Becoming us

Celebrating the African Caribbean in St Albans

Gordie Jackson
3 min readJun 18, 2024
Screenshot from St Albans Museums webpage

The Becoming Us exhibition has been running since February and ends in less than two weeks.

The exhibition has been brought together by two local community groups that represent the communities that emerged from the ‘Windrush Generation’.

Many stories have beginnings but some are never told about what then happened. ‘Becoming Us’ tells the story of what happened next to those people from the Caribbean who arrived in St Albans from 1948 onwards.

31 years ago I crossed a smaller sea to come to St Alban's but the experience attuned me to the emotions of leaving a place called home, the journey between the old and the new, arriving and making a life.

In the time I have been in St Albans, I have gotten to know members of some of the families named in the exhibition. Upon entering the gallery I noticed the family names. The wooden floor could have symbolised the gangway between leaving the ship or returning to it.

It may only be my perception but I have a sense that maybe 20 families or more held this community. Most of the people I knew were through a shared Christian faith. I was aware that four generations are now present including original pilgrims.

Perhaps without thinking I may assume that the racism they faced brought the community together however I was reminded in conversation with someone involved with the exhibition that is about ‘honouring our differences’.

If I ponder my ethnicity (Northern Irish protestant) I have not found myself part of a ‘Northern Irish’ community while living in St Albans. Now St Albans has an ‘Irish Club’ as do many English towns but I am aware that just because I sound Irish does not give access to that community. Ethnicity for me is about to which tribe I emotionally belong and while I have an understanding of Irishness it is as if a second language.

My experience seems to be the experience of my tribe. You won’t find many Northern Irish clubs in England. I did find one which was a combined Irish and Northern Irish Society as part of Bath University.

This made me think that the ‘Northern Irish protestant’ way of life is British and although there are regional differences there does appear to be a British identity. I came across a Welsh woman recently who spoke about being British in the same way I had heard myself speak years ago. The term British also seems to be a preference for many people coming from ethnic minorities.

So maybe it doesn't seem so different here to home. There are differences but not so vast.

The exhibition tells the story of what happened over 80 years after Windrush but it also helped tell me something about my own story as I heard another’s.




Gordie Jackson

Speaks with a Northern Irish accent, lives in Hertfordshire, England.