Jamaicans in Britain: A Legacy of Leadership

Edited by Joy Sigaud

The long-awaited book Jamaicans in Britain: A Legacy of Leadership, published by Editions Media on behalf of the Jamaican High Commission, has finally come to fruition and will be officially launched in March 2022.

The book gives a deep insight into the lives of many Jamaicans, their fortitude in the face of adversity and their silent courage. Frank and defining, the resilience of this first generation alongside undercurrents of not belonging is truly remarkable.

His Excellency Seth George Ramocan, Jamaican High Commissioner to London, announced on his arrival to Britain in 2017 that it was his goal to produce a book outlining the wonderful achievements of the Jamaican diaspora in the UK over the decades, notably between 1948 and 1972.

What has become known as the “Windrush Generation” takes its name from the Empire Windrush ship that docked at Tilbury on 21 June 1948, with almost 500 Jamaicans on board. Seeking a new life and opportunities in the “mother country,” they disembarked on 22 June, a day now annually observed as Windrush Day.

Five years in the making, Jamaicans in Britain: A Legacy of Leadership has been a labour of love. Co-authored by a team of volunteer writers, with a Foreword by Arthur Torrington, this important compilation documents the lives of many of those early arrivants to the United Kingdom, ensuring that their names and contributions are acknowledged and will be remembered. Britain was not the utopia they had been expecting, but through perseverance and hard work, many overcame the racial setbacks and marginalisation they experienced, going on to lead meaningful lives of service in many fields whereby they supported themselves, their communities and society at large.

 About the book

Jamaicans in Britain: A Legacy of Leadership is a collaboration between the High Commission of Jamaica and Editions Media Limited. It is championed by many individuals and organisations who generously gave their time and funds to enable the publication.

Sponsors include: Victoria Mutual, Jamaica National Bank, Grace Foods UK and JP Shipping.

The Nurses Association of Jamaica UK secured significant funding for the book from the 2019 Windrush Community Grant Scheme.

Notable individuals such as Neil Kenlock, Vanley Burke and Howard Grey, among others, famed for capturing visually precious moments of historical interest, have generously contributed their work.

Containing more than 550 names, mostly nominated by the Jamaican community in the UK, this compendium is the first of its kind. It covers a broad sector representing people from all walks of life and tells a unique story. Editor Joy Sigaud said:

“The most remarkable aspect is that there are so many who have achieved so much against all odds: raising their families; supporting family members back home, while simultaneously supporting their communities.

“The names of people of Jamaican heritage just keep coming in – so there may be scope for future volumes! It is hoped that Jamaicans in Britain: A Legacy of Leadership will serve as an inspiration for generations to come and we are grateful to all who contributed.”

Adolbert Sawyers arrived in 1961 and in 1969 founded a Black off-licence, A. Sawyers & Sons in Harlesden, London. He fondly remembers those days, having spent many years delivering to people’s homes the soda brand “Top Pops”, a sweet Caribbean drink treat for children that came in mini child-friendly bottles. Adolbert Sawyers, now 88 year old, said:

“Many of our generation have now passed and there are only few of us left – it is heartening to know we will be remembered. Life was hard in the early days, but we just got on with it.”

His sentiments reflect those of many of that first generation who came in the early days.

The children of that first pioneering generation are today represented in all walks of life and in many sectors of society, ranging from theatre and the arts to technology, media and government. Other areas where they have excelled include sports, in the social services sectors, various government positions and, as most recently highlighted through the Covid-19 pandemic, the nursing and medical professions and philanthropy. It is widely acknowledged that Caribbean and African nurses were the backbone of the NHS from the time of its founding.

Jamaicans have consistently ranked high in the much coveted UK Black Excellence Powerlist, with Jacky Wright, described as “a transformational global leader and innovative technologist”, at the top spot in the Powerlist 2022. Professor Kevin Fenton and Jacqueline Mckenzie, both of Jamaican descent, were ranked in the top 10.

The very influential 100 Great Black Britons was the brainchild of activist/ commentator and historian Patrick Vernon, also of Jamaican heritage.

The Black Cultural Archives, the leading resource centre on Black history, as well as The Voice newspaper – market leader in Black diaspora news – were founded by Jamaicans. Today The Voice is headed by Paulette Simpson CBE, who has also featured in the Powerlists over many years.

Jamaican High Commissioner H. E. Seth George Ramocan says:

“This long-awaited work remains an ongoing project. It is designed to give recognition to the men and women from the Caribbean who made significant contributions to the well-being of their compatriots, creating a lasting legacy in the United Kingdom. I am delighted that we have been able to make the first steps in documenting these remarkable achievements.”

More details regarding the launch of Jamaicans in Britain: A Legacy of Leadership will be published over the next few weeks.

Co-authored by Joy Sigaud, editor and publisher, she led a 14-strong team of writers and sub-editors in the  EDITIONS spirit of promoting, motivating and inspiring all who read it, as well as the Jamaican diaspora in the United Kingdom. They came together with the Jamaican High Commission team to produce and bring this book to fruition.


Originally posted on Editionbhm