Jamaica Hidden Histories: Independence, Identity and Belonging Exhibition


Full Spectrum Productions presents the Jamaica Hidden Histories Exhibition: Independence, Identity and Belonging at The Drum, Birmingham, running from Thu 25th June – Thu 30 July, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This is the culmination of a two-year project that uncovers and showcases cultural and historical links between Britain and Jamaica, and forms part of a UK gallery tour.


Departing from commonwealth of England’s capture of the island in 1655, and navigating its way through 1962 independence and the 1970s cultural re-awakening; the exhibition explores how early social, cultural and environmental influences have shaped notions of identity in multicultural Britain, with a particular focus on the Birmingham community.

At the start of the exhibition we are greeted by a photograph entitled Maroon Boys Collecting Wood, part of a series capturing everyday life in Jamaica at the turn of the 20th Century from the rarely seen photographic archives of English photographer, Sir Harry Johnston. The objects held by the boys depict trade links between Britain and Jamaica.

Wood was one of the key exports from Jamaica during this period. The machete, which was manufactured in the West Midlands, would have been used to cut the wood. One such machete company, Ralph Martindale & Co Ltd. Crocodile Works, operated just round the corner from The Drum, on Alma Street, from the late 19th to the beginning of the 21st Century.

Many Jamaicans who came to Britain before and after Independence did not intend to stay. However, while many had returned home by the 1970s, a large number remained settled in cities around the UK.  The exhibition features striking images from the archive of local photographer Vanley Burke, depicting Jamaicans at work – bricklaying, working in restaurants and running pubs and garages – all documenting the Jamaican community’s historic contribution to the economic growth of the city.


At The Drum in August 2014, elders from the local community shared their memories of Independence, while young people spoke about their own identities and sense of belonging. Through these oral testimonies in video and print format, the exhibition explores Jamaican influences in Birmingham.

Visitors will be entertained by continuous screenings of films created for the project. Screenings will include a film outlining the historical context of the Jamaica Hidden Histories project, an  art video inspired by the sculpture Meditations Beneath Duppycherry Tree by Fowokan George Kelly, and a short film entitled Independence, Identify and Belonging from the oral history workshops.

The Jamaica Hidden Histories Educational Pack, launched in May 2015, will be available free of charge to the first 25 secondary schools visiting the exhibition. This cross-cultural educational resource for secondary schools provides teachers with a unique and readily accessible toolkit to engage students on the historical and cultural links between Jamaica and Britain.


The exhibition unearths and unravels the narratives surrounding Jamaica’s transition from Small Island to global brand. The exhibition attracted over 21,000 visitors at the gallery@oxo in London earlier this year.



Amol Rajan – Editor of The Independent newspaper wrote:

“It would be hard to find a better expression not just of Jamaica’s contribution to modern London but of the tragedy, joy and potential of this very special island story.”

Lorna Holder – Curator and Managing Director of Full Spectrum Productions said:

 “The Jamaica Hidden Histories project is about all those pages that have been ripped out regarding our cultural heritage.  It’s about all the stories that have been told and not always documented, and the documents that have been written and not always read. It is about the many archives, films, photographs and artefacts, relating to us; hidden away in museums, galleries and within our homes. Through this project, they are brought to light for young people and elders from diverse communities to connect with their own heritage. This project will establish a legacy that future generations can explore and expand upon.” 


As the final part of the UK gallery tour there will be an exhibition entitled Jamaica Hidden Histories: ‘Sugar Was King’, 5 Sept – 1 Nov 2015 at the New Art Exchange, Nottingham.


Jamaica Hidden Histories Exhibition: Independence, Identity and Belonging

Venue: The Drum, 144 Potters Lane, Aston, Birmingham, B6 4UU

Dates: 25th June – 30th July 2015

Admission FREE




For further information, images and interviews please contact Heather Jackson:


Full Spectrum Productions office

M: 07470 351374 E: heather@jamaicahiddenhistories.com

W: www.jamaicahiddenhistories.com

Social Media: instagram.com/jamaicahiddenhistories  •  twitter.com/jhhistories



About Full Spectrum Productions Ltd.

Full Spectrum Productions, formed in 2004, is a BME not-for-profit production company. The main purpose is to design, develop and deliver interactive community educational projects to inform, enable learning and participation.  Our activities include research, volunteer training, theatre/film productions, publications and events relating to the varied social issues, past and present that are topical in diverse Britain.


Heritage Lottery Fund

From the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife, we use National Lottery players’ money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about.  The project 50 Years of Jamaican Influence on Britain was supported with a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £254,000. www.hlf.org.uk.


Other partners are: Rich Mix; London Metropolitan Archives; Royal Geographical Society with IBG; Tuareg Productions Ltd; The Voice; Jamaica National Building Society, The Weekly Gleaner; JAMPRO and CPRLondon