Metro: Windrush 75th anniversary will be ‘last significant chance’ to honour living pioneers


Windrush 75th anniversary will be ‘last significant chance’ to honour living pioneers

A roll call of famous and influential figures have sounded the beginning of the Windrush Generation’s 75th anniversary year (Picture: Getty/PA)

The 75th anniversary of the Windrush’s arrival in England will be the ‘last significant chance’ to recognise the generation while it still has living members, a prominent campaigner has said.

Patrick Vernon OBE called for national celebrations on a par with the Diamond Jubilee for Queen Elizabeth II as a host of prominent figures gave their support to the milestone year.

The HMT Empire Windrush’s arrival at Tilbury docks on June 22, 1948 carrying passengers from the Caribbean invited by the UK to fill labour shortages is considered a pivotal moment in modern British history.

Delivering 802 people from the islands, the journey was part of a post-war migration wave that is credited with shoring up Britain’s workforce, playing a key role in establishing the then fledgling NHS and helping the country to become a multi-cultural society.

The Windrush 75 campaign is being kickstarted today by prominent figures including Sir Lenny Henry, MP David Lammy, historian David Olusoga and the Bishop of Dover, Rose Hudson-Wilkin.

For Mr Vernon, convenor of the Windrush 75 Network, this year will be the last major chance to recognise the enterprising pioneers, who include his own parents, while they are still alive.

The generation have their defining moment in the ship’s arrival but are generally considered people from the Caribbean who sought better lives in the UK between 1948 and 1971.

For the early pioneers, who in many cases were met with racism, the anniversary is one of the last chances to recognise their achievements on a national, year-long scale in their lifetime.

The British liner Empire Windrush will forever be the focal point of the Caribbean post-war journeys to the UK (Picture: Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images)

Mr Vernon told ‘The 75th anniversary will be the last significant chance to celebrate the Windrush people while they are still with us.

‘With my own parents, who came from the Caribbean in the 1950s, my dad is 91 while my mum is in her 80s. By the time we reach the 80th or the 85th anniversary most of the generation will no longer be here, so it’s very important to acknowledge and thank those members of the generation up and down the country while we can.

‘We want to say we will never forget their sacrifices and their contributions to all aspects of British society. Some have been recognised through the honours lists and in other ways, but not many of them have had the recognition and acknowledgement they deserve.’

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