Windrush Day was introduced in 2018 to mark the 70th anniversary of the docking of the Empire Windrush at the port of Tilbury. The day honours the life and work of the British Caribbean community whose presence in the UK long predates the arrival of the Windrush, but grew in the post-war years as the forces of colonial oppression pushed people to travel to a ‘Mother Country’ in need of rebuilding. 72 years on, the relationship between Britain, the Caribbean and the descendants of the ‘Windrush Generation’ continues to be fraught as anti-racist protests gather force and people await compensation following the fallout of the Windrush Scandal.
To mark Windrush Day this year we have released audio of three public events that speak to our current times. These events were recorded at our Knowledge Centre in 2018 as part of a series accompanying our exhibition Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land. The exhibition shed new light on the significance of the arrival of the Windrush as part of a longer history of slavery and colonialism, telling the story of Caribbean people’s struggles for social recognition, self-expression and belonging throughout history.
Here’s your chance to listen again (or perhaps for the first time) to a lecture on that other ‘Middle Passage’ by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles; a conversation on race relations legislation and the Windrush Scandal produced in association with the Runnymede Trust; and the incredible voices of Wasafiri magazine’s ‘Windrush Women’ writers with Beryl Gilroy, Jay Bernard, Hannah Lowe, Valerie Bloom and Susheila Nasta.
For more explorations of race, migration and culture take a look at our Windrush Stories website which includes articles, collection items, videos and teaching resources. You’ll find suggestions for further resources specific to each event below.
Jonah Albert and Zoë Wilcox
British Trade in Black Labour: The Windrush Middle Passage
Recorded on Friday 15 June 2018 and sponsored by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library.
In this keynote lecture Professor Sir Hilary Beckles examines the circumstance which lead to people from the Caribbean re-crossing the Atlantic in response to the push of colonial oppression and exploitation, and the demand for their labour in the UK.
Historian Hilary Beckles is Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies. Born in Barbados, he received his higher education in the UK and has lectured extensively in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. He is the founder and Director of the CLR James Centre for Cricket Research, and a former member of the West Indies Cricket Board.
For more on this topic take a look at the articles in the Waves of History section of our Windrush Stories site. You can discover personal stories of migration in The Arrivants section, including video portraits from the 1000 Londoners series and video interviews with members of the Caribbean Social Forum.
Race Relations: An Act?
Recorded on Friday 6 July 2018, this event was produced in association with The Runnymede Trust.
Image by Michael Ward © Getty image
There have been four Race Relations Acts since 1965. Our panel of experts discusses the impact of immigration legislation on the Windrush generation and other migrants and their descendants.
Sir Geoffrey Bindman founded Bindmans LLP in 1974 and throughout his long and distinguished legal career has specialised in civil liberty and human rights issues. He was legal adviser to the Race Relations Board from 1966-1976 and to the Commission for Racial Equality until 1983.
Amelia Gentleman writes on social affairs for The Guardian. An awarding winning journalist, she is known for her investigative and campaigning work on the Windrush scandal.
Maya Goodfellow, chair of the conversation, is a writer and researcher. Her work spans a range of issues including UK politics, gender, migration and race.
Matthew Ryder was Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement at City Hall. He became a barrister in 1992 and writes regularly for national newspapers on social policy and cultural issues.
Iyiola Solanke is Professor of European Law and Social Justice at the University of Leeds, and an Associate Academic Fellow of the Inner Temple. She has published on judicial independence and diversity, intersectionality and race relations in Britain and Germany.
For further reading see our series of articles, Perspectives on the Windrush Generation Scandal, by Judy Griffith, David Lammy and Amelia Gentleman.
Windrush Women: Past and Present
Recorded on Monday 25 June 2018 and produced in association with Wasafiri
There are many stories missing from the Windrush narrative, not least those of the bold and pioneering women who left everything behind, to better their family’s lives and their own. At this event, contemporary international writing magazine Wasafiri celebrates women writers from the Windrush era. Former Editor-in-Chief of Wasafiri, Susheila Nasta introduces a recording of her interview with one these pioneers, Beryl Gilroy - writer, poet and London’s first Black head teacher. Poets Jay Bernard, Val Bloom and Hannah Lowe read work inspired by their legacy of these women.
Jay Bernard is a writer, film programmer and archivist from London. In 2016, Jay was poet-in-residence at the George Padmore Institute, where they began writing Surge, a collection based on the New Cross Fire and which won the 2018 Ted Hughes Award for new work.
Hannah Lowe is a poet and researcher. Her first poetry collection Chick won the Michael Murphy Memorial Award for Best First Collection. She has published a family memoir Long Time No See. She teaches Creative Writing at Brunel University and is the current poet-in-residence at Keats House.
Valerie Bloom is an award-winning writer of poetry for adults and children, picture books, pre-teen and teenage novels and stories.
Susheila Nasta was Founder and Editor in Chief for 35 years from 1984 to 2019 of Wasafiri, the magazine of international contemporary writing. A literary activist, writer and presenter, she is currently Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature at Queen Mary, University of London.
For over three decades, Wasafiri has created a dynamic platform for mapping new landscapes in contemporary international writing featuring a diverse range of voices from across the UK and beyond. Committed to profiling the ‘best of tomorrow’s writers today’ it aims to simultaneously celebrate those who have become established literary voices.
You will find more on Beryl Gilroy’s books Black Teacher and In Praise of Love and Children on our Windrush Stories website, as well as articles on the work of Andrea Levy and performances by female poets of Caribbean heritage including Malika Booker, Maggie Harris, Khadijah Ibrahiim, Hannah Lowe, Grace Nichols and Kim O’Loughlin.