On Monday June 22, the UK will mark the second official Windrush Day, the date the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks in 1948, bringing with it more than 1,000 passengers from the West Indies who would transform British culture for the better. The call for an official Windrush Day began with author Patrick Vernon, who wrote in the Guardian in 2010 that the date represents ‘a powerful and iconic symbol of the rise of modern-day multicultural Britain’. Vernon began a petition to have June 22 recognised as a national holiday in 2013 but it wasn’t until 2019 that June 22 was officially observed as ‘Windrush Day’, giving us a chance to honour and commemorate the Windrush Generation and their legacy.
Given that Windrush Day is a young holiday, it is essential that we amplify its importance, and do not allow it to get lost in lockdown. For 2020, event organisers have been adapting with ‘doorstep celebrations’, online poetry readings, documentary film screenings and Zoom history lectures and mass singalongs to mark the date. Here’s where you can find them:
Lambeth council is calling for a mass singalong of ’You Can Get It If You Really Want’ by Demond Dekker, to take place at 10.27am on the day, a time set to represent the 1,027 people on the Empire Windrush. The song will be broadcast on Colourful Radio.
Windrush Day at the National Maritime Museum
The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich has created a full online programme of events in collaboration with the Caribbean Social Forum. First up is an interview with artist Deanio X who created a mural in response to the 2018 Windrush scandal, which saw members of the Windrush Generation wrongly classified as being in the UK illegally, and 83 people deported as a result of the Home Office’s hostile environment policy. There will also be a spoken-word session and a panel discussion dispelling the myth that immigration in Britain from the Caribbean began with Windrush in 1948.
Eight young London poets (including Ragz-CV) will take to Instagram Live on June 22 to honour the Windrush Generation through their work. Windrush Waves is a collaboration between Brixton charity Poetic Unity and national heritage centre Black Cultural Archives. Ragz-CV says the evening is a chance to ‘celebrate the amazing achievements of the Windrush Generation but also to highlight this important part of Black British History to the wider community who may not know about these heroes’.
Homecoming: Voices of the Windrush Generation with author Colin Grant
Register for a Zoom talk with historian and author Colin Grant, author of ‘Homecoming: Voices of the Windrush Generation’, a stunning book which draws on more than 100 first-hand interviews with men and women who immigrated to Britain from the West Indies between the 1940s and 1960s.
Windrush Day with Lambeth libraries
Keep an eye on the Insta account @windrushlambeth in the lead up to June 22. Historical documents, reading lists and rare archive photographs telling the story of the Windrush Generation in the Lambeth borough will be posted there. And visit the Lambeth libraries Instagram at 10am on the day for Caribbean folk tales from percussionist and storyteller Winston Nzinga.
‘Fresh Off the Boat’
Another Black Cultural Archives (BCA) collaboration, ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ is a series of eight radio plays produced by Decolonising the Archives that explore Windrush legacies by drawing from the BCA collections. The plays will be released over eight days from Monday June 22. Find out more here.
Windrush Presence 2020
Hear from one of the originators of Windrush Day, writer Patrick Vernon, at this online event held by Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. There will be poetry, reflections, live music and a keynote speech from Vernon followed by a panel discussion with Dr Bert Williams, founder of Brighton & Hove Black History, and former MP Shirley Williams.
Hackney’s Windrush Generations Festival
Like everything else, Hackney’s festival plans have gone online this year, but the celebrations will be continuing after Windrush Day. On Monday, you can stream live music from Global Carnivalz as it shares songs written and recorded by first-generation Windrush residents. But the main event for the festival on June 22 will be the unveiling of two major new permanent artworks celebrating the Windrush Generation, which will eventually be placed in Hackney Town Hall square.
These archive photos show the Windrush Generation arriving in London.
Hear the stories of the Windrush Generation from the people who were part of it.