Chorus of UK voices back call for Windrush 75 celebrations this year
The 75th anniversary this year of the Windrush arriving in the UK – a key moment in Britain’s history of migration – is a “Diamond Jubilee for modern, diverse Britain,” Patrick Vernon, Convenor of the Windrush 75 network, said today.
Voices from across UK society – from sport and culture to politics, faith and business – are speaking out today about why Windrush 75 matters and what they will be doing to mark the anniversary this year. Actor Lenny Henry, politician David Lammy, historian David Olusoga and Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Bishop of Dover, are among those showing their support for Windrush 75, alongside Windrush descendants and representatives of the FA, English Cricket Board, Tesco and Royal Mail, who will issue a set of special stamps in June to mark the Windrush anniversary.
New polling for the Windrush 75 network, published today, finds that 6 in 10 people in Britain (61%) agree that ‘Britain owes a great deal to the Windrush generation of migrants and should recognise their contribution as part of our national story.’ People also want this history taught in schools: a further 6 in 10 (62%) agree that ‘The arrival of Windrush is a key moment in Britain’s history of migration and change. It is important for integration today that all of our children are taught about the shared history of a multi-ethnic Britain.’
Hear from the wide variety of organisations who are planning to mark this significant anniversary…
Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future, said:
“2023 will be a special year for Britain, a year of identity. A Coronation year that ushers in a new era. One when we mark 75 years of pride in the NHS and 75 years of Windrush, the moment which symbolises the post-war migration that has shaped our society today.
“Windrush 75 reflects the complex story of migration to Britain, one of pride and of prejudice. But the endpoint of that story so far is us. This is who we are now.”
Actor Lenny Henry said:
“It’s vital this year to celebrate the courage of those Windrush pioneers 75 years ago, who gave up the life they knew to seek a better one here in Britain. They paved the way for those of us who have followed.
“With my one man play August in England and upcoming TV series Three Little Birds I want to bring their stories to wider attention in 2023. Big respect to those pioneers – we stand on their shoulders.”
Amanda Pritchard, CEO of NHS England, said:
“The 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the work of our black and other ethnic minority colleagues and their significant contributions to the National Health Service, which is also marking its 75th year.
“From 1948 to today, the NHS has always welcomed talent from around the world. Many of the new arrivals’ contributions to the health service helped to create a new and free health care system for all. They were critical to the formation of the NHS, and I am honoured to work alongside their descendants and generations that followed in their footsteps.”
David Lammy MP, Shadow Foreign Secretary, said:
“The 75th anniversary of Windrush will be an emotional day in many communities as we remember the sacrifices of a generation which gave so much to this country, but it is bittersweet. A time to celebrate how migration and diversity has helped build modern Britain – but also to put pressure on the government to finally give the victims of the Windrush scandal the compensation they deserve.”
Reverend Michael King, whose father came to the UK onboard the Windrush, said:
“As the son of one of the original Windrush pioneers, Sam King MBE, the 75th anniversary is a very significant moment on a personal level and for the nation. As we come into the anniversary year, permanently raising the profile of the Windrush pioneers and their descendants should be an important aspect of the celebrations, to ensure people never forget the huge contribution made by this generation to our country. This is an awesome opportunity for black history.”
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:
“75 years ago, Empire Windrush arrived into Tilbury Docks with hundreds of people from the Caribbean – the first of a generation – who helped to rebuild London as a leading global city. Since then, the Windrush generation has continued to help shape and inspire almost every aspect of our culture and modern life. Their enormous contribution to our country and our capital city deserves recognition.
“As we come together to mark this 75 year milestone, we must also recommit to putting right the mistreatment the Windrush generation have endured. Their appalling treatment by the Government is a stain on our nation’s conscience, as is our immoral immigration system. I encourage all Londoners to take part in the activities taking place across the capital this year in honour of the Windrush generation.”
Zareena Brown, Chief People Officer at Royal Mail, said:
“Royal Mail recognises the cultural importance of celebrating the landmark 75th anniversary of the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush to the UK. We are delighted to be issuing a set of Special Stamps in June that will honour the legacy of the citizens who emigrated from the Caribbean to Britain and their positive contributions to society.”
Sajid Javid MP said:
“For many of us who owe our lives in Britain to family who travelled here from overseas, the Windrush has a special resonance. That generation made a deep and lasting impact on this country and the 75th anniversary is a moment to celebrate the contribution they continue to make to our economy, health service and society.”
Paul Elliott, Special Advisor to the Chair and CEO at the FA, said:
“The World Cup performance of England’s footballers inspired the nation last month. They show why our diversity is our strength – without the parents and grandparents who moved here from overseas, there would be no Rashfords, Sakas or Bellinghams wearing the Three Lions. So in 2023 football will celebrate the 75th anniversary of Windrush and the huge contribution that descendants of those first pioneers have made to our beautiful game.”
Kate Miller, England & Wales Cricket Board’s Chief Diversity and Communications Officer, said:
“Of the many contributions the African-Caribbean community made to British culture throughout the 20th century, their passion for cricket shines through. Despite the obstacles faced by Black people at the time – including racism – an entire generation of African-Caribbean children were inspired into cricket by talented players, vibrant match-day crowds, and community-based clubs that were formed up and down the country.
“This year, the Windrush 75th anniversary year, will be an important one for the sport across England and Wales, with a continuing focus on equity in cricket. Since 2000, the numbers of Black professional cricketers, and Black children participating in cricket, have fallen away. We must go further, faster – listening and learning from the Black community directly to reverse this decline and drive inclusivity at all levels of our game, so that future generations can be inspired as past generations were.”
The arrival of the ship HMT Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks in Essex 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. This year, 22 June 2023 will mark its 75th anniversary and the Port of Tilbury will be a focal point of activities to mark Windrush Day.
Lucy Emma Harris, Community Engagement Manager for Forth Ports, said:
“The 22nd June is woven into the very fabric of our local history at The Port of Tilbury, and celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush at the London International Cruise Terminal is very firmly on our calendar.
“Preparations have already started with workshops to explore ideas with artists on how we create an event that is a fitting celebration to mark the 75th Anniversary. We are also developing educational events, so our local young people understand how the arrival of the Empire Windrush in Tilbury was part of Great Britain’s national story.”
The legacy of the Windrush is seen all over the UK, however, and towns and cities across Britain are preparing to make the 75th anniversary.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said:
“2023 marks the 75th anniversary of the Windrush arriving in the UK. This historic moment ushered in a new era for the UK as a whole and the West Midlands in particular – bringing newcomers to our shores who built their lives here and made a tremendous contribution to this country. Whether in arts & culture, sport, business or public service, the region I represent is a richer place today in all respects thanks in no small part to the migration and diversity that Windrush brought about. It’s only right that we mark this milestone with the level of reflection and ceremony it deserves.”
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said:
“2023 marks a number of important anniversaries for Bristol: 60 years since the Bristol Bus Boycott, 75 years since Windrush, and 650 years since we gained city status. Windrush was a watershed moment in our history, as post-war migration from across the Commonwealth and around the world helped to rebuild our city and country. We are working with St Paul’s Carnival, whose fringe programme will launch on Windrush Day 2023, and other partners around Bristol to mark these anniversaries and celebrate who we are as a city.”
Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A museum, said:
“The V&A will mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush with a season of displays, talks, workshops and events beginning in May 2023 and running throughout the summer. The programme of events will tell rich, layered stories about the Windrush generation and their legacies through objects from the V&A Collection and beyond, showcasing artists and designers associated with Windrush and exploring the impact of the Caribbean presence on art, design and culture in Britain.”
Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director of the Young Vic theatre, said:
“The Windrush embodies so many human stories – of dreams for the future, injustice and adversity, identity and belonging – which have spanned generations over the last 75 years. It’s a powerful symbol that will inspire culture-makers throughout 2023.”
Jason Tarry, Tesco CEO, UK & ROI, said:
“We recognise that the 75th anniversary of Windrush is an important milestone for this country. The Windrush generation and their descendants helped rebuild this nation after the war and shaped the UK as we know it today.
“At Tesco, everyone’s welcome. We’re building an inclusive workplace that celebrates the unique cultures, preferences and experiences of all our colleagues, and reflects the diverse communities we serve. As part of our ongoing commitment to Black inclusion in our business and to mark this milestone we have partnered with The Making of Black Britain (MOBB). Through this our colleagues have been given the opportunity to take part in MOBB’s fantastic oral history project dedicated to telling people’s stories of nationality, citizenship, identity and belonging. As part of this work we are having Tesco story telling workshops and learning events, and MOBB founder Dianne Louise Jordan is running a mini podcast series.”
Philippa Rawlinson, The Royal British Legion’s Director: Remembrance, said:
“The large number of serving and former Armed Forces personnel on the Empire Windrush 75 years ago underlines the importance of the contribution of the Windrush Generation. During 2023 we will commemorate the service and sacrifice of the Windrush Generation and its descendants.”
Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said:
“We celebrate Windrush not only because of the national pride and positive story of immigration and diversity that it represents – we celebrate its story of unshakeable hope, perseverance and redemption. Windrush is not just a powerful moment in our nation’s past. Windrush is a hopeful vision of our nation’s future.
“The history of the iconic Windrush ship is the human story in all its highest and lowest ideals. First named Monta Rosa by its Jewish shipbuilders in Germany, it made it possible for hundreds of refugees to flee persecution, tyranny and genocide. Under control of the Nazis, it was then used for the darkest evil – transporting Jews back to Germany and ultimately to their deaths in the gas chambers.
“The British capture of the ship, at the end of the War, paved the way for the Windrush to once again be the protagonist of a new redemptive story, as its final years were spent bringing thousands of Caribbean immigrants to Tilbury Docks – a defining historical moment for modern Britain.”
Tony Butler, Executive Director, Derby Museums, said:
“In 2023 museums up and down the country from London to Leeds, Preston to Reading, will be hosting events and exhibitions commemorating the Windrush legacy. Derby Museum will draw on our ongoing work with younger community members, who have collected testimony from the Windrush generation about their histories and experiences.
“The commemoration of Windrush 75 is an important landmark of the experience of people from the Caribbean in the UK. Museums are civic spaces where stories are told. More often than not this is done by way of objects and art. Many of those people who made that journey 75 years ago did not bring objects with them. Over the years, as places of memory, museums and community heritage organisations across the UK have collected oral histories and memories to share their stories with the public.”
Imam Qari Asim of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) said:
“The Windrush connects Britain with the Commonwealth, and so for many Muslims from a South Asian or African background, it symbolises our ancestry and the family stories of those who first came to the UK. 75 years on, it’s a chance to celebrate the tremendous Commonwealth contribution to Britain, the roots we have put down and the bonds of community built up over the generations.”
Dr Dwain Neil OBE, Chairman of Reach Society said:
“To mark the 75th anniversary of the modern Black community, Reach Society shall be doing several things. Here are some key ones:
Firstly, the Society, in partnership with Life Radio UK, shall be broadcasting the Milestones series which will feature our contributions across the seven and a half decades. The series launched on 12 December, and the first of ten episodes was aired on Monday, 19 December. A set of podcasts shall also be offered.
Secondly, from the start of the year, the Society, in collaboration with Turtle Bay restaurants, shall be building awareness of the Windrush Day Thanksgiving Gatherings urging the modern Black community to celebrate cultural esteem all across the UK, and where possible making use of the 50 plus Turtle Bay restaurants as places to host Gatherings.
Thirdly, on 22 June the Society shall be hosting a Windrush Day Thanksgiving Gathering in the Turtle Bay restaurant in Brixton to which the public will be invited.”
Aditi Anand, Artistic Director at the Migration Museum, said:
“At the Migration Museum, we’re planning a programme in 2023 to mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush in Tilbury, Essex. Every passenger on board, the tens of thousands who made similar journeys, and the hundreds of thousands of people with connections to this historic moment have their own stories to tell and legacy to share.
“Collectively, the story of Windrush is relevant to all of us as a central part of our national story. Now more than ever, it’s important to recognise and celebrate the lives, achievements, struggles and contributions of the Windrush Generation and their families. We hope that organisations across the UK will come together to do so in 2023.”
Professor John Denham, Director of Centre for English Identity and Politics, said:
“Windrush’s legacy has flowed through a diverse England that has reshaped the very idea of what it means to be English. Clear though this was in popular support for England’s football team, the patchiness of progress is also evident. While fans applauded players taking the knee, the census (published during the World Cup) had not allowed anyone to identify as Black and English.
“In the coming year, the Centre for English Identity and Politics wants to explore the next Windrush anniversary. We haven’t decided whether this should be Windrush 100, Windrush 125 or Windrush 150 but the questions will be the same. What will this increasingly diverse England look like? What issues will have been resolved and what problems may we still recognise? And, within an England now shaped by people from every part of the world, what will be the particular place of the grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren of the Windrush generation?”
Jon Knight, Chief Executive at /Together, said:
“The Windrush Generation have shaped the society we live in today, and began a journey of people arriving and being welcomed into communities that define us as a country. This anniversary is a great opportunity to celebrate the impact of this generation, and all those who have come to be part of the communities – and recognise the value in us being connected together.”
Zita Holbourne, co-founder of BARAC UK, said:
“We will continue to work with, campaign and amplify the voices of the Windrush Generation and their descendants, impacted by the Windrush Scandal, injustices and systemic racism and celebrate our community’s achievements and contribution to Britain through arts, culture and education.”
Susann Savidge, Chair of the Somerset African Caribbean Network, said:
“Windrush is important to me as one of my family members was Russell Henderson, a founder of Notting Hill Carnival and a steel pan and Jazz musician. My father Keefe West was an actor and a musician who was part of the Dark and Light, the first black theatre company in Brixton and the Caribbean Artists Movement. In the closing month of this year, it is good to see the BBC, in their centenary year in 2022, telling the story of the Windrush Generation’s contribution to Black British History in terms of music, theatre, TV, radio, film and literature.”
We have created the Windrush 75 Network to help coordinate efforts across the UK to encourage public participation in Windrush 75 celebrations throughout 2023. Get in touch with us if you’d like to join the Network or share your plans.