Shebeens: The hidden house parties that shaped black culture in Southampton

  • WATCH: Kerry Swain reports on the hidden history of Shebeens in Southampton

A new exhibition is revealing the story of underground parties that shaped the black community in Southampton during the 50s, 60s and 70s.

These blues parties, known as Shebeens, were illegal; but they were also the only space where black culture could be enjoyed and celebrated during times of shocking racism.

In the early post war period thousands of Commonwealth citizens moved to the UK as the country sought to rebuild.

The Windrush generation, named after the ship Empire Windrush that brought one of the first groups of immigrants to the UK, were welcomed by the government seeking labour.

But migrants and their families faced deep seated racism throughout their daily lives, with pubs and even churches turning black people away.

The house parties that grew in response became known as Shebeens.

They were open all night and visitors could buy whatever drink they wanted and bring along their own food.

These parties have been consigned to the history books, but their influence on music and culture has been lasting and profound.

  • Rebel Music, the story of blues parties in Southampton is on at the Showcase Gallery until December 20th. Admission is free.