The Guardian – Royal Mail issues stamps to mark 75th anniversary of Windrush arrival


Royal Mail issues stamps to mark 75th anniversary of Windrush arrival

Eight Royal Mail stamps featuring original artworks by Black British artists were commissioned

The original artwork was created by black British artist Kareen Cox. Photograph: Royal Mail/PA

A special collection of stamps has been issued to mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the hundreds of passengers from the Caribbean to the UK on the Empire Windrush.

Eight Royal Mail stamps featuring original artworks by Black British artists were commissioned to celebrate the occasion, which will be revealed at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton on Thursday.

The ship arrived at the Port of Tilbury, in Essex, on 21 June 1948, and its passengers disembarked a day later.

It carried 492 West Indian migrants, many of whom came to the UK, alongside people from other parts of the Commonwealth, to help in Britain’s postwar economic recovery. Many of those who came to the UK had served in the British armed forces in the second world war.

The ship and its passengers have a symbolic status as the start of the Windrush generation – Commonwealth citizens who came to work or join family in Britain between 1948 and 1971.

The illustrations were designed by five Black British artists of Caribbean heritage, including Kareen Cox, Bokiba, Tomekah George, Alvin Kofi and Emma Prempeh. Cox, Bokiba and Prempeh designed two stamps each.

The artists were commissioned to create illustrations that celebrate the contribution of the Windrush generation and their influence on life in the UK.

Each stamp represents the artist’s interpretation of the Windrush era, exploring themes of music, carnival, food, education, including Saturday schools, and politics.

Among the stamps, people are depicted playing steel pan drums with gold headdresses, dancing around a sound system and holding signs up reading “freedom” and “overcome” in protest.

Royal Mail also worked with Colin Grant, a British writer of Jamaican heritage, and Sonia Grant, an independent historian, writer, researcher and photographic exhibition curator.

Winnie Annan-Forson, the head of diversity, equity and inclusion at Royal Mail, said: “As Britain marks the 75th anniversary of the 1948 arrival of the MV Empire Windrush, we are honoured to mark this key event with a set of special stamps, featuring vibrant illustrations from talented artists that celebrate the culture and contribution of the Windrush generation and those who followed.

“We are delighted to have brought their stories to life in this special way, passing their legacy on to future generations.”

Royal Mail will also use a special postmark to stamp mail from 21 to 26 June, which will read: MV Empire Windrush, Port of Tilbury, 22nd June 1948.

Social commentator and political campaigner Patrick Vernon said: “The Royal Mail recognise this important landmark of the contribution of the Windrush Generation to Britain and the impact of this legacy since 1948. Back in 2018 I did lobby and launch a petition for the Royal Mail to have commemorative stamp as part of the 70th anniversary.

“I am glad that there has been some flexibility in their criteria and forward planning in time for 2023 especially as many of the Windrush Generation are passing and this is a great time to acknowledge their achievements. I am sure these stamps will be a collector items and inspire a new range of collectors from 3rd and 4th generation of Windrush Generation.”