Events are taking place across Britain this week to mark Thursday’s 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush, the ship bringing new arrivals to the UK from the Caribbean, which docked in Tilbury on 22 June 1948.
The Windrush flag is being raised in more than 200 locations across England and Wales, including at the Houses of Parliament and the Home Office; all Network Rail stations; over 20 hospitals and NHS sites; around 50 local authorities; and at dozens of churches, schools, universities, theatres and community organisations.
The Port of Tilbury marks the anniversary with a day of celebrations on 22 June. Free events at the London Cruise Terminal include performances by Woodside Academy steel band ‘Woodside Steel’; a Windrush exhibition by artist EveWright with workshops and talks from the National Archives; and an ‘Ageless Teenagers Caribbean Tea Dance’.
Patrick Vernon, convenor of the Windrush 75 network, said:
“Windrush 75 is a chance to celebrate the diversity of modern Britain.
“It’s a time to acknowledge the legacy of those first Windrush pioneers, the challenges they overcame and the contribution they made to Britain.
“For many of us it’s about family: the parents and grandparents who paved the way and on whose shoulders we stand.
“This is a bittersweet moment, tainted by the injustice of the Windrush scandal. But ultimately it’s a time to celebrate this milestone for Britain and for the Black community.”
Nigel S Guy, Director of Windrush Generations, who are coordinating the nationwide flag-raising initiative, said:
“It is an honour to witness so many organisations raising greater awareness of the Windrush Generation, through this special flag raising and other events that instil a real sense of belonging.
“We are all here saluting the contributions of the Windrush Generation. We are standing on their shoulders. Let us all keep Raising the Standard for Windrush.”
Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future, said:
“The scale of this week’s anniversary celebrations shows an enormous public appetite for a better understanding of our history. The story of Windrush helps explain why our multi-ethnic society looks as it does today.
“We can be proud of the progress we have made in 75 years on race, but must also acknowledge how far we have yet to travel. So we should look to the future too – to the society we want to be sharing in 25 years time when we mark Windrush 100, and the action we need today on racial inequality to help us get there.”
Charles Hammond OBE, Chief Executive of Forth Ports said:
“Everyone at the Port of Tilbury is proud of the part that the port played in the lives of the people aboard the Empire Windrush when they arrived 75 years ago. We are looking forward to celebrating this anniversary in the place where they first landed in the UK. We have a day of celebrations planned this week and everyone is welcome.”
Public sees Windrush anniversary as important moment
Six in 10 people (61%) feel that the 75th anniversary of Windrush is important for the country, according to recent Focaldata polling for British Future. That rises to 71% of ethnic minorities and 84% of Black Caribbean Britons.
Three-quarters (74%) of the public and 8 in 10 people (79%) from an ethnic minority background think that children should learn about the Windrush and how post-war migration shaped today’s society. Teaching this history is most important to the Black Caribbean community, among whom 89% feel it is important. New, free resources for schools have been created by The Linking Network to help schools teach students about the Windrush, including videos for schools in which students interview Windrush Generation elders about their history and experiences.
Other events across the country
In London there will be a Windrush 75 Service of Thanksgiving at Southwark Cathedral on 22 June, one of several religious services happening across the country to mark the anniversary. Brixton will see a 22 June Windrush procession, culminating at an event on Windrush Square; a Black Culture Market showcasing black businesses; a history event at Lambeth Town Hall and a programme of events as part of the Voices of Windrush festival. London Underground and Overground trains will display poems by six poets with close Caribbean and British links, as part of the ‘Poets on the underground’ initiative. The Radiate Windrush festival takes over Southwark’s Burgess Park on Sunday 25 June.
Birmingham will mark Thursday’s anniversary by raising the Windrush flag in Centenary Square, a reception with the Lord Mayor and Birmingham Rep hosting a special awards ceremony with a performance by a newly formed children’s choir, The Next Generation Choir Birmingham. A thanksgiving church service follows on Sunday 25th June.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said:
“The West Midlands has been enriched in so many ways by the Windrush generation and those who followed. 75 years on from Windrush, our region’s diversity – and the everyday integration of people from a remarkable range of backgrounds living side by side – is one of our greatest strengths. It’s only right that we celebrate the 75th anniversary with a flag raising ceremony in Birmingham’s Centenary Square – alongside a host of other events right across our region including a reception and church service. Together, we should acknowledge past contribution and look forward to a bright and harmonious future in the months and years ahead.”
On Saturday 24th June, Bradford hosts its Windrush Day parade; revellers in Manchester will gather in Alexandra Park; and in Sunderland the African Caribbean Community Centre promises music, food and dancing. In Wales, Cardiff hosts an event at the Senedd Parliamentary building, to which Windrush Elders will march, wrapped in their National flags. In Scotland, people in Edinburgh will enjoy an intergenerational Caribbean celebration with music, dance and poetry.
Responses from event organisers and Windrush generation elders
Claudette Bramble JP, who came to the UK from the Caribbean in 1968, said:
“I’m delighted that we are highlighting the strength and resilience of the Windrush Generation and proud that we are celebrating their achievements and contributions to all aspects of British society.”
Bernadette Thompson OBE, Director of Equality and Diversity, Kings College Hospital, said:
“I work in the NHS and this year we are celebrating 75 years too. This, however, is a strong reminder that without Windrush 75, there would be no NHS 75. A significant number of the Windrush generation and their descendants came to work in the NHS, often amidst a backdrop of racism, and helped shape the organisation we have today. We must weave this into the fabric of NHS’s history.”
Lisa Williams, Founder of the Edinburgh Caribbean Association, said:
“Our Windrush 75 event will help pay respect to the Windrush generation and their descendants by bringing people together in a celebration of our rich cultural heritage and contributions to Scotland.
“The Windrush brought back hundreds of service people who had fought for Britain in WW2. Our celebration of the Windrush generation in Scotland will also include the lumberjacks from British Honduras (Belize) who aided the war effort.”
Michelle Bramble, Founder of the North Kent Caribbean Network, said:
“The Windrush Generation paved the way for their descendants to succeed. I hope the work we do for Windrush 75 will keep the memory of their strength and spirit alive and serves to inspire future generations.”
Zita Holbourne, Windrush Justice, Equality and Human Rights campaigner, Author and Artist, said:
“Marking the 75th anniversary is crucial to honouring the lives, contributions and achievements of the Windrush Generation in their lifetimes. The Windrush Scandal has had and continues to have devastating impacts. We have already lost too many of our Windrush elders because of it. Whilst we continue to fight for justice and compensation it is the appropriate time to celebrate, acknowledge, connect and amplify the lives and stories and contributions made to benefit Britain by the Windrush Generation and their descendants.”
Judith Chernaik, Director of Poems on the Underground, said:
“Poems on the Underground celebrates the huge contribution Caribbean
voices have made to British life, as poems by Caribbean and British Caribbean poets circle London Underground stations this summer.”
Stewart Kellett, CEO of Basketball England, said:
“It is right to celebrate and acknowledge the huge contribution the Windrush Generation and their descendants have made to British society, making our country culturally richer, often in challenging and prejudicial environments.
“Whether as players, coaches, officials, volunteers or supporters, the African-Caribbean community has used basketball for good, giving people – young and old – a sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Through their love of the game, they have changed and shaped the lives of many from all walks of life across England.”
Jo Sheedy, Fairfield Centre Manager, Mole Valley District Council, said:
“Our aim is to inform and educate our local community who mostly hadn’t heard of the Windrush and the courage and bravery shown by the people aboard who left their Islands to help build ours.”
Black Culture Market said:
“The Windrush generation holds immense cultural and historical significance within the Black community and Britain. Marking the anniversary allows us to honour their enduring legacy and celebrate their invaluable contributions, ensuring their stories and achievements are cherished and remembered for generations to come.”
Geeta Nanda OBE, Chief Executive of MTVH (Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing) said:
“Windrush 75 is an opportunity to celebrate our organisation’s heritage which is proudly rooted in providing good quality homes to members of the Windrush generation, who dreamed of a better tomorrow but often faced squalid conditions and discrimination on arrival in Britain.
“We are marking Windrush 75 with a wide range of events for residents and colleagues which further cement this connection. They include naming new social housing after a Windrush pioneer who was also a founder of what would become MTVH. We are also unveiling a blue plaque at the home of a key writer and historian whose work shaped the way those who arrived from the Caribbean are remembered.”