Award-winning Caribbean Artist Celebrates Windrush with a New One-Woman Exhibition

Estimated read time 3 min read
Photo: Helen France, receiving her MBE in 2005 for services to the Arts and the Community of Yorkshire

Profile Interview BY Genevieve Ward

Helen France MBE, from Nevis, was part of the Caribbean Windrush Generation that helped rebuild post-war Britain and made significant contributions to the art scene. She initially planned to settle in London but ultimately made her home in Yorkshire, where her brother lived.

Q: When did you discover your love for Art?

A: I grew up in the Caribbean and discovered that I could make paint from the plants in our garden. I used stones as canvases and adorned the flamboyant tree with my carvings. I dreamed of attending an art college, but it was impossible in the Caribbean. Despite this, I was determined to find a way to pursue my passion for Art.

Q: What was it like coming to the UK in the ’60s from the Caribbean?

A: When I arrived in the UK from the Caribbean in the 1960s, I was taken aback by the fact that people didn’t interact with each other as openly as they did back home. I encountered racism, which was completely unexpected, but I was also fortunate to find friendships with some wonderful people from Yorkshire who made me feel at home.

Q: What was it like attending Art College in the 60’s?

A: Attending Art College in the UK was not just a dream but a testament to my passion and dedication as a young woman in the Caribbean. As a black Art student, I faced numerous challenges but was determined to learn and develop my skills. Despite feeling isolated, I immersed myself in various art courses and techniques, ultimately leading to my extensive skills and knowledge as an art maker.

Q: What is your most significant achievement as an artist?

A: I was honored with an MBE for my service to Art and the community of Yorkshire and received it from Prince Charles at the Palace. These achievements recognize the value of Art and the Caribbean community’s contributions to the UK.

Q: What art exhibitions or projects do you have next?

A: I’m thrilled to announce my upcoming Windrush Stories exhibition, which will explore the rich history and culture of the Windrush Generation and my Caribbean heritage. I’m grateful to Leeds City Council for funding the exhibition.

The ‘Windrush Stories’ exhibition at Shine Community and Business Hub in Harehills, Leeds, LS8 5HS from June 17. Open Monday to Friday, 9 am-5 pm, free admission.

 

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