From beauty pageants to burned-down pubs, Neil Kenlock spent decades capturing the struggles – and victories – of black Britain. Here he relives ‘some of the best years of my life’

‘Sometimes I look at my work and can’t believe I did it,” says photographer Neil Kenlock. “I was just doing something to stop this harsh racism that we were going through. Those images were taken so people could learn. It was very important because if I had not done that, people would say it didn’t happen.”

Kenlock is talking about a new exhibition of his work at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, London. Titled Expectations: the Untold Story of Black British Community Leaders in the 60s and 70s, it documents the struggles and hopes of the Windrush generation – postwar immigrants to the UK from Africa and Jamaica. Comprised of 25 images from Kenlock’s thousands-strong archive, these breathtaking portraits and reportage images provide a unique insight into the lives and experiences of the first generation of African and Caribbean leaders who settled in the UK and shaped the future for black Brits over two transformative decades.

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