Museumand…..The National Museum of Caribbean Culture: Catherine Ross and Linda Burrell: walking, singing, making and creating through history and silence

Featured Image: Catherine Ross of The National Museum of Caribbean Culture

Notts TV is really working for me: I think its coverage of a wider, more inclusive Nottingham is hopeful for the city.  Bringing normality of coverage to local cultural exhibitions, for example, the great piece Rachel Mlota did on the Art of Black Hair is a credit to people like Catherine Ross and Linda Burrell who are part of the vanguard in Nottingham just now, gently reminding the powers that be in media that black people aren’t just incredibly rare colourful birds that can be spotted every day/week/month/year/decade/century (remove the category you don’t apply) but are always here, just that the traditional media can’t spot them.

Notts TV has worked with Catherine and Linda to develop the incredibly popular Caribbean conversations.  The first series of six are on demand here)


I’ve transcribed  part of one of the episodes where the friends talk about Homes and Growing Up in Jamaica and the UK

Madge Spencer (here’s a pottery workshop on You Tube where she works with children to design pottery gardens…..


Above Madge Spencer, side face Catherine Ross, Mrs Anderson,  Olive Coward, Mrs Anderson, Olive, Carman, Madge

Catherine Ross Director of National Caribbean Museum Madge Potter sample in Jamaica Yabba (sometimes spelt Yahba) for cooking on open fires…


Above Madge with her Yabba Pot (screen shot from Caribbean Conversations Notts TV)

When she came to England… Yabbas became casserole pots.  As a child Madge used to help her mother and father dig the yam and potato and other vegetables…for cooking….


Above Sweet Potatoes and world beating Yams just out of the ground from Laford Beckford’s Manchester Grung (ground) Jamaica Gleaner April 16th 2011


Above map of Manchester Parish Jamaica

Carman Duwell came from  Jamaica (St Elizabeth) had a lot of housework to do as a child. Her mother  was a higgler (a pedlar), there were seven children to look after six (and herself) as well as her mum and dad. It was important to be dutiful.


Above St Elizabeth’s Parish Jamaica

Olive Coward Life wasn’t too hard, she said, her dad was a tailor. Olive was the  eldest  of three and had to clean house look after her  brother and sister, a little mother,  coming to England, different here  in uk looking after brother and sister. Most Jamaicans  are good at caring for siblings and family, had a level of skills others didn’t have….

Mrs Anderson, there were nine in the family,  she carried the water and really ran for  messages, ran and come back so the actual going to school  became a real pleasure. It was her brother who did the cleaning, she said,  he should have been a girl because he cleaned, cooked. I was interested in reading and was able to slip off down to the cellar to read.

Catherine Ross My job was cleaning the front room, polish the furniture and the brass, she liked this because England was so cold and it meant she didn’t have to venture out to the shops….

The front room…was special….noone could go in, once it was cleaned, the door was shut. Madge:  you only went in when you had visitors,  there was always a fresh vase of flowers,  you had to go and fetch the water (on your head), fetch firewood,  then have breakfast…

When the School bell went, had to get there…Madge was teacher’s pet, if you become teacher’s pet.. you get away with murder…. if she was late they would let her in. She had to  fetch the teacher’s lunch and any book she wanted.  I would get it… I was loved and respected by the teachers but hated by the children…

Carman…. I had to wake up at 5am get stepfather coffee before work, sweep the yard, see the boys and girls had uniform, (khaki) ironed, that the seam in the trousers stood out,  I was the oldest of twelve…

Catherine remembers how the seam on the trousers  had to be smooth and sharp not ‘rough dry’ Olive remembers  the khaki trousers washing them but the seam at the bottom hadn’t been turned out. Her mum realised this straight away telling her that ‘this isn’t washed!’ She took it and rubbed it in the dirt… to teach her that ‘if any man take you you had to be able to wash, iron, cook…..’

Catherine... (from St Kitts)



Above St Kitts to Jamaica

when we came we had crimplene….


that saved us (from the dreaded ironing)….

Olive the little mother… had to brush my brother’s hair and plait my sister’s hair..had to do several times…

CatherineJamaicans always want to look the best and be the best: appearance matters to a Caribbean….

Madge Sometimes you only had one suit often only had one…it had to be washed and in the morning ironed….every day…

Olive because I didn’t wash …or iron… I had the morning work where I was expected to take breakfast or lunch and then go to school… never experienced all of the routines …the cooking, all the people  I knew could cook, all the people I knew could create the taste…led me to learn how to cook corn meal, nice and smooth… your man tests you  on your corn meal ….

What is a blue spot…? A Blaupunkt (record player) was a German record player ‘Every West Indian household had a Blaupunkt record player, huge thing, … He continues: ‘Everytime there was a party, this thing would spark up, and the … and realizing that all of our parents played the same kind of music in their house….(quoted in Black British Jazz, Routes, Ownership and Performance  Routledge 2014)

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and the women go on to discuss the Bedroom…candlewick bedspread…velvet…bedspreads…


which takes us back in time to the ……

Colonial Period

Though candlewicking is older than America, the style became a sensation in the late 1700s. Though some would attribute the popularity to the frugality of colonial life it was ultimately the industrial revolution that gave power to the growing art. The businesses of spinning and weaving were taking great leaps in technology and efficiency and that, combined with the booming cotton industry, paved the way for the embroidery style.

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Image from Pinterest

But the sun always shone in Britain (from time to time!) on the righteous….brothers and sisters….

Great series Catherine and Linda …you make us think and talk and…connect. Thank you!







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