Black Country Roots - Book Launch. Part Of Black History Month

Black Country Roots is a book which tells the story of the African-Caribbean communities of the Black Country. 

Ladywood Slums 1962 by Peter Donnelly

Many people from the Caribbean came to England to help with rebuilding after the second word war. Supporting the NHS and to work in industry and transport. The stories are about the everyday struggles of making a new home in a strange place whilst trying to find work and bring up a family.

A lad whistles to the milkman, Aston Birmingham 1962 by Peter Donnelly

The book, published by Multistory through the Arts Council is illustrated with photography from local archives including ours, but also from the work of other photographers who, like us, have been fascinated with uncovering the extraordinary life of Black Country people over the years.

Netherton Brick Works 1963 by Peter Donnelly

It was fantastic to be involved with this project which is a fitting tribute to all the black people of the Black Country and will help the younger generation discover what their parents and grand parents went through to become a part of the community.

It was also great to meet the project participants and Multistory staff at the launch of the book at the African-Caribbean Centre in West Brom. Amazing food and a gospel choir plus Fitzroy the DJ on the decks.

Black Country Landscapes - The Stourbridge Canal & Glass Works Walk
more Black Country Landscapes in the book "As If It Were Yesterday" now available in the store.

Book Launch Photography by Simon Donnelly


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The Telegraph

Peter Donnelly's prize-winning essay offers a brilliant example of how local, and often unprepossessing, backgrounds can provide the material for an outstanding colour story. All his photographs were taken within a few miles of his home in Birmingham, Brierley Hill, at Blackheath, Bilston and Cradley Heath. He took them over a period of several months while on weekend walks along the deserted banks of the local canals. "Most evenings I never met a soul," Mr Donnelly recalls. "There was an air of isolation, and often desolation, over the whole scene, and this is what I have tried to capture in my photographs." The camera used was a Pentakon F and the film Agfa and Kodachrome.
by Dr Carl Chinn MBE
Peter Donnelly was born in Birmingham, educated at Corpus Christi junior school, Stechford and later at the holy rosary, Saltley. While at the Holy Rosary he took and passed a drawing examination for Moseley school of art at which he spent several years tuning his artistic talent.

On leaving the art school he joined Birmingham printers, Sam Currier & Son in brook street, St Pauls square, as an apprentice commercial artist. After completing his apprenticeship he left Sam Currier and worked at various printers and advertising agencies gaining valuable experience before starting with his working associate Bob Burns (typographer). Donnelly Burns Graphic Design studio was in Chapel Street, Lye before moving to larger premises in Cradley heath then Harborne.

Before starting the business Peter entered and won the Sunday Telegraph national photographic competition. He submitted an essay of photographs illustrating the demise of the Birmingham and Black Country canals with fellow photographer Norman Fletcher. To Peter and Norman, Midlands photographers and photographic societies seemingly had ignored the once great industrial arena that surrounded their everyday lives.

What an arena! what powerful exiting subjects for the camera; neglected canals, weed and web woven towpaths, old worn out narrow boats – redundant and half submerged in silted murky brown waters; steam trains rattling, hissing and bumping their waggons into line and the rail men who worked the line at that time.

Old foundries, run down factories and scrapyards – the industrial flotsam of a once great manufacturing region. Many six o’clock early morning starts were walked and many miles covered by Peter and his camera.

Now over 60 years later, photographs taken during those early excursions are being published - looking back at the time, long before the surge of change and reconstruction 1962 - 1965