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Lambeth’s Garden Museum explores Windrush horticultural heritage

Lambeth’s Garden Museum is about to launch its Caribbean Heritage Project, revealing an untold history of how the Windrush generation left its mark on south London’s green spaces. 

The project will engage local students in their final years of school, who will record oral history interviews with members of Lambeth’s Caribbean community who keep a garden, or are involved in community gardening.

Project curator Ekua McMorris said: “What’s really interesting is this idea of the garden, and the garden being a very quintessential English phenomenon.

“It’s really important that the experience of those people who came over from the Caribbean is told – that people were gardeners. It’s not just an English, or British, thing.”

Janine Nelson, head of learning at the museum, said they believe this to be the first exploration of Caribbean culture in the context of gardening in the UK.

She added: “The museum is about British gardening and we want to embrace what British gardening means.

“This will add to our archive a story about real people.”

The young people will receive formal training in oral history alongside learning about Caribbean and botanical history, and will engage in discussions about telling stories of empire and racism in the UK. 

They will be interviewing local people who are passionate about gardening, such as Carole Wright, who runs a community garden on her estate in Blackfriars. 

Carole’s mother grew up in Jamaica, where she would grow food including callaloo, yam, banana and mango and she brought this love of the land, handed down through generations, with her to London where she raised Carole.

“There’s something magical about growing and nurturing plants, and having respect for the land, and that opens up other conversations,” said Carole.

The interviews, as well as going into the museum archives, will be displayed in an exhibition in the autumn alongside a set of professional photographs and historical items. 

The exhibition will take place from September-December this year, and will be free to the public. 

Alongside this will run a learning programme, including lessons in Caribbean cooking and tropical plant drawing, and a set of public events and talks. 

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