Brixton’s Pegasus Opera creates Windrush anthem

performers take a bow
Pegasus Opera Company

A new Windrush Anthem commissioned by Lambeth council from the Brixton-based Pegasus Opera Company will premiere on 22 June – Windrush Day.

Events leading up to and following Windrush Day will be “a real community celebration” and “a meaningful, educational and joyful tribute” to the Windrush Generation and their descendants, the council said. 

Also launched on Tuesday 22 June will be a new Windrush Emblem created by local artist Seonaid Gowdie which will be posted around the borough.

Residents can download a community arts and activities pack. A new Windrush education pack for schools has also been created.

“I Am Here” is the Lambeth theme for Windrush 2021, inviting the  community “to stand in solidarity and look forward to a brighter future for our young people and look back in respect to a remarkable generation”.

Anyone can support this message by using templates in the pack created by Seonaid Gowdie to create their own artwork to display in a window.

Seonaid Gowdie’s Windrush Emblem

Seonaid said the emblem depicts six different faces combined to make one face.

“I took inspiration from the words collective, spirit, future and respect and decided to create something which represents unity within a community.

“The Windrush Generation were commonly told to ‘go back home’ despite the fact they had a right to be here.

“I was born and raised in London. I’m a British citizen but sometimes I don’t feel British enough.

“When I’m with my Jamaican family I feel more British and when I’m around British people I feel more Jamaican.

“It sometimes feels like I’m a part of two cultures but not completely included in either.

“Regardless of this disparity I am here in Britain as a British citizen.

“The emblem shows that regardless of the colour of someone’s skin, whether they were born here or immigrated, we are here.”

At 10.27am exactly on 22 June, residents can “ fill Lambeth with music” by tuning into Colourful Radio which will be playing the Windrush song You Can Get It If You Really Want, created for the 2020 Windrush event.

Last year schools and residents across the borough joined in the collective sing- and dance-along and filled the streets with music, the council said.

The time 10.27 pays tribute to the 1,027 passengers who arrived in the Windrush in 1948.

The Windrush Anthem, composed by the renowned musician Des Oliver, will premiere at 2pm in Brixton Village and on the Pegasus YouTube channel.

The anthem, entitled Rush, has been sent to all Lambeth schools for pupils to learn for future performances.

Details and downloads here

Cllr Sonia Winifred (r)
Cllr Sonia Winifred (r) and her daughter Almaz Thomas joined in singing in the street in Brixton at last year’s Windrush Day

Cllr Sonia Winifred, Lambeth council’s cabinet member for equalities and culture, said: “We have put together an engaging and inclusive package for Windrush Day and I would invite all our residents to take part.

“This is a partnership effort that has seen Lambeth Libraries, the Black Cultural Archives, the Brixton Project and others joining this effort.

“As a member of the Windrush Generation, I understand the struggles faced by members of the British Caribbean community who were first invited to Britain to help re-build the country after World War II.

“It is important we reflect on the discrimination and challenges they faced, while also celebrating their huge contribution to all areas of British life, not least public service and the arts.

“Our Windrush Day 2021 programme really picks up on these themes.

“I hope that everyone in the borough will also join us – online, in schools, at home or in work – to once again explore and celebrate the Windrush Generation at this time of significant social change.”

nurse in uniform poses for photograph
One of Harry Jacobs’ original Windrush portraits

A pop-up portrait parlour in Brixton Village, inspired by the photographer Harry Jacobs, will document the “I am Here” message.

Jacobs was the photographer of choice for the West Indian communities of Lambeth and the pop-up uses a replica of an iconic backdrop he used in his images.

Anyone can come down and take a photo of themselves in front of it and will be able share it on a Windrush Instagram account where they can also opt into an “I Am Here – Windrush 2021” archive collection.