THE CONTRIBUTION made to British society by those who left their homes in the Caribbean for a new life in the UK will be celebrated across the country this month.
Windrush 75 will remember those who made their home in Britain in the decades after the Second World War, as well as the men, women and children who arrived at Tilbury Docks in June 1948 on the HMT Empire Windrush – the ship that became a symbol of post-war migration.
In Leicester, a programme of events will mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush, celebrating the contribution made by those pioneers and their descendants to the city’s culture and economy over the last 75 years.
Most of the events taking place in the city have been coordinated by the Leicester Windrush Consortium – a network of local community groups that are working together to commemorate the anniversary.
Invited guests and community elders will join members of the consortium for a launch event at City Hall on National Windrush Day – Thursday 22 June.
Later that day, a series of panels featuring personal stories from the second and third Windrush generations will be unveiled by the former Radio Leicester presenter Herdle White in front of an audience of invited guests at Leicester’s African Caribbean Centre on Maidstone Road.
The six panels will complement a series of display boards that were installed in 2021 as part of the Windrush Celebration Project.
While the original panels are a permanent reminder of the contribution made by men and women from Leicester’s Black community, the new panels celebrate some of the inspirational descendants of the Windrush Generation who have gone on to become positive role models for young Black boys today.
These include Ainsley Neckles, the co-founder of BOx fitness studios, Corey Trevor, who’s a radio presenter, actor and owner of a barbershop on wheels, saxophonist Marcus Joseph, and community activist Brian Simmonds, founder of Leicester’s Black History Consortium.
The display panels will be moved from the main hall after the launch and will go on public display in the African Caribbean Centre’s café area from Tuesday 27 June.
Also taking place on Thursday 22 June is a lecture by the academic, author, broadcaster and journalist Gary Younge.
On Saturday 24 June, everyone is welcome to enjoy the warmth of the Caribbean at a family-friendly event in Museum Square on New Walk.
Organised by Opal 22, the Windrush Anniversary Fete will bring people together to enjoy dance, theatre, poetry and live music from the Calyrical Band and the EAGA Gospel Choir. The free event – which will be hosted by Judith Jacobs from the Real McCoy TV series – runs from 1pm until 6pm.
A sumptuous Caribbean High Tea, including a glass of rum punch, can also be booked in advance at a cost of £27.80 per person (includes booking fee). Two high tea sittings – one at 1pm, the second at 3.30pm – will take place at the fete. Tickets for the Caribbean High Tea can be booked here
The following day (Sunday 25 June), Opal 22 is inviting Leicester’s diverse communities to dress to reflect their cultural heritage and join a ‘block party’ in Museum Square.
Culture Clash: a Community Block Party will feature live performances – including music from KingFlame Sound System and displays by belly dancers, Bollywood dancers and Caribbean dancers – and food from around the world from 1pm-6pm.
While the block party is taking place outdoors, Leicester Museum & Art Gallery will fill its Victorian Art Gallery with the music of the Windrush Generation. Herdle White will play popular music from the 1940s to the 70s from 12 noon until 1.30pm, with a second set from 2pm-3.30pm. All are welcome and admission is free of charge.
On Monday 26 June, staff at the African-Caribbean Centre will invite children from local schools to join them for a day of storytelling. Antiguan storyteller Baden Prince will entertain the young guests with his tales from 9.15am.
Across Leicester’s libraries, displays of Windrush-themed books will encourage people to read the stories of the Windrush Generation and their descendants, while Highfields, St Barnabas and Evington libraries will host a series of special Q&A sessions from 27 June, where children from local schools will be able to talk to elders from the Black community about their lives and experiences.
The Windrush Human Library initiative is part of the Better Together project – an intergenerational project that supports older members of the Caribbean community in sharing their memories of migrating and settling in England.
At Leicester Museum & Art Gallery, a new exhibition will focus on the people who have come to Britain from all over the world since 1948 to help build and sustain the NHS.
Created by the Migration Museum, the exhibition will use photography, film and oral histories to shine a light on those members of the Windrush Generation whose vital role in the NHS is often forgotten.
Heart of the Nation: Migration and the Making of the NHS opens on Friday 30 June.
Cllr George Cole, who was born in Jamaica and who last year became the first person of African-Caribbean heritage to be sworn in as Leicester’s Lord Mayor, said: “When my parents arrived in Britain from Jamaica in the 1950s, life was tough.
“Racism was rife, which created difficulties when it came to schooling, finding accommodation or decent employment, getting a bank loan or visiting places such as pubs, clubs and churches – but their resilience saw them through.
"Windrush75 is an opportunity to look back and see how far we’ve come, knowing that we still have some way to go. But we should celebrate and say thank you to those early pioneers, who overcame great hardship to put down roots, build a new life here and, by so doing, contributed to shaping the new Britain we see emerging today.”
Deputy city mayor for culture Cllr Adam Clarke said: “In 1948, the government was encouraging immigration from Commonwealth countries to help fill Britain’s post-war labour shortages.
“The 802 people from the Caribbean who made the month-long journey on the Windrush included those who had served in the British armed forces during the Second World War, skilled mechanics, carpenters, tailors, engineers, welders and musicians, as well as those who would help rebuild post-war Britain by driving the country’s buses and trains or taking jobs in the newly-created NHS.
“Windrush 75 provides an opportunity to acknowledge the sacrifice and hardship faced by the Windrush Generation and to recognise the contribution they, and their descendants, continue to make to business, music, the arts, sport and all aspects of public life here in Leicester, and across Britain.”
A full programme of events taking place in Leicester to mark Windrush75 is available here