New exhibition highlights stories of women and people of colour on Tyneside during Second World War
20 July 2022
'Stories of Service' shares new research gathered as part of a wider national partnership with Imperial War Museums (IWM)
[Pictured: Left, Mary McDermott; right, Robert Ngbaronye © IWM K 5321]
A new Second World War exhibition exploring recently uncovered stories of women on Tyneside and people who came to Tyneside from the African and Caribbean diaspora during the Second World War as part of the war effort has opened at Discovery Museum in Newcastle, and will run until 25 September 2022.
Stories of Service: Tyneside’s home front during the Second World War shares new research gathered as part of a wider national partnership with Imperial War Museums (IWM) through the Second World War and Holocaust Partnership Programme (SWWHPP) which aims to learn more about underrepresented local stories to make sure they are recorded for future generations. The SWWHPP is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF).
Also on display, embedded in the exhibition until 18 August 2022 is One Story, Many Voices, a digital sound installation created by the SWWHPP, touring all SWWHPP partners across the UK, that reflects our understanding of the Second World War and Holocaust today.
Stories of Service is co-curated by Dr Beverley Prevatt Goldstein, equalities activist, academic, author and community facilitator, who authored the recent historical booklet African Lives in North East England.
"We’re grateful to everyone who came forward and shared their, or a family member’s story"
[Visitors in the exhibition]
Kylea Little, Keeper of History at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums said:
“After a callout to the public in partnership with Imperial War Museums, we’ve captured stories about some amazing women living in Tyneside during the Second World War. This really deepens our knowledge of everyday life in this area during that time, and will help future generations have a better understanding of what life was like on Tyneside.
“We’re very grateful to Dr Prevatt Goldstein for working with us to explore these lesser-known aspects of war on Tyneside; we wanted to share the stories of these under represented people who travelled from the then British Empire to Tyneside and who contributed so much to our communities.
“We’re looking forward to sharing these fascinating stories with our visitors. We’re grateful to everyone who came forward and shared their, or a family member’s story, we could not have done this without their cooperation.”
In the exhibition itself visitors can find out about people like Josephine Hall from Byker who ended up as a core–maker at the steel foundry C.A. Parsons, or Mary McDermott who worked as a conductor or ‘clippie’ on the trams and trolleybuses for the Newcastle Corporation.
“The story of Irene Ighodaro brings the two strands of the exhibition together reminding us that we are not in separate boxes but all one people."
[Dr Irene E.B. Ighodaro, 1944, copyright Estate of Irene E.B. Ighodaro]
Other stories like that of the West Indian Seamen based in North Shields, Nigerian school teacher Robert Ngbaronye who stowed away to Britain and joins the RAF, and surgeon Irene Ighodaro who treats war casualties and manages her brother Robert Wellesley-Cole’s medical practice in Denton Burn, are co-curated by Dr Beverley Prevatt Goldstein.
“It has been a privilege to work collectively with community researchers, historians, and the museum staff to demonstrate the contribution of people of colour to the Second World War. Much credit also goes to the members of the African Lives in England Project Team on whose publications this display is based and to the Imperial War Museum for their amazing pictorial records.
“While this exhibition is unable to capture the full commitment of people of colour to fighting for their country as their offers of assistance were frequently rejected it can serve to remind us all of our shared vision and common purpose and of the way people of colour have always contributed to our society in Tyneside and nationally.
“The story of Irene Ighodaro brings the two strands of the exhibition together reminding us that we are not in separate boxes but all one people. I hope that this exhibition will encourage this perspective as well as providing fascinating and new information.”
One Story, Many Voices
One Story, Many Voices, the touring installation from IWM, is inspired by the rich collections and research expertise of IWM and SWWHPP partners, as well as the important input of diverse communities across the UK. Writers Amina Atiq, Nicola Baldwin, Mercedes Kemp, Glenn Patterson, and previous Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen have authored immersive binaural stories, each exploring a specific aspect of the Second World War or the Holocaust.
Visitors will be able to see objects from the collection dating from this period including women’s Royal Naval Service officer uniform and Auxiliary Territorial Service uniform, Land Army dungarees, Auxiliary Air Force jacket and more ephemera from service, rivet gun from the shipyards, work passes, recruitment posters and more.
There will also be a selection of publications which reference the contributions of people from the African diaspora during the Second World War.
Snapshots of the new women’s stories can be accessed online in ‘Eight Women of Tyneside’ on Discovery Museum’s page on Google Arts & Culture here.