I headed down to the London Transport Museum, in Covent Garden, for the grand opening of its first new Friday Late Legacies: London Transport’s Caribbean Workforce exhibition.
The exhibition which opened on 17 March had an exclusive feel to it with an array of significant features, telling the story and celebrating the huge contribution that people of Caribbean heritage have made to transport history from the 1950s until the present-day in London.
Upon arrival I couldn’t help but notice the itinerary for the evening, which listed a host of events and activities themed on Caribbean culture to immerse myself into. This ranged from inspirational talks, and creative workshops to Carnival tiara designing as well as an interactive steel pan drum masterclass, which others could get involved in.
As I walked through the museum with the knowledge that London Transport had recruited about 6,000 employees directly from some British colonies in the Caribbean to the UK between 1956 to 1970, I couldn’t help but notice the striking photography, and well documented short films and the many audio histories recorded by the workforce.
It was at this point that I took time to reflect on the many stories and memories being told in their own unique way from some of the new Caribbean recruits who had arrived with high hopes of life in Britain. However many were shocked to be faced with hostility and racism and the struggle to find places to live which also came along with their stories of triumphs too.
This momentous moment in history was captured so creatively and from my perspective and the many other visitors it was hard not to be captivated by the immense contribution and sacrifice the Caribbean workforce had made for London Transport.
One particular story that struck me come from Ashley Mayers, a Customer Experience Manager, at Transport for London (TFL) and him coming from a family of three generations that have worked for London bus services. Overall, was amazing to see and hear the impact his generation has and still is making to the TFL.
Upon reflection for me what springs to mind is the fact that as we continue our daily lives and travel in London, on the TFL network that the Caribbean workforce helped shape. I will forever express my gratitude to those who have passed and to the present day employees for which without their valuable contribution of this cohort of the workforce we might have never had the opportunity in British history to experience the positive impact Caribbean communities not only had on London Transport back then until this present day and also on today’s culture.
I’d like to see more of these types of exhibitions- thank you TFL staff, partners, and all the contributors for making history live on on the transport museum!
Find out more about the Legacies: London Transport’s Caribbean Workforce Exhibition.
Selection of pictures from the exhibition:
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