of the Black History

A portrait of a Caribbean nurse, taken at the Gibson Studio, displayed as part of the Black History Month exhbitions at the Hackney Museum - Credit: Archant

Throughout October people can discover stories of the borough’s Afro-Caribbean population and the impact of their contribution.

Jonathan McShane, Hackney Council’s cabinet member for culture, said: “We’ve been committed to this for a long time. Money is tight but we see this as an incredibly important part of the year for the community.

“Black history is totally entwined with the history of Hackney if you want to understand how it became a borough. This is equally the case of other communities we celebrate.”

The Hackney Museum is celebrating with the Strike a Pose exhibition, featuring a vast archive of photos from the late 1940s up until the 1970s which were taken at the Gibson studio, in Lower Clapton Road. It gives an insight into how Hackney has changed over the years.

Museum manager Niti Acharya said: “At the launch people could recognise who was in the photos. They could share their stories at the time and in the past two days we have had 10 photos identified.

“I wasn’t sure what response we would get but the fantastic people in Hackney are coming forward and there is a snowball effect.

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“There is even a Facebook page so people living further away can access them.”

The museum has also worked with Black Women in the Arts to create an oral history of the Caribbean nurses who came in their hundreds to work for the NHS, many for Hackney’s hospitals, in the 1940s.

The exhibition was endorsed by England’s chief nursing officer Jane Cummings, who attended the launch.

She said she was standing on the shoulders of giants who helped her do the job she did.

Ms Acharya said: “They were trailblazers laying down the foundation of nursing for future generations.

“We find out about these women leaving their families, being independent and wanting adventure but also being very clear that they wanted to do such a noble profession.

“They were so young as well, about 18 to 24 years old. There are some poignant and really moving stories.”

A smaller museum exhibition takes place at the Hackney Archives, in partnership with University College London, tracing slave owners in the 1800s.

The project uncovers a database of compensation claimants after the abolition of slavery and the many links to Hackney these people had.

Related events, school programmes, workshops and talks are scheduled at venues across the borough.