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Fit for a King: His Majesty King Charles III visits Rebellion to Romance exhibition

A Royal visit to Jamaica Society Leeds’ Rebellion to Romance exhibition has seen His Majesty King Charles III meet members of the Jamaican and wider Caribbean community.  

He was guided round the striking exhibition by curator Susan Pitter, with the King taking a keen interest in the exhibits, the guests and their rich stories.   

Susan is also the director of the Jamaica Society Leeds’ Out of Many Festival in which the exhibition sits and said:  

“It was a very special day not just because it showcased the Jamaica Society Leeds Rebellion to Romance exhibition but also because it was lovely for those people from the Society who met him in 1987 to meet him again, that was really special for them.  

“It was wonderful that he spent time with each of them and the guests that were here today, that doesn’t always happen on Royal visits and that is something they will remember for a really long time.  

“He was really impressed certainly with some of the archival photos and he commented on Vanley Burke’s wonderful portraiture.  

“It sounded like he also really enjoyed speaking to those people who were featured in the exhibition, he seemed to pay particular interest to Jeffrey ‘Skully’ Walwyn’s decks and the King talked about the resurgence of vinyl.  

“Do I think the exhibition was deserving of a Royal visit? I absolutely do because it is the work, the heart, the soul, the passion of everybody that has been involved and the team behind it. 

“From the Jamaica Society Leeds membership to everybody that has contributed and taken the time to be a part of the exhibition, as well as the thousands who have been in to see the exhibition as well and to share that – that has been really special.”   

Chair of the Jamaica Society Leeds, Rev Dorothy Stewart, was introduced to the King and in turn introduced him to guests from the Society.  

“The King was incredibly pleasant to speak with and I certainly enjoyed introducing him to our members who were absolutely thrilled to bits to meet him and, for some of them, meeting him again.  

“They all went home very tired but extremely happy indeed.”  

Dorothy was struck by the attention the King paid to both the Society and its members.  

“He asked me about the work we do as a Society and then said a few words to each of our members, he was so interested in what we had to say.”  

The King first met with Jamaica Society members some 35 years ago when he paid a visit to its headquarters Jamaica House in 1987.  

“When he first went to Jamaica House in 1987 he was Prince Charles, for him to come back as our King is really tremendous and we are really proud,” added Dorothy.  

For Jamaica Society Leeds co-founder member Yvonne English this was a second meeting with the now King.   

“I enjoyed the visit and thought it was very entertaining; he listened, asked questions and was very engaging,” she said.  

“It shows that he is interested in the Society and in what Black people are doing in Leeds; it also shows he doesn’t forget and takes an interest in what we are doing which is absolutely fantastic – I hope he makes a third visit.”  

The beautifully curated Rebellion to Romance exhibition told the story of second-generation West Indians who came of age in 70s and 80s Leeds, through back in the day photographs and other mementos, alongside stunning contemporary portraiture by the ‘Godfather of Black British photography’ Vanley Burke.  

It also featured other keepsakes including clothing of the era, records and posters from sound systems and other events.  

The exhibition opened at Leeds Central Library in July and was open to the public until November 5 2022; it was part of the Jamaica Society Leeds ongoing Out of Many Festival celebrating Jamaican independence and the impact Jamaican culture has had on Leeds, the UK and the world.  

The festival takes its name from Jamaica’s national motto ‘Out of Many, One People’.  

It is made possible thanks to National Lottery players, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England.  

Rebellion to Romance was held in partnership with Leeds Libraries and generously supported by Leeds Civic Trust Community Heritage Fund, Leeds Inspired and Leeds 2023.