Caribbean Artists Movement

Collection Ref No.:

GB 2904 CAM

Date range:



The Caribbean Artists Movement: Papers of Anne Walmsley, gathered for the creation of her book 'The Caribbean Artists Movement 1966-1972: A Literary and Cultural History', published by New Beacon Books 1992.
The following material is taken from, or relates to, the Caribbean Artists Movement, otherwise known as CAM. The collection is the product of extensive research undertaken by Anne Walmsley for the creation of her book 'The Caribbean Artists Movement 1966-1972: A Literary and Cultural History' [ISBN 1873201] published by New Beacon Books in 1992.

Contemporary CAM documents and sound recordings were obtained for this research. However, the material has been supplemented by conducting interviews with members or associates of CAM, by producing new transcripts of existing sound recordings, by photographing members, and by preserving correspondence and administrative papers. The complete research process has also been documented with the production of detailed notes, indexes, charts and timetables. Full editorial and administrative work prior to publication is included in the material. The collection concludes with documents detailing a celebration of 40 years of the works of Andrew Salkey, designed to coincide with the launch of Anne Walmsley's book in 1992.

The collection comprises:
CAM/1: CAM Newsletters, Nos. 1-12, Mar/Apr 1967-Aug 1970 and CAM (Jamaica) Newsletter no. 1 [Mar 1968].

CAM/2: flyers and circulars for CAM and CAM-related events, meetings and theatrical productions (1967-1972 + undated).

CAM/3: correspondence between CAM members, and with associated bodies or individuals (Nov 1966-Feb 1973).

CAM/4: CAM Conference material for three annual Conferences held 1967-1969, comprising transcripts of talks, presentations and debates.

CAM/5: CAM Meetings and Symposia (Dec 1966-Mar 1971), comprising transcripts of talks, presentations and debates.

CAM/6: transcripts of 84 interviews by Anne Walmsley with members or associates of CAM (1985-1991).

CAM/7: CAM administration files relating to individual projects, finances, and CAM Conference venues (1965-1986).

CAM/8: a set of 8 background files created by Anne Walmsley, divided by subjects such as culture, education and contemporary organisations (Jul 1969-Nov 1991).

CAM/9: sound recordings of CAM conference talks, symposia, and interviews (1966-1991).

CAM/10: photographs and images of CAM members and events, including those used in publication (c. 1950-1995).

CAM/11: charts and indexes created by Anne Walmsley during her research on CAM (1985-1988).

CAM/12: correspondence between Anne Walmsley and members or associates of CAM during her research (Jan 1982-Aug 1995).

CAM/13: correspondence from the Nottingham branch of CAM (1966-1969).

CAM/14: administrative files relating to the publication of Anne Walmsley's book (1967-1994).

CAM/15: material and transcripts from a celebration of 40 years of Andrew Salkey's work, including a symposium arranged by the 'Salkey's Score Committee' with the Commonwealth Institute, followed by a Voice Box Seminar at the South Bank Centre (19-21 Jun 1992).

Admin history:

The Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM) originated in London in late 1966.  The intention was to create a forum for writers, artists and critics from the English-speaking Caribbean, resident at that time in the United Kingdom.  A major literary and cultural Movement developed which expanded beyond West Indian writers and artists to encompass members from the United Kingdom, Europe, Africa, Black America and the Commonwealth.  Talks, discussions, conferences, recitals and art exhibitions provided an opportunity to explore new directions in Caribbean arts and culture at a time of political and social change.

There were three co-founders of the Movement: Edward Kamau Brathwaite, the poet, literary critic and historian born in Barbados; the poet, novelist, academic and broadcaster Andrew Salkey, born in Jamaica (1928-1995); and the political and cultural activist, poet, essayist and publisher John La Rose (1927-2006), born in Trinidad. 

The co-founders of the Movement were concerned that many Caribbean writers and artists resident in London and the United Kingdom were being marginalised and did not have the opportunity to meet up and discuss their work and interests.  The idea of forming a structured organisation was rejected in favour of a forum to allow people to meet in a more informal way.  There was to be no group ideology or manifesto defined in advance, and any attempts to convert CAM into a Black Power movement were strongly resisted.  CAM was to be seen as part of a wider movement for change in Caribbean society.  Writers, artists, dramatists, actors,  publishers, critics, and students were all encouraged to join.  CAM was inclusive rather than exclusive, and was essentially open to anyone who wanted to share and understand the needs and aspirations of Caribbean artists.

A small informal meeting was held in private on 19 Dec 1966 at the flat of Edward and Doris Brathwaite in Mecklenburgh Square, London.   The three co-founders were present, along with the writers and critics Louis James and Orlando Patterson, the playwright and scriptwriter Evan Jones, and Anthony Haynes, who was at the time working for Bookers.  The idea of creating a forum was discussed and met with enthusiasm, although Jones and Haynes had some reservations.  A 'dialogue' was then proposed for 6 Jan 1967 on the subject of 'Is There a West Indian Aesthetic?' to be delivered to the group in the London residence of Orlando Patterson.  The established artist Aubrey Williams was also invited to join the group.  The first talk and discussion was considered a success and at the end of this meeting the name 'Caribbean Artists Movement', suggested by Nerys Patterson, was decided upon by those present.

Informal meetings and discussions continued in private, held in members' flats and residences in London.  But from the start, there was always the intention to meet in a public place, to create a dialogue with readers, writers, artists and critics.  CAM was officially launched into the public domain on 10 Mar 1967 with a symposium 'New Directions in West Indian Writing', which was held at the West Indian Students Centre.  This took place a week after the successful reading by Edward Kamau Brathwaite of his work 'Rights of Passage'.  The public reading was presented by New Beacon Publications and the London Traverse Theatre Company, and was held at the Jeanetta Cochrane Theatre, London on 3 Mar 1967. 

The West Indian Students Centre (WISC) in Collingham Gardens, Earls Court, became the main venue for public sessions.  The building, opened in 1955, was not confined to full-time students, and had become a venue where West Indians had traditionally met.  CAM public sessions or 'symposia' were held monthly from March 1967 onwards, and encompassed talks, panel discussions, readings, and also book stalls, including access to books brought in by John La Rose and Sarah White from the recently established New Beacon Publications.  Other suitable venues were chosen for CAM art exhibitions, visits to artists' studios, and theatrical works.

Three annual conferences were held, the first two 1967-68 at the University of Kent, Canterbury, whilst a joint conference between CAM and the West Indian Students Union (WISU) was held at the West Indian Students Centre in 1969. 

The majority of talks, symposia and conference sessions were recorded on reel-to-reel tapes.  These recordings survive and have been transferred onto audio-cassette, with accompanying transcripts (see Custodial History below).

Membership of CAM was open to anyone by subscription for a small annual fee, to cover the production of newsletters and other literature, and to recompense the Board of the West Indian Students Centre for the use of their facilities. 

Edward Kamau Brathwaite envisaged starting a branch of CAM in Jamaica, leaving his post as Secretary of CAM for a trip to the Caribbean in Sep 1968.  Marina Maxwell became Acting Secretary for CAM during his absence.  However, the idea of a CAM (Jamaica) branch was not met with the enthusiasm expected, possibly as it coincided with the political unrest following the banning of Black Power writings, and the expulsion order served on Dr Walter Rodney.  Only one newsletter for CAM (Jamaica) was ever produced (see catalogue ref: CAM/1/13), and the idea of a Caribbean branch evaporated. 

A branch was, however, established in the UK in Nottingham, following a successful weekend school in January 1968.  CAM Nottingham was run by Robert Reinders, an active participant in CAM, with the help of acting officers.  The branch provided a focus for a number of cultural activities following the enthusiam shown for the Movement by local students.

Established writers and artists such as C. L. R. James, Wilson Harris, Ronald Moody and Aubrey Williams, along with the co-founders of the Movement, were active in CAM from the beginning.  They were soon joined by writers and critics such as Orlando Patterson, Louis James, Kenneth Ramchand, Gordon Rohlehr and Ivan Van Sertima.  Younger members included James Berry, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Christopher Laird and Errol Lloyd.  For a substantial list of the members or associates of CAM, see catalogue refs: CAM/6, and CAM/11.

The most active period for CAM was 1966-1972, although its impact can be traced through to the early 1990s, with the publication of  'Savacou: A Journal of the Caribbean Artists Movement'.
Many CAM members also went on to participate in the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books (1982-1995).

A celebration of 40 years of the works of Andrew Salkey took place in 1992, designed to coincide with the publication of Anne Walmsley's book. 

Related material: GB 2904 JLR/2. 
Material relating to Eric and Jessica Huntley can also be found in 'The Huntley Collections' held at the London Metropolitan Archives, references LMA/4462 (Bogle-L 'Ouverture Press Limited) and LMA/4463 (Huntley, Eric and Jessica: Personal).

Custodial History:

The documents were assembled by Anne Walmsley under the supervision of Professor Louis James of the University of Kent at Canterbury between 1985-1988, with the aid of a Leverhulme Fellowship.
The material shows the extensive research undertaken for the creation of the book 'The Caribbean Artists Movement 1966-1972: A Literary and Cultural History' published by New Beacon Books in 1992.

As a member of CAM, Anne Walmsley was able to draw on her own documents and experience.  This was supplemented by obtaining some original documents from other members of the Movement, items such as CAM Newsletters (CAM/1), publicity material etc (CAM/2) and correspondence, especially the receipt in 1998 of a gift of letters from Robert Reinders for CAM Nottingham (CAM/13).

Anne Walmsley was allowed access to files held by members of the Movement, especially the co-founders Andrew Salkey and Edward Kamau Brathwaite, and was given permission to photocopy documents, such as correspondence (CAM/3) or to transcribe text where the originals were too poor to copy.  This was achieved by reading text onto a tape recorder, to be transcribed later.

Anne Walmsley conducted interviews with 84 members or associates of CAM.  The interviews were recorded on audio cassette, and then transcribed.  Both transcripts (CAM/6) and sound recordings (CAM/9/2) are in the collection.

Permission was also given to transfer the sound recordings of CAM meetings, symposia and conference sessions, held by members of CAM on reel-to-reel tapes, to audio-cassette.  The cassettes were then transcribed.  Both transcripts (CAM/4 and CAM/5) and cassettes (CAM/9/1) are in the collection.

Research was carried out both in the UK and in the Caribbean, giving the opportunity to photograph members.  The resulting albums are in the collection (CAM/10).

The papers documenting research and editorial work prior to the publication of the book come directly from Anne Walmsley (CAM/ 11-12, plus CAM 14 ).