Generations of Leeds youth and their cherished local park are immortalized in a captivating collection of photographs spanning several decades, capturing the essence of their unique bond.

The compelling series showcases snapshots of second-generation West Indians from the 1970s and 80s, juxtaposed with contemporary portraits and personal recollections of growing up in Leeds. Through a collaborative effort between the Jamaica Society Leeds and Leeds Libraries, these evocative images now grace a specially curated online gallery on the Leodis archive.

Part of the Rebellion to Romance exhibition, featured as part of the Jamaica Society Leeds Out of Many Festival, the photographs were expertly lensed by renowned photographer Vanley Burke, hailed as the ‘Godfather of Black British Photography.’ Each modern portrait was taken at Potternewton Park, a social epicenter where young black individuals from Chapeltown and across the city converged every summer Sunday.

Vanley Burke said: “Potternewton Park was the ideal place to photograph the second-generation because of their affinity with the space. This was where they went on Sundays, walked to and from school, played football, rounders and cricket, dated and, most importantly, celebrated their annual Carnival.

“I was interested in the African Caribbean community’s resistance to racism. Placing them in the park wasn’t just about a place to have fun. Whether they were aware or not, gathering there was a form of coping and resistance.”

Joan Fishley, captured in a mid-1980s studio portrait, reminisced, “Potternewton Park on Sundays was the place to be. I had to make sure my Sunday dinner was cooked because I never knew what time I’d get in!”

Homer Harriott, who performed at the 1981 Rock Against Racism Carnival in Potternewton Park with his band Bodecian, humorously recalled, “I wore my brother’s graduation gown over an all-in-one yellow tracksuit – like one of my heroes Bruce Lee wore. I can’t imagine what I looked like on stage!”

Norman Francis, a youth basketball coach, shared memories of 40 guys playing football in Potternewton Park with a single ball and girls playing rounders on the hill.

The Rebellion to Romance exhibition delved into the lives of young West Indian individuals navigating adolescence in 1970s and 80s Leeds. It explored how they embraced both their Caribbean heritage and Black British identity while forging their own paths in the city.

Susan Pitter, who curated Rebellion to Romance and the new gallery, said: “Black communities are woven into the fabric of Leeds and yet we are underrepresented in the public archives. Without us we do not see a true reflection of our city and its history.

“That’s why the creation of this new gallery is to be applauded. It puts our presence, lives and experience of the social, civic and cultural life of Leeds at the heart of its story.

“Our hope is that the Rebellion to Romance collection will be added to over time so that our parents and grandparents – the Windrush Generation and the inspirational men and women who came before them – and all those who arrived after, become an integral part of the Leodis archive’s storytelling of Leeds too.”

The Leodis archive, housing over 70,000 photographs documenting Leeds’ history, now includes these poignant images. Councillor Mary Harland, Leeds City Council’s executive member for communities, praised the addition, calling it a crucial step in preserving the enduring contributions of all communities to Leeds’ unique historical record.

In addition to viewing the gallery, Leodis encourages residents to share memories and contribute their stories from this pivotal period in the city’s history. To explore the full gallery, visit: [https://www.leodis.net/viewguidedtourimage/1020].