Photography exhibition to coincide with 2022 Commonwealth Games

Documenting post–1945 migration by those who settled in Birmingham.

In partnership with Birmingham Archives, Library of Birmingham and University of Birmingham, From City of Empire to City of Diversity: A Visual Journey will be created from The Dyche Collection, one of the most important photographic collections within Birmingham Archives acquired by Birmingham Central Library in 1990. It will document post–1945 migration and the huge contribution made by those who settled in the city from the Commonwealth.
Commonwealth Games 2022

The Dyche Collection features photographs by self-taught photographer Ernest Dyche and his son Malcolm who had two studios in the city producing individual, group, family and wedding portraits. In the 1950s the portrait work shifted its focus to the first wave of migrants arriving in Birmingham from Africa, the Caribbean and Indian sub-continent. For over 25 years, many visitors to his main studio would have portraits made to send back to friends and family in their home countries – inadvertently capturing the story of Commonwealth migration and recording an important phase in Birmingham’s history.

Sabra Khan, Executive Director at Sampad said: “We’re delighted to be working in partnership with Birmingham Archives, Library of Birmingham and University of Birmingham to bring to life these important photographs reflecting the incredible contribution Commonwealth communities have made to the city.”

To highlight the reality of life for immigrants from the Commonwealth countries making a new life in the city, From City of Empire to City of Diversity: A Visual Journey will use the Dyche collection and draw upon other collections held by Birmingham Archives, notably Benjamin Stone, Helen Caddick, Paul Hill, Nick Hedges, Vanley Burke and George Hallet. A smaller exhibition will tour to libraries and arts centres across the region. And, as well as an event and talks programme there will be also be a schools engagement programme and opportunities for volunteers to develop skills and learning around archive research and exhibition curation.

Anne Jenkins, Director, England, Midlands & East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “The role of migrants arriving in Birmingham post-1945 and the important contributions that they made have played a significant role in shaping the cuture and heritage of the city. Inclusive heritage is very important to us at The National Lottery Heritage Fund which is why we are proud to support Sampad to showcase the important Dyche Collection through these major exhibitions and their accompanying activities. This will illuminate and acknowledge a lesser-known aspect of Birmingham’s heritage and broaden understanding in the wider community.”

From City of Empire to City of Diversity: A Visual Journey will officially launch on Thursday 29 October, between 4pm and 5.30pm as part of Black History Month.

The launch will be hosted by Sampad’s Executive Director Sabra Khan and will be broadcast live on Sampad Arts Facebook page and on Zoom by clicking on this link:

The launch will feature an online discussion with speakers providing an opportunity for audiences to find out more about the importance of this collection and how they can get involved in the project. The panel will include: Jim Ranrahan, Archivist; Professor Ian Grosvenor, Co-Curator and Professor of Urban Education History and Director of the Voices of War and Peace Centre at the University of Birmingham; Rita McLean, Co-Curator, Museums and Heritage Consultant and former Director of Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery (2002-14). The panel will also include Maryam Wahid an award-winning photographer whose work explores her identity as a British Pakistani Muslim woman.

Councillor Jayne Francis, Birmingham City Council added “This is a really exciting award which will enable us to work with Sampad to preserve this important collection of images, demonstrating their relevance to our diverse modern city whilst showcasing the international nature of Birmingham’s collections at a time when the world will be watching the Commonwealth Games taking place here.”