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A front room in 1970

Curated by Michael McMillan, the 1970s front room explores the migrant experience of African-Caribbean families setting up home in the UK in the mid-20th century. 

Room setting with leather sofa, yellow wallpaper and 1970s furnishings Photograph by Em Fitzgerald

What's happening

It's Saturday evening and there's a simple 'Saturday Soup' for dinner as everyone has been busy doing their chores to clean up the front room.

After dinner, the teenagers will head to their rooms and listen to Soul Spectrum and Roots, Rock, Reggae on Capital Radio while dressing up for the sound system dance tonight in Dalston.

With little sleep they will be woken early for church. Afterwards guests will be welcomed back to the house for rice and peas with stewed chicken and a glass of the Caribbean soft drink Mauby, while Jim Reeves plays on the radiogram.

Objects to look out for

Free standing radiogram with 7 inch records on top, in a room with yellow wallpaper

Radiogram, 1950s

This radiogram belonged to Ivy who came to the UK from Jamaica in 1959.

Ivy and her husband would listen to vinyl records on it, by artists Nat King Cole and Bob Marley, and on occasion pour themselves a Baby Cham or white rum from its drinks compartment.

Old television set topped with various ornaments including red and white crochet and some wooden birds

Crochet doilies, c.1970

Crochet was taught to young women in the Caribbean by Christian missionaries.

The pieces displayed in the room belonged to Michael's Mum, Letha, and family friends Cynthia and Linda, who like many Caribbean migrant women made pieces to supplement their income.

Yellow and brown striped wallpaper, with wall hangings including one reading God bless this house

Wall hangings

The room is decorated with religious images and prayers as well as family photographs taken at weddings and special occasions.

A black velour scroll featuring a map of Saint Vincent hangs beside souvenirs brought back from church outings to seaside towns.