Brixton and Lambeth are central to the events marking the 75thanniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush which has come to symbolise the arrival of Caribbean people in Britain after the Second World War
Brixton Windrush procession
Inspired by the major gallery installation The Procession by local artist Hew Locke – who was awarded an OBE in the recent King’s birthday honours – the Brixton Project is organising a procession through Brixton from Railton Road to Windrush Square.
It is due to begin at 3.30pm on Windrush Day itself, Thursday 22 June, from near 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning at the Herne Hill end of Railton Road.
The procession is due to arrive in Windrush Square at about 4.50pm. Performances and speeches will continue until 7pm.
With the support of local artists and organisations including Loughborough Junction based Sunshine International Arts (SIA), the procession aims to harness the traditional spirit of carnival with art, theatre, and music telling the Windrush story through connected themes: Ancestry, Caribbean Roots, Building Britain, Carnival, and Future.
SIA’s section in the parade is All Aboard – Ship Ahoy and is focussed on creating Sailor Mas, one of the most traditional Trinidadian Carnival characters.
It was introduced in the 1880s when British, French and United States naval ships came to Trinidad. There are several variations on the Sailor Mas, including Free French Sailor, King Sailor, White Sailor and Fancy Sailor.
The Big Caribbean Lunch
Windrush 75 reception
Lambeth Council is hosting an evening celebration on Windrush Day, 22 June. The event, from 7pm will feature spoken word performances, live music and artists honouring the Windrush Generation.
Windrush: A Voyage through the Generations
Windrush: A Voyage through the Generations is a new exhibition by Jim Grover, an award-winning social documentary photographer, at Clapham’s Mary Seacole Library until 2 September, writes Leslie Manasseh.
The exhibition explores how the generations which followed the Windrush Generation are living their lives in the UK today. It invites conversations around the different ways of passing down traditions, the continuity of heritage and intergenerational exchange.
It also continues the stories of some of the familiar faces who featured in Grover’s previous Windrush exhibition in 2018 which focussed on the first generation of men and women from the Caribbean.
The set of 70 colour photographs, which include nine themed photo stories, shine a light on both individuals, groups and organisations in South London, who together are doing so much to preserve their distinctive Caribbean heritage and traditions for current and future generations.
Many are inspiring female-led narratives. The photographs portray an extraordinary level of intimacy and show the full range of human emotions, from great joy but also sadness and loss.
The exhibition opens with a new photo-story of 97-year-old Alford Gardner, one of just two known remaining adult passengers from that landmark 1948 voyage, who has been enjoying a new level of recognition and fame since 2018.
Highlights include Brixton’s Remembrance Day ceremonies at the African Caribbean War Memorial; the recent formation and success of The Diamonds, an all-female dominoes team in South London; and the Brixton Immortals Domino Club, introducing the game to young children in a collaboration with Lambeth libraries. There are also more intimate images of family life.
Additionally, the exhibition features the portraits, comprising both imagery and narrative, of q0 inspiring individuals including Deborah Klass and Sandra Bynoe, two of the driving forces behind the Windrush Generation Legacy Association in Croydon; archivist Colin Brown who has documented Lovers Rock; Caribbean frozen food entrepreneur Mark Richards; third generation twin sisters, Kerryn Ghann and Krystyna Antoine, NHS workers and mothers with young families; and Selena Carty founder of remembrance organisation BlackPoppyRose.
The exhibition ends with a display featuring a collage of 75 photos from the youngest generations – under-16s who have been invited to contribute a photograph of an artefact which is important to their families’ Caribbean stories.
Grover, whose photographic passion is to celebrate daily life, unsung heroes and local communities, has built up close and trusting relationships with his subjects.
He said: “It has been a true privilege to spend time, once again, with this community; a community I hugely respect, admire and enjoy being with. And I am deeply indebted to all of those who participated in, and contributed to, the creation of Windrush: A Voyage through the Generations.
“Without their warm welcome, their kindness, their encouragement and their openness I could not have created this work. Just like Windrush: Portrait of a Generation, this is their story, and a story to celebrate and be proud of. I am just so grateful to have the opportunity to share it.”
Windrush: A Voyage through the Generations is on display until 2 September 2023, at the Clapham Library, Mary Seacole Centre, 91 Clapham High Street, SW4 7DB. A book that accompanies the exhibition is available in print or as a PDF. There is also a dedicated website.
Moving stories from strong women
It consists of photographs something that is precious to members them and a few words about why it is.
The exhibition has 22 members’ photographs and personal stories, as well as photographs by Jim Grover.
The photographs and stories include Hyacinth Brown’s first gift for her mother on Mother’s Day in 1962, Audrey Smart’s arrival in 1955, Bertram Dixon’s Maundy Money, and the story behind Delores Robinson’s ring.
Lesley Allen, who leads Stockwell Good Neighbours said: “I am so proud to be able to showcase the personal stories and experiences of this remarkable and inspiring group of elders, and in such a simple and moving way.”
Cllr Jacqui Dyer, Lambeth council cabinet lead for inclusive economy and equalities, said: “We are delighted to be holding this exhibition in Brixton library. Lambeth is the first home of the Windrush Generation so this exhibition belongs here.
“It complements the huge range of events across our borough to mark Windrush 75.”
Jim Grover, who orchestrated this exhibition, said: “I so enjoy working with people to create powerful and engaging stories with just a mobile phone and a few words.
“A photo of a ‘Dutch Pot’, a traditional cooking pot typically passed down the generations, is elevated to a moving story when you read Viv Jonas’s words that accompany it.
“These strong women, who typically came here in the 1950s and 1960s and who are now mostly in their seventies and eighties, have so many moving stories to share.”
A Windrush Jubilee Memorial Chair is being sculpted from the last three remaining pieces of timber from the gangplank of Tilbury Docks, where the Empire Windrush landed in 1948.
It was the “first piece of England” the Windrush pioneers set foot on.
Jak Beula, founder of the Brixton-based Nubian Jak Community Trust commemorative plaque and sculpture scheme highlighting the historic contributions of Black people in Britain, created the design.
He was given the historic timber by friend who worked at the cruise terminal.
It is due to be unveiled at the Black Cultural Archives on Windrush Square in Brixton on 22 June.
Brixton Village will unveil an eight by 24-foot mural designed by local artist Bunny and honouring the courage, hard work and resilience of the Windrush Generation.
It showcases the stories of 21 figures who were children of the Windrush community including Grace Jones, Gus John, Jah Shaka and Benjamin Zephaniah.
Brixton Village, in conjunction with Brixton Project and Just Vibez, will host a commemorative party from 2pm until 10pm, on Thursday.
Sharlene-Monique, a talented new artist from Brixton, will be perform a song dedicated to the Windrush Generation its deep historical significance at 7pm.
The event will also feature other artists including Floetic Lara performing songs inspired by Windrush and its long-lasting cultural influence.
There will be activities for children with Know Your Caribbean, Carnival models and live calypso.
Diana Nabagereka, general manager of Brixton Village said: “In true Brixton fashion, we want to encourage a celebration with us and for us on this day.
“We hope that, with this magnificent mural, residents and visitors alike can join the Windrush Generation to celebrate the unique stories and understand the rich culture that surrounds this market.”
The Brixton Village celebrations start at 2pm on Thursday and are free and open to all members of the community.
Black Cultural Archives
A new exhibition to coincide with the Windrush 75 anniversary: Over A Barrel: Windrush Children, Tragedy and Triumph opens at Brixton’s Black Cultural Archives (BCA) on Thursday (22 June) and will run until 10 September.
Curated by award-winning journalist Nadine White and Jasmine Pierre, a cultural producer, writer and researcher, it examines stories of Windrush children and explores the tragedies, triumphs and activist groups that were assembled as a result of their experience.
Tensions and traumas of separation and reunion, isolation and belonging, as well as the cultural and social adjustments these children had to make in order to thrive in a hostile environment all feature.
“Barrel children” refers to daughters and sons who were waiting to be reunited with their migrant parents – either by travelling to the UK or remaining in the Caribbean.
Archival materials from BCA combined with of five years of research into barrel children by Nadine White underpin the multi-media exhibition.
Photography, ephemera, multimedia collages and film are used to explore the experiences, lives and journeys of barrel children from the 1950s to the present day.
“This exhibition serves as a reminder that many people who are a part of the Windrush Generation came to the UK as children and experienced hostilities from their youth until adulthood,” said the BCA.
From “educationally subnormal” schools to The Windrush Scandal, Over A Barrel reflects the complex history of barrel children.
A series of events and in-conversations includes a screening of the feature-length documentary The Barrel Children, The Families Windrush Left Behind created by Nadine White. It will be shown at Brixton’s Ritzy on Saturday 24 June at 6pm.
Nadine White said: “The Windrush story has come into painfully sharp focus in recent years and the trailblazing pioneers who left the Caribbean are rightly lauded for their contributions to British life.
“However, the stark impact of serial migration upon these families and inter-generational trauma is often missing from mainstream conversations.
“This public service exhibition amplifies Windrush children’s stories of displacement, reconciliation and rediscovery within new realities, while simultaneously promoting education, cultural awareness and community cohesion.”
Jasmine Pierre said: “The Windrush story is one of great importance to the UK and the global Black diaspora.
“The Windrush Generation’s contribution to British society, culture and art is immeasurable. Their stories are multi-faceted, filled with triumph and joy as well as tragedy and injustice.
“It is vital that that these stories are being told with the breadth that they deserve. Over A Barrel: Windrush Children, Tragedy and Triumphhighlights the lives of the children both in and of the Windrush Generation.”
BCA managing director Lisa Anderson said: “Whilst it’s right to celebrate the positive impact the Windrush Generation has had on the economic and cultural fabric of British society, it’s important to acknowledge the emotional and psychological ripple effects of the challenges this generation endured.
“Families were fragmented, identities were ruptured, indignities were suffered. Whilst many triumphed through adversity, many did not. All these stories need telling, and that’s why our archive-based exhibition seeks to provide a compassionate, holistic approach to what will always be a complex and important story of belonging.”
National Archives – Windrush passenger list
The National Archives says the Windrush passenger list is one of the iconic documents in its collection.
It lists more than 1,000 people of all ages who disembarked the ship at the Essex port of Tilbury on 22 June 1948, almost a month after it had set sail from Jamaica.
The passenger list, which includes mechanics, tailors, carpenters, housing domestics and engineers, is on public view throughout June in the National Archives building in Kew. West London, in its ‘Stories Unboxed’ display, and is one of the highlights of its Windrush 75 commemorations.
Other National Archives activities arranged to mark the anniversary include:
• A new portal signposting all updated and existing resources relating to Windrush, including learning resources for schools
• A new Caribbean family history research guide and other blogs and digital content to help understand the Windrush story
• A special episode of the archives’ On The Record podcast, exploring some of the figures and key moments from the era
• A new artwork inspired by the Windrush-related records we hold, by Sierra Leonean visual artist and designer Ngadi Smart, now on display on our ground floor
• A new audio drama in production with Tamasha Theatre Company, created with input from community groups around the country and due for broadcast later this year.
Emmajane Avery, director of public engagement at The National Archives, said: “We hope to offer people the opportunity to learn more about the history of the Windrush contained in the records that we hold, as well as explore their own personal migration stories.”
The Bishopsgate Institute in the City is marking Windrush 75 by exploring representations of Britain’s Caribbean community in film on Saturday 24 June.
A one-day workshop will delve into the many ways the community has been portrayed on film, including the themes and genres that have been employed.
Many of these stories are set and filmed in London and provide a fascinating spotlight on lives in the city that do not always receive mainstream focus.
Films by pioneering Black British filmmakers, such as Horace Ove and Menelik Shabazz that will be studied study include Pool of London (1951), Babylon (1980), Babymother (1998), and Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology (2020).
Brixton Immortals Domino Club
Brixton Immortals Domino Club is inviting all domino players to Domino Mania at Windrush Square from 12 to 6pm on Saturday 24 June in Windrush Square.
Players can take part in a thrilling knockout competition to compete for cash prizes and trophies.
Royal Mail has issued a set of stamps marking the anniversary.
Brixton venue POW hosts a Windrush fundraising event for the Windrush National Organisation organised by Black Lives Matter Festival on Windrush Day, 22 June, with music from David Rodigan, Tipp Irie, Sir Biggs, and more. Guest speaker will be Glenda Caesar from WNO. Sponsors are Black News UK. From 7pm to midnight, £10.
As well as the Windrush: A Voyage through the Generations exhibition in Clapham library, Lambeth libraries have other free Windrush events:
WINDRUSH STORIES with authors Tony Fairweather and Alexis Keir who will discuss the importance of Windrush and their books Twenty -Eight Pounds Ten Shillings, and Windward Family. Brixton library, Wednesday 21 June, 6.30-8pm. Tickets.
A CELEBRATION OF THE WINDRUSH GENERATION with drums and dance is at Brixton library on Saturday 24 June at 10.30am. Tickets.
TOMIWA OWOLADE, in conversation with Afua Hagan, to discusses his book This is Not America: Why Black Lives in Britain Matter. The book advances the idea that Black Britons are British first and foremost, so are likely to have more in common with other Britons than with Black people in other parts of the world. It also argues that too much of the conversation around race in Britain today is viewed through the prism of American ideas that do not reflect the history, challenges and achievements of increasingly diverse Black populations here. In partnership with Atlantic Books and Dark Matter with Brixton’s Round Table Books selling copies at the event. Monday 26 June, Brixton library. 6.30–8pm. Tickets.
ONYEKACHI WAMBU edited one of the first books on the Windrush Generation. Some 25 years on, the Nigerian-born British journalist returns to Brixton library to talk about a further literary reflection on Windrush and the preceding 500 years of slavery, empire and colonisation – Empire Windrush: Reflections on 75 Years and More of the Black British Experience. Brixton library,Tuesday 27 June, 6.30-8pm. Tickets.
If you can’t get to Brixton …
Museum of London Docklands will celebrate this year’s Windrush Day with free short talks, activities and poetry readings – if you cannot get to the museum, you can watch the event free online from noon; a recording will be available for 14 days.
Frances-Anne Solomon’s award-winning film Hero – The Extraordinary Life Of Mr. Ulric Cross will be shown on BBC Two on the eve of Windrush Day, Wednesday, June 21 at 11.45pm.
It will continue to be available for online streaming on the BBC Two iPlayer and is also out on Amazon Prime.
The multi-award film has won many accolades since its debut at the British Film Institute in 2019 which was followed by a 50-cinema tour of the UK.
Executive producer Lisa Wickham of Imagine Media International said: “Frances-Anne’s determination to tell our complex, layered Caribbean stories has contributed greatly to our film culture, bringing cultural, socio-political, and philosophical landscapes on to the Big Screen in compelling and entertaining ways.”
Resources for schools
The Brixton Project has worked with the council and local school teachers to create a lesson plan to teach young people about the significance for British history of the Windrush migration. Two resource packs include links to further reading, poetry and music.