Today, in our Remarkable women series, we're in conversation with Joyce Treasure, 51 year old Artist who allowed me into her sunny Sydenham home. Joyce has one daughter, Freya, who is 20, and a life-affirming laugh that could stop traffic. Wonderful.
Joyce originally hails from Birmingham - Stourbridge in the West Midlands.
"My mum is British and my dad is Jamaican. They didn't live together. I lived with my mum and brothers and went to an almost all white school where I experienced racism as I looked 'different'. I visited my dad every other weekend and I saw my family on my dads side during the 'big' holidays. My dad was my cultural bridge".
"I came to London at 19 to get away from Birmingham to be honest. It wasn't giving me what I needed at the time. Art was my escapism but I didn't really know what I wanted to DO".
"I lived in Trellick Tower (the likely inspiration for JG Ballard 1975 book, High Rise) which overlooked Ladbroke Grove. It was a diverse area with a great mix of cultures. It was brilliant! I thought 'I've arrived!'".
"I moved to South Kensington (a very different part of London) and skimmed around doing bar work. Then I returned to Ladbroke Grove and it became my 'manor' for over 20 years before finally relocating to South East London".
Joyce is about to make another move - this time back to her home city, Birmingham, where she will begin as a student on a Black Studies BA (Hons)- the FIRST in the UK - in September this year. But not before embarking on a five month trip through what is called The Middle Passage, tracing her ancestry recently revealed in a DNA test. An inspirational journey!
Joyce points animatedly at the mannequin on her coffee table. "That's my dads Pork pie hat!"
Exclaimed with obvious pride.
Pork Pie Hats have a flat topped shallow crown with an indentation going all the way around, giving the crown the look of a meat pie. Popular amongst Jamaican 'Rude boys' in the 60s they were 'adopted' in the UK by Ska loving Mods and Skinheads.
"His name is Roy Treasure. He bought this hat in Kingston, Jamaica and brought it with him when he travelled to England in the early 60's. He came straight to Birmingham where some of his family were settled and got work in a local factory".
"I remember him wearing it. He always looked so smart. Always wore a suit. I mean, who wears a suit ALL the time? Looking smart was important to his generation. They were up against racism and prejudice. It was their visual announcement. They were saying 'I am intelligent and worthy despite what you may think of me'".
"Dad went back to visit Jamaica when my grandmother, his mum, became terminally ill. When she passed on he announced that he was retiring and going to return to Jamaica to live. I was shocked - really annoyed if I'm honest. I felt abandoned. I mean - I knew it was the right choice for him to have a better quality of life and I supported him in that…but from a selfish point of view I wanted him to stay".
"Naturally he took his Pork pie hat with him".
"My dad died in March 2016. Almost exactly one year ago".
We paused the interview here. Emotions around her dads death are still, understandably, raw. In fact Joyce was preparing for the first stop on her trip, Jamaica, during which she and Freya will visit the site where Roys ashes were scattered and commemorate one year since his passing. It's a testament to Joyces honesty and willingness to share her experience that, after a long hug, we continued.
"When I flew over to Jamaica and saw this hat in his home it was the only thing I wanted. I have an image in my head of him wearing this hat and his suit".
"It was in a right old state. Back in England I took it to a local milliner who restored it beautifully. It was cleaned, had a new lining and a new grosgrain band".
"I kept the original orange feather".
"I just love wearing it. It connects me with my dad. When it was first restored I wore it to Sainsburys on a windy day and it blew off! I almost had a heart attack! I had to chase it through the car park!"
"Now I wear it to my Private Views only. It's too precious".
Its wonderful that Joyce's memories of her dad live on especially when she dons his hat. It suits her too!
How does your favourite garment evoke memories? Comment below we'd love you to share!
Next time: In the final post in this 'series we speak to a remarkable woman who tells us about her earliest fabric memories and muse over how the sewing gene completely passed her by!