IA Events

CANCELLED EVENT- Seminar: Patrick Nelson: exploring the life of a Jamaican migrant to interwar Britain

Publication date: Apr 25, 2014 12:13:28 PM

Start: Jun 4, 2014 5:30:00 PM
End: Jun 4, 2014 7:00:00 PM

Location: UCL-Institute of the Americas, 51 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PN

We regret to inform that this event has now been cancelled, due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of our guest speaker. We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause you, but hope you will favour us with your presence at one of our many other events.


Gemma Romain - This talk explores the life of Patrick Nelson, a Jamaican migrant to 1930s Britain. Nelson was one of many black people living in Britain during the interwar period. He originally travelled to Wales in 1937 to work as a valet for the brother of Lord Stanley; after a brief return to Jamaica, Nelson moved to London around 1938-39 and became a law student. In addition to studying, Nelson also worked as an artist's model, posing for both Duncan Grant and Edward Wolfe. During late 1939 to early 1940, he enlisted with the Pioneer Corps and in early 1940 was posted to France with the British Expeditionary Force. Injured near Dunkirk in May 1940, he was captured before he could be evacuated. He became a Prisoner of War and was held in various camps including Stalag 344 until his release in late 1944.

Nelson had a long-lasting friendship with the artist Duncan Grant, who was initially his lover during the late 1930s. Nelson and Grant corresponded for over 25 years until Nelson's death in 1963; these letters contain a wealth of material which illuminates Nelson's life story. This talk explores his experiences of 1930s Jamaica, of migrating to Britain and of serving in the Second World War; it focuses on themes of sexuality, class, race, war and colonialism.

Gemma Romain is a researcher in Caribbean and Black British history, with a particular interest in modern Black histories in relation to visual culture, the nineteenth century Caribbean, Jewish histories in modern Britain, and histories of sexuality. She has written on Caribbean migration to Britain, publishing in 2006 the book Connecting Histories: A Comparative Exploration of African-Caribbean and Jewish History and Memory in Modern Britain and is the curator of several exhibitions including (co-curated with Debbie Challis) the current UCL Petrie Museum exhibition A Fusion of Worlds: Ancient Egypt, African art and identity in modernist Britain. Her book on the life of Patrick Nelson will be published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2015.