Wycombe Museum @ Eden Centre Pop-Up
The Wycombe Museum pop-up at Eden was an amazing product of lock-down. We could no longer open our doors on the Castle Hill site but thanks to generous funding from the Art Fund and Near Neighbours we were bring our collections to the middle of High Wycombe. Eden Shopping centre allowed us into one of their larger shop units and the adventure began!
We opened on (when) with a small display and our activities grew, and stories spread until our final closure at the end of October, Black History Month, 2021.
Our exhibition featured collections from chairs to weddings to Windrush and allowed us to showcase often unseen objects on the high street for the shopping public.
‘Fantastic to have a great exhibition celebrating the people and culture of the area in the centre of town! Brilliant!’
‘The furniture pop-up really shows ‘how well furniture was made back I the day. My dad worked at Ercol for 44 years!’
‘Excellent surprise in the shopping centre. Very good information. Thank-you!’
“Thoroughly enjoyed our visit and recognised several pieces of Ercol furniture. My husband worked for Ercol furniture. My husband used to work for Ercol, joining at 16 as an apprentice. He worked for over 30 years at the London Road site”
“A very good representation of furniture from local furniture factories. Interesting to see so many things remembered from High Wycombe throughout my lifetime. A lot of these chairs still in use today!”
A volunteer who worked on the display added:
“I have learnt so much from working with the chairs, moving and cleaning them, and displaying them for visitors to the museum to see. I now know how a Windsor chair was constructed, and the names of some of the parts of a chair and how they were made. I know the names of some of the many factories that made furniture in High Wycombe and think it is so important that we ensure that Wycombe’s furniture making heritage is shared and not forgotten. I have become someone who has a greater love of vintage furniture.”
Windrush @ Eden Pop-Up, Wycombe Museum
‘On 21st June 1948 the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks in London, and changed the course of British history.’
Following the Second World War thousands of people were invited from all over the commonwealth to help rebuild our country. At one-point High Wycombe was home to the largest settlement of people from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines anywhere outside of the islands themselves, but it is only recently some of these stories are being shared.
‘Today we present a record of the last 70 years, from our perspective, as we lived it. From black and white to colour, from outside to in, from excluded to integral.
This is our journey. This is Wycombe’s Windrush legacy.’
In the heart of the Eden Shopping Centre, Wycombe Museum’s incredible Windrush exhibition brought the Caribbean to the Chilterns. A palm tree softly moving in the breeze, the rattle of a cocktail shaker. And the story and experiences of the Windrush generation who have made High Wycombe their home from the 1940s onwards.
They were not universally welcomed, instead there was an environment of fear and prejudice. Caribbean community leaders worked hard to improve things, organising job interviews and housing for new comers, events and celebrations and even putting into place ‘susu’ or communal loan clubs to support the community. The story continued up to the present day, including Black Lives Matter protests in Wycombe.
Our exhibition brought the story of Windrush to local people, both those of the Windrush community and those from other communities. We saw many visitors who have never made it up the hill to the museum itself and had many interesting conversations, many very positive, but others more difficult.
‘Such a carefully curated collection – well done. Myself and family enjoyed the experience and we have learnt a lot!’
‘What a wonderful and IMPORTANT exhibition. Thankyou so much for bringing this to us!’
‘The Windrush generation must have been extremely resilient in the face of all of the prejudice they experienced despite being invited by the British government! They enriched our community and I am grateful to them and their families.’
During Black History Month 2022 we welcomed different performers and storytellers into our space to explore the stories more. Highlights of the play, ‘There’s Something About High Wycombe’ which debuted at Hilltop Community Centre in October, and tells the story of a family coming to High Wycombe from St Vincent were enjoyed by over 100 people. We were also honoured to welcome Kandace Chimbiri for a storytelling session for local children, including the Akacia Saturday School.
We are grateful to Near Neighbours and the Windrush Fund for supporting this work at Eden and will continue to tell this story at Wycombe Museum.