As a new national monument is unveiled today marking the anniversary of the Empire Windrush arriving in Britain, more than 100 voices from across politics, faith and civil society, sport, culture and business have signed a joint letter in The Times, starting the one-year countdown to Windrush 75 next year and urging others to play their part in making the 75th anniversary a ‘major national moment’.
Actor Lenny Henry, poet Benjamin Zephaniah, broadcaster Trevor Phillips, historian David Olusoga, London Mayor Sadiq Khan and cross-party parliamentarians including Steve Baker MP, Diane Abbott MP and Baroness Doreen Lawrence have all joined the public call on the government and all institutions to ‘step up’ and make next year’s 75th anniversary of the Windrush “as important in Britain’s calendar as Martin Luther King Day is in the United States”.
“This is not only Black History – it is British history. It should be something we all know and commemorate,” the joint letter states. “We call on the government and all UK institutions, from politics to civil society, faith, culture, business and sport, to step up and fully play their part next year.”
The arrival of the ship HMT Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks in 1948, bringing 500 passengers from the Caribbean, is a moment that symbolises the start of post-war Commonwealth migration to Britain and the shift towards the multi-ethnic society of Britain today. Next year, 22 June 2023 will mark its 75th anniversary.
Campaigners have created the Windrush 75 Network to help coordinate efforts across the UK over the next 12 months and beyond to encourage the maximum public participation in Windrush Day as a national moment.
New Focaldata research for the Windrush 75 Network and British Future finds that 23 million Britons would like to know more about the Windrush story – and two-thirds (64%) of the public thinks children should be taught about the Empire Windrush to help understand Britain’s history of empire and how it relates to migration and our diverse society today. Just 9% of people disagree.
The research also finds:
– A majority of people in Britain (57%) feel the arrival of the Empire Windrush in the UK is an important moment in British history. Majorities of Conservative and Labour voters, Leavers and Remainers agree. Just 10% of people disagree.
– Around half of the public (46%) and 55% of ethnic minority citizens think we should mark the 75th anniversary of the Empire Windrush’s arrival in the UK in a significant way, while just 15% disagree.
– Half the public (49%) say they are familiar with the story of the Windrush, while around half (46%) say they would like to know more about it. Campaigners will be tracking awareness over the anniversary period and hoping to see public knowledge of the Windrush increasing.
Full text of the joint letter:
Today, a new national monument is unveiled at London’s Waterloo station to mark the anniversary of the Empire Windrush arriving in Tilbury Docks in June 1948.
The Windrush has become the key symbolic moment in the history of both the Black British contribution to Britain and the broader post-war Commonwealth migration that reshaped the modern British society of today.
This is not only Black History – it is British history. It should be something we all know and commemorate.
The 75th anniversary of Windrush next year is a chance to broaden the public conversation about the past, present and future of our multi-ethnic society. To honour those early Windrush pioneers and tackle the injustices they have faced. To pass the torch to the next generation.
We are committed to making Windrush 75 a major national moment – as important in Britain’s calendar as Martin Luther King Day is in the United States. We have one year from today to make that vision a reality. Today we call on the government and all UK institutions, from politics to civil society, faith, culture, business and sport, to step up and fully play their part next year.
Signatories: Steve Baker MP; Baroness (Doreen) Lawrence of Clarendon; Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London; Daisy Cooper MP; Caroline Lucas MP; Lenny Henry, actor; Paul Elliott, Chair, FA Advisory Board on Inclusion; Patrick Vernon, author, 100 Great Black Britons; Revd Michael King, Windrush descendant and trustee, Black Heroes Foundation; Diane Abbott MP; Peter Bottomley MP; Liam Byrne MP; Janet Daby MP; Peter Gibson MP; Kim Johnson MP; Kate Osamor MP; Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP; Virendra Sharma MPi; Mohammad Yasin MP; Lord Victor Adebowale; Lord Andrew Cooper; Lord Nat Wei; Lord Simon Woolley; Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol; Benjamin Zephaniah, poet; Trevor Phillips, broadcaster; Chris Powell, Coach, England men’s football team; Professor David Olusoga MBE, historian; Tom Holland, historian; Sunder Katwala, Director, British Future; Siobhan Aarons, Co-Founder, CARFE; Akeela Ahmed MBE, Founder and Editor, She Speaks We Hear; Albie Amankona, Co-Founder, CARFE; Yemi Aladerun, Co-Chair, Olmec; Andrea Als, Director (Solicitor), Vialto Partners; Curtis Asante Co-Chair, Olmec; Sheila Asante, Museums Galleries Scotland; Qari Asim MBE, Imam; Sally Baffour CEO, Family People Ltd; Olivia Bailey, Director, Public First; Rosie Bairwal; Dr Halima Begum, CEO, Runnymede Trust; Sanjay Bhandari, Chair, Kick It Out; Polly Billington, Hackney Cllr, Chief Executive, UK100; Mihir Bose, Writer and broadcaster; Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary, NEU; Jo Broadwood, Chief Executive, Belong – The Cohesion and Integration Network; Alexandra Bulat, Labour County Councillor, Abbey Division, Cambridgeshire; Anthony Burnett, CEO, Kick It Out; Jacqui Burnett (Cllr), Vice Chair, African Caribbean Community Development Forum Ltd; Tony Butler, Executive Director, Derby Museums Trust; Charles Byrne, Director General, Royal British Legion; Ajay Chhabra, Actor and producer; Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary, NEU; Jason Coward, National Chair, The Royal British Legion; Brian Dalton, CEO, Irish in Britain; Kevin Dalton-Johnson, Senior Researcher, Creative Impact Lead/Runnymede Trust; Yvonne Davis; John Denham, Director, Centre for English Identity and Politics; Tiger de Souza, People Engagement Director, National Trust; Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, Founder, The Black Farmer; Tony Fairweather, author; Yvonne Field, Executive Director, The Ubele Initiative; Robert Ford DPhil FAcSS, Professor of Political Science; Corrine Fowler, Director, Colonial Countryside: National Trust Houses Reinterpreted; Thorrun Govind, Chair, Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board; Andy Gregg, Hertfordshire Equaliy Council; Miranda Grell, Advisor, Black Equity Organisation; Ros Griffiths, Social Entrepreneur, Community Activist/Organiser; Donna Guthrie, Women’s Officer, BARAC UK; Sophie Henderson, Director, Migration Museum; Meg Henry, Co-Director, The Linking Network; Beverley Hillman; Zita Holbourne Chair, BARAC UK; Max Holloway; Sunny Hundal, Journalist and writer; Dame Vivian Hunt, Chair, Black Equity Organisation; Professor Uzo Iwobi CBE FLS, Founder and CEO, Race Council Cymru, Lead for Black History Wales 365; Jermain Jackman, Artist and activist; Bishop Dr. Desmond Jaddoo, Windrush National Organisation; Paul Johnson, Black Gifted Network; Kevin Jones, NuDawn CIC; Krish Kandiah, Director, Sanctuary Foundation; Dr Omar Khan; James Kirkup, Director, Social Market Foundation; Jon Knight, Chief Executive, Together; Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director, Young Vic; Jolyon Maugham QC Director, Good Law Project; John Mayford, CEO, Olmec; Dr Ramesh Mehta OBE, President, British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin; Dr Penelope Mendonca, Graphic Facilitator, Cartoonist, PhD, Associate Lecturer at University of the Arts London; Rani Moorcroft MBE FRSA, Founder, Zedgeneration CIC; Su Moore, CEO, The Jo Cox Foundation; Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chair, BMA; Dr Susheila Nasta MBE, Founder, Wasafiri; Lara Oyedele, Vice President, Chartered Institute of Housing; Rudi Page, CEO, Making Connections Work Limited; Writer and broadcaster; Richard Reddie, Director, Churches Together in Britain & Ireland; Gurvinder Sandher, CEO, Kent Equality Cohesion Council; Jo Sealy, Director, To Market; Michael Seeraj, Head of EDI, Charlton Athletic Football Club; Sandra Shakespeare, Black British Museum; Julie Siddiqi MBE, Founder, Together We Thrive; Jasvir Singh OBE, Chair, City Sikhs; Lemn Sissay OBE, Poet, playwright, broadcaster; Maria Sobolewska, Deputy Director, Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research, University of Manchester; Enver Solomon, Chief Executive, Refugee Council; Marc Stears, Director, UCL Policy Lab; Trevor Sterling, Chair, Mary Seacole Trust; Garry Stewart, Co-Founder, Windrush Caribbean Film Festival; Marilyn Toft, Chair, CACT; Paul Uppal; Esme Ward, Director, Manchester Museum, the University of Manchester; Sharon Watson MBE, CEO and Principal, Northern School of Contemporary Dance; Hector Wesley, National Officer, BARAC UK; Zehra Zaidi, We Too Built Britain.