October 2017 marked the 30th anniversary of Black History Month and an epic exhibition was put on at Soho House, called The Extraordinary Lives of Everyday People featuring photographs from leading Black British photographer Vanley Burke.
The exhibition included a selection of photographs from Vanley Burke’s ‘Rivers of Birminam’ series which chronicle 40 years of Caribbean heritage in Birmingham.
The full collection of 100 black and white photographs secured a permanent home in the city earlier this year when they were acquired by Birmingham Museums Trust as part of the Collecting Birmingham initiative.
Burke’s photographs are taken from a unique perspective; arriving in Birmingham from Jamaica in 1965 at the age of 14, he has experienced first-hand the changes in his community and the city. Images include photos from anti-National Front demonstrations and rallies in Birmingham, and Mohammed Ali’s visit to the city in 1983.
The exhibition explored the extraordinary lives of everyday Birmingham people as well as historical objects, including the suitcase and letters of Mrs McGhie-Belgrave, a woman who moved from Jamaica to Birmingham in the 1950s.
Lisa Beauchamp, curator of modern and contemporary art at Birmingham Museums Trust, said: “Vanley is a remarkable photographer, able to capture poignant and arresting moments through the medium of black and white photography. His ‘Rivers of Birminam’ series is unparalleled in its recording of Britain’s Caribbean communities, and tells a story of Birmingham and Black British history that feels as relevant and important now as they did when the photographs were first taken.”
The Extraordinary Lives of Everyday People is the second in a series of exhibitions from the Collecting Birmingham project, which aims to enable the people of Birmingham to take an active role in developing a collection of museum objects that tell stories of growing up, living and working in Birmingham.