The 1940s and 50s saw an influx of immigration from the West Indies into Britain; arrivals from Jamaica touched down on the Empire Windrush ship in 1948, and temporarily settled less than a mile away from Brixton’s Coldharbour Lane.
Fifty years later, the area outside the Brixton Tate Library was renamed Windrush Square to mark the golden anniversary of the ship’s arrival, in recognition of the African Caribbean community’s contribution to Brixton life.
Just across the street from the Square is Bamboula, a bright and easygoing eatery based in Brixton’s trendy Acre Lane. Named after a dance performed by carnival queens, the décor of bamboo shoots and warm terracotta interiors depicts the essence of Walkerswood, Bamboula’s original home in a mountainside region of Jamaica’s largest parish St Ann.
Delicious and authentic Caribbean dishes include simmered curried goat and steamed tilapia fish stuffed with okra, garlic and thyme, not to mention the home-grown special ingredient of Walkerswood spices, made by a food company originating from the same region that has become an international success.
Further along Brixton Hill, a café-style restaurant with its roots in Jamaica puts its own spin on Caribbean cuisine. Negril, named after the beautiful beaches on Jamaica’s north coast, uses fresh ingredients, homemade recipes and organic produce to create meals that are easy on both the pallet and the waistline.
The menu includes fresh juices, fair trade blue mountain coffee and free-range jerk chicken. â€œIt’s important to try and keep things healthy, you know?â€ says DJ, in charge of food preparation. â€œNot too much oil, and healthy seasonings.â€
Brixton’s bustling market is a one-stop shop for West Indian wares – plantain, yams and ackee, Jamaica’s national fruit, can all be bought at a good price. And Dida’s Jamaican shop is a grotto bursting of Jamaican goodies, from flags and souvenirs to reggae music and cultural books.
But beyond its music and cuisine, Jamaica has other historical roots here. Marcus Garvey Road, also in Brixton, is named after the Jamaican Pan-Africanist Leader who worked at the African Times and Orient Review based in Fleet Street, studied Philosophy and Law at Birkbeck College, and in 1935 was regularly featured among the crowd pullers at Speakers Corner.
Garvey died at 53 Talgarth Road in Hammersmith, where a blue plaque can be found in memorial of his life. He’s also remembered with a West Kensington park in his name, and the Marcus Garvey Library in Tottenham, North London.
For more info on Jamaican and black culture in London, visit catchavibe.co.uk. Tell us about your recommendations in the comments below.