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Photo by Peter Ferguson - Courtesy of Carolyn Cooper

The Caribbean and the UK have been inter-connected for centuries. Four significant anniversaries (The Windrush, the NHS, the Notting Hill Carnival and Black History Month) are being marked in Britain this year, testimony to the impact the Caribbean diaspora continues to have on contemporary British society. The British Council strives to create spaces in which open dialogue between cultures can flourish, by bringing together innovative minds to explore shared ideas and connect diverse cultural identities and artistic expressions.

Working closely with Caribbean and British partners, the British Council, in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, is creating an opportunity for one Caribbean curator to collaborate with a team of National Portrait Gallery curators, to co-develop and showcase work selected from the National Portrait Gallery’s archive which will be placed in dialogue with contemporary Caribbean practice, through an Instagram residency that responds to the anniversaries. The suites of images will appear on the National Portrait Gallery’s and British Council’s Instagram platforms from June through August 2018.

The Instagram residency aims to question what these historical moments in Britain’s history mean in its multicultural, pluralistic society. It also looks at its meaning within the Caribbean, a region still grappling with brain drain to highly developed industrialized nations while simultaneously impacting the Global North positively through the power of its creative force evidenced in its contributions to music, literature, film, dance, performance and festival culture. By marking these different moments, the project will explore, through the arts, the subjects of migration, health and the presence of the Caribbean in Black British culture and carnival.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 65 million people directly and 731 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. Founded in 1934, we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body.

About the National Portrait Gallery

Founded in 1856, the aim of the National Portrait Gallery, London is ‘to promote through the medium of portraits the appreciation and understanding of the men and women who have made and are making British history and culture and to promote the appreciation and understanding of portraiture in all media’.

The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. The Collection is displayed in London and in a number of locations around the United Kingdom, including several houses managed by the National Trust. The Gallery aims to bring history to life through its extensive display, exhibition, research, learning, outreach, publishing and digital programmes. These allow us to stimulate debate and to address questions of biography, diversity and fame which lie at the heart of issues of identity and achievement. The National Portrait Gallery aims to be the foremost centre for the study of and research into portraiture, as well as making its work and activities of interest to as wide a range of visitors as possible.

Project Description

The British Council and the National Portrait Gallery are looking to hire a Caribbean curator who will collaborate with a team of National Portrait Gallery curators on an Instagram residency to launch the Caribbean edition of the Americas IN Britain project. Together, they will work in partnership to collaboratively respond to four significant anniversaries, historic moments and their legacies which mark Caribbean-British people as signifiers in contemporary British society. The project team will also include the Head of Social Media at the National Portrait Gallery and Regional Arts Manager Americas, British Council.

The project will span a 5-month digital programme (June-October 2018) and take full advantage of the visibility of National Portrait Gallery’s digital platform (which has 600k followers) supported by a robust social media campaign and mark the launch of the British Council’s Regional Arts Instagram account with this residency. 

About the Curator

The Caribbean-based curator will work collaboratively with two curators at the National Portrait Gallery, London: Clare Freestone, Curator Photographs (Acquisitions and Collections) and Louise Stewart, Cross Collections Curator. This international cultural partnership will encourage deep engagement across the Collection and rich conversations resulting in dynamic digital content.

Clare Freestone
As Curator, Photographs (Acquisitions and Collections, part-time) her work at the Gallery involves working with the breadth of the Photographic Collection comprising 250,000 items and with the varied subjects the photographs depict from the 1840s to the present day. I assume some responsibility for new acquisitions in photography and the care and cataloguing of the Collection. Some of the more recent displays she has curated include Marilyn Monroe: A British Love AffairFamous in the Fifties: Photographs by Daniel FarsonPrivate Eye: Photographs by Lewis Morley, and Public and Private: Winston Churchill in Photographs. Whilst at the National Portrait Gallery she has developed her interest in post-war photography and culture. The research she undertook for the exhibition of the work of Ida Kar, a photographer of Armenian origin, portraying artists and writers in London and Paris in the 1950s and 1960s, led to a specific interest in this period and milieu.

Louise Stewart
Louise Stewart is Curator of sixteenth-century to contemporary collections at the National Portrait Gallery, London.  She is the curator of the Gallery’s flagship international touring exhibition, Tudors to Windsors: Royal Portraits from the National Portrait Gallery and will play a key role in Inspiring People, a major £35.5m capital project and programme development.  Louise is the recipient of an Art Fund New Collecting award to acquire popular, global and ephemeral portraits. She studied Art History at Edinburgh and Oxford before completing a PhD at the University of Nottingham. Louise has previously worked at the National Centre for Craft and Design, Nottingham Contemporary and for Ordinary Culture.

Timeline

Deadlines for submissions: 18 May 2018.

Caribbean curator announcement: 22 May 2018

About the Four Anniversaries

  • 70th Anniversary of the Windrush Voyage (22 June 1948)

On June 22nd 1948, the Empire Windrush made an 8,000 mile journey from the Caribbean and arrived at Tilbury Dock in London with 492 passengers on board from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other islands. This marked the beginning of post-war West Indian mass migration, part of Britain’s attempt to recruit labour to provide employment in the public services for the NHS and the London Transport system, leading to the transformation of British society. Brixton fast became one of London’s new West Indian communities while the UK was witnessing the biggest wave of non-white immigration comprising a half million West Indians, themselves citizens of Britain, who enriched and transformed the country culturally and became Black British.

  • The National Health Service – (5 July 1948)

Since the 1930s, successive British governments recruited doctors, nurses and other health workers from overseas to work in UK health services with the first mass recruitment of nurses from the English-speaking Caribbean. “Recruitment was aimed at three main categories of worker: hospital auxiliary staff, nurses or trainee nurses, and domestic workers. Senior NHS staff from Britain travelled to the Caribbean to recruit, and vacancies were often published in local papers. In 1949, the Barbados Beacon advertised for nursing auxiliaries to work in hospitals across Britain; applicants were to be aged between 18 and 30, literate, and willing to commit to a three-year contract. Over the next two decades, the British colonies and former colonies provided a constant supply of cheap labour to meet staffing shortages in the NHS, and the number of women from the Caribbean entering Britain to work in the NHS grew steadily until the early 1970s. By the end of 1965, there were 3,000-5,000 Jamaican nurses working in British hospitals, many of them concentrated in London and the Midlands. It has been estimated that by 1972, 10,566 students had been recruited from abroad and that by 1977 overseas recruits represented 12 per cent of the student nurse and midwife population in Britain, of which 66 per cent came from the Caribbean.”[i]

These nurses brought their culture with them and contributed to the transformation of British society.

  • 60th Anniversary of Notting Hill Carnival - (August)

This is the largest public street festival in Europe and the second largest Carnival celebration in the world, after Rio. Notting Hill Carnival began in 1966 with a group of 500 individuals from the British West Indian community and today it attracts about one million people. In 2006, the UK public voted it onto the list of icons in England. Marking the anniversary of this Caribbean cultural festival provides a great opportunity to explore different art forms, including masquerade, steel bands, calypso, reggae and sound systems. The roots of this carnival came out of a Caribbean Carnival in 1959 which was responding to race tensions in the UK. In 2017, the Notting Hill Carnival held one minute’s silence over its two days of festivities in tribute to the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, connecting back to the roots of its incarnation. “The Notting Hill Carnival is a refashioning and reinterpretation of the Trinidad Carnival and represents the most iconic signature of the Black presence in the UK. This event encompasses the extremes of performance culture. It is not a singular art form but an integrated framework for live performances in public spaces that are rooted in a diversity of art forms involving the human body, space and time.”[ii]

  • 30th Anniversary Black History Month (June-October)

Black History Month provides the British Council with yet another opportunity to connect Caribbean and UK artists by celebrating the contributions of Caribbean diasporic populations to the UK. Black History Month was refashioned to give meaning and teeth to the Race Relations and Equality Acts in the UK. 

[iii]The National Portrait Gallery is launching a campaign in June around the 100 Great Black Britons event which will be revealed in October and our involvement in and contribution to this will be an effective wrap up to the Instagram residency. 

APPLICATION GUIDELINES

To be considered as co-curator for 2018 | The Americas IN Britain – The Caribbean Edition Instagram Residency, a full application must contain the following:

  • A brief bio of 500 words on your curatorial practice;  
  • A letter of approximately 700 words (1 page) describing the proposal for the Instagram residency. This should include a short summary on the reasons why this project is important at this moment, your curatorial approach as well as the names of any artists, curators, collections, archives, or institutions in the Caribbean the curator hopes to include or work with;
  • A suite of 5-10 images of possible works with an image list. Given the collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery, the focus is on portraiture;
  • A Curriculum Vitae (abridged to no more than 3 pages);
  • Budget with allocation of grant

Format: The required documents should be sent by email to andrea.dempsterchung@britishcouncil.org.jm and Silvia.Lunazzi@britishcouncil.org.br  by 11:59 pm on 18 May with “The Americas IN Britain – The Caribbean Edition” in the subject line.

The bio, letter, images and image file list, CV, and budget with allocation of grant, should be page-numbered and sent as one single PDF. Incomplete applications will not be accepted or reviewed.

The grantee will receive a total budget of £4,000 which includes a fee for the curator and a fee for the artists. The grantee will be responsible for remunerating the artists whose work is included in the Instagram residency. On completion of the residency, a report of approximately 1,000 words on the outcomes of the Instagram residency is required, together with a budget outlining how the money was spent. This should also include a 500-word testimony which can be used for public consumption and shared through the British Council Caribbean website.

 For further information or questions, please contact:  andrea.dempsterchung@britishcouncil.org.jm or Silvia.Lunazzi@britishcouncil.org.br