London has a large population of immigrants from the continent of Africa as well as the Caribbean. As such, it can be easy to make yourself feel at home as an Afro-Caribbean person in London. Nigeria, Somalia and Jamaica are just a few countries a part of the African diaspora that have a noticeable presence in London. I am Dominican, so upon arrival in the UK, I made it a mission to find out how to connect to the Caribbean in London. I focus this post on three parts: University Resources, The Arts, and Food.
Queen Mary is home to many diverse societies that will allow you to meet up and get to know people who are like minded on campus. They often host events near campus, and offer discounts to members at their events. The first week I arrived on Queen Mary’s campus I was introduced to all the different societies through the club fair that was hosted. Some notable student unions that are related to Afro-Caribbean culture could include the African & Caribbean Society (ACS), Hip-Hop society and the Underground Music society. The African & Caribbean Society hosts many mixers and events on or close to campus. Some events offer good food for cheap. For example, ACS hosted a cook out that offered a plate of fresh Jerk Chicken with rice for only $5. The Hip-Hop society hosts discussions about rap and its influence in the UK. Much of the rap that is popular in the UK has Caribbean influences to begin with, so getting acquainted with this London sound could prove rewarding. The Underground Music Society hosts DJ workshops and other mixers. This is a good way to take things into your own hands. After practicing your DJ skills you can bring your taste and preference to any party you go to. The society also hosts many events where their own members are the main Deejays.
A great free app you should download when you arrive in London is called DICE. You can search music genres you enjoy like “Dancehall,” “Hip-Hop,” or “House” and you’ll be able to find events all over London that are playing that type of music. Some events have a sound byte attached to them where you can preview the type of music that will be playing. You can buy the tickets right through the app and show them at the door. Some events are free as well. The app has talks, festivals, concerts and parties. Some theaters and centers of note are Southbank Centre, Busch Theatre and Soho Theatre. At Southbank Theatre I was able to catch a performance from California multi-instrumentalist Moses Sumney. At Busch Theatre there is a new play called “Misty,” that deals with black life and has been lauded by many theatre critics. Soho Theatre puts on shows related to consent, race and equity. Another great resource in London for events related to black/Afro-Caribbean culture is the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton. They host open mics, talks, and galleries. It is uniquely British in that most of the work it focuses on is black cultural identity in Britain.
Food in London can be expensive. Cooking will save you the most money. Thankfully, supermarkets are right near Queen Mary. Co-Op and Sainsbury’s are both great. Other supermarket chains are Tesco and Lidl. At Co-Op and other supermarkets like it you can usually find plantains, spices, chilis, avocados and other ingredients needed to make Caribbean food. If you realize that you frequent a supermarket, then you could sign up for a rewards card. If you’re looking for fast food ever, definitely check out the famous roasted chicken chain “Nandos.” You get can get a meal with a side for around $10. You can even get a rewards card here as well ! There are also many different markets that have more niche food offerings for a little more money. Some examples are Boxpark, Camden Market and Spitalfields Market. Boxpark is in Shoreditch which is 30 minutes away from Queen Mary campus by bus and has many different food and clothing vendors. There is a vendor called Rudie’s which serves very good Jamaican food. Definitely check it out if you have some extra cash to spend and are in the Shoreditch area. Camden Market is located farther away from Queen Mary but it still is around a 30 minute train ride. Some notable vendors are Arepazo Bros, which serves very tasty and gluten free arepas. Another spot in Camden Market is “Only Jerkin’” which serves Jamaican food.
In all, London is heavily influence by Afro-Carribean culture. As you navigate London make sure to take the time to connect to the Caribbean in London, see what’s here, and always ask questions in order to see what’s next.
Jahmir Duran is an African-American Studies major at Wesleyan University and studied abroad with IFSA at Queen Mary, University of London in England for the academic year 2018-2019. He is an International Correspondent for IFSA through the Work-To-Study program.