The National Windrush Monument At Waterloo Station

The National Windrush Monument At Waterloo Station
The monument depicts a Caribbean man, woman and child, dressed in their 'Sunday best'. Image taken from the livestream of the unveiling

Waterloo station now has a monument dedicated to the Windrushers — those who emigrated from the Caribbean to Britain between the arrival of the ship Empire Windrush on 22 June 1948 and the Immigration Act 1971.

The statue — unveiled on the concourse just behind the station's main entrance on 22 June 2022 (Windrush Day) — depicts a Caribbean man, woman and child, dressed in their 'Sunday best', stood defiantly together, atop a mountain of seven bulging and battered suitcases.

The sculpture is said to 'demonstrate the inseparable bond of the Windrush pioneers and their descendants, and the hopes and aspirations of their generation as they arrive to start new lives in the UK'. Image taken from the livestream of the unveiling

Waterloo station was chosen as the location for the sculpture, as many Caribbean people passed through here en route to their new lives in the UK.

The sculpture — unveiled by members of the Windrush generation and HRH Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — is by Basil Watson, a Jamaican artist whose other work includes a statue in Atlanta of Martin Luther King Jnr releasing a dove.

The artist's original rendering for the sculpture. Image: Gov.uk

For this Windrush project, Watson worked collaboratively with Pangolin Editions sculpture foundry in Stroud. Previously he told the BBC of the sculpture: "The suitcase holds within it everything this family has in their possession from their place of origin — in this case the Caribbean. It holds within it all things valuable."

The monument is said to 'demonstrate the inseparable bond of the Windrush pioneers and their descendants, and the hopes and aspirations of their generation as they arrive to start new lives in the UK'.

Artist Basil Watson at work on the sculpture. Image: Gov.uk

Chair of the Windrush Commemoration Committee Baroness Floella Benjamin DBE DL said: "The National Windrush Monument will be a permanent place of reflection, celebration and inspiration for Caribbean communities and the wider public, especially children.

"I hope it will be a catalyst for other monuments across Britain commemorating the extraordinary contribution to this country by the Windrush generation."

Windrushers and their decedents, including Alford Gardner, who Londonist met in 2018, unveiled the monument. Image: luhcgovuk

But the project has not been without controversy. The £1 million funding has come from the government's Department for Levelling Up, but when the sculpture was announced in 2019, the Windrush Foundation claimed that then-prime minister Theresa May had not consulted the Caribbean community, and that imposing a monument in this manner was "insulting".

The artist stands next to his sculpture - two Caribbean people from different generations
Thomas J Price with his sculpture 'Warm Shores', unveiled outside Hackney Town Hall on the same day as Waterloo's Windrush monument.

And, while a Windrush monument is unquestionably a welcome addition to London, many would argue this is a token gesture from the Tory government, who — it came to light in 2017 — wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights to hundreds of Windrushers. Even when the government did accept its wrongdoings, the compensation scheme came up woefully short; as of the end 2021, it's thought just 5% of victims had received any compensation.

A plaque dedicated to the Windrush generation can also be found at Paddington station. Image: M@/Londonist

Elsewhere, on the same day, another Windrush sculpture — this one called 'Warm Shores' and created by London-based artist Thomas J Price — was unveiled outside Hackney Town Hall. Price issued an open call to Hackney residents, inviting over 30 members of the local community with a personal connection to Windrush —aged  20 to 91 — to be 3D scanned and using the various statures, stances, clothing, features and postures to inform the two Caribbean figures who appear in Warm Shores.  

You'll also find a plaque dedicated to the Windrushers at Paddington station.

Last Updated 04 July 2022

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