Windrush Day — 22 June — marks the anniversary of the SS Empire Windrush docking in Tilbury in 1948, bringing Afro-Caribbean immigrants to the United Kingdom.
Many of those passengers stayed, settling either in London or further afield, finding jobs, raising families and becoming part of their local communities.
More recently, the Windrush Scandal has dominated headlines, with people who arrived on the Windrush and via other means being wrongly detained or deported, despite having the necessary rights to live in the UK. It was the Windrush Scandal which intensified the campaign for Windrush Day to be recognised, and the first official Windrush Day was held in 2018, to recognise the contributions made by migrants to UK society, as well as celebrating their heritage.
Here's a selection of ways you can celebrate Windrush Day this year.
Radiate Windrush Festival 2022, Burgess Park
This family-friendly festival was created five years ago to celebrate Caribbean and Creole culture across Britain. Previously held in Crystal Palace, it moves to Burgess Park for 2022, but keeps the same ethos of diversity and expression of Black culture. Across two days, experience:
- A live music and dance stage, with 50 acts across the two days, showcasing soul, reggae, and other genres with their roots in Black culture;
- A food village with traders serving up dishes from around the Caribbean and parts of Africa;
- A Lingo Wall, filled with words and phrases from Patwa, Creole, Road Talk, and other dialects you're likely to hear in the Caribbean;
- An Elder's Garden, where older members of the community can indulge in dominoes and show off their Chicago Step dance moves;
- Classic vehicles from the 1930s onwards, displayed by Afro Classics Register, the UK's largest African and Caribbean car club.
See the full line-up for this year's Radiate Festival, which takes place 25-26 June.
Legacies: London Transport's Caribbean Workforce at London Transport Museum
London Transport Museum's current exhibition shines a spotlight on London Transport workers from the Caribbean. Between 1956 and 1970, many workers were recruited directly from Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica, travelling to London to take up roles such as bus conductors and station staff on the transport network, but struggled with issues including racism, poverty, and the British weather. The exhibition features memories from first, second and third generation Caribbean people who worked for London Transport or still work for Transport for London (TfL). It's open until 2024.
There's a special Friday Late on 17 June, tying in with the exhibition, with Caribbean food from Black Eats London, performances from the Metronome Steel Orchestra, and a carnival parade, as well as a chance to hear directly from members of the Windrush generation.
Stand-Up For Windrush at Hackney Empire
Hackney Empire hosts Stand-Up For Windrush on 19 June, an evening of music and comedy celebrating Black British performers, and the contributions of Caribbean and African migrants to British culture.
It's hosted by BBC Radio London presenter Eddie Nestor MBE, with Richard Blackwood, Curtis Walker, Thanyia Moore, Travis J, BiBi Crew, Darran Griffiths, Jocelyn Jee Esien, Felicity Ethnic and Steppaz Ltd all scheduled to appear. A percentage of profits goes towards supporting families affected by the Windrush scandal.
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Tilbury Docks is where the Empire Windrush docked on 21 June 1948, and where passengers spent the night before disembarking the next day — not that you'd have known it until recently, as this huge chapter in British history went completely unmarked.
A commemorative plaque and flag are now on display at Tilbury's London Cruise Terminal. Furthermore, for Windrush Day 2021, a special art exhibition was unveiled. The Tilbury Bridge Walkway of Memories, the work of artist EVEWRIGHT, is an art and sound installation on a footbridge by which the Empire Windrush passengers entered Britain, at what is now the London Cruise Terminal.
It features images, documents and memorabilia from 130 members of the Windrush generation, across 432 different panes of glass, with audio stories playing as you walk through. It was initially due to run until this June but has been extended until 2023, despite attempts to vandalise it in September 2021. It's free to visit.
There's another plaque marking the arrival of the Windrushers into Westminster at Paddington station.
Join local Windrush Day celebrations in your community
Many London areas and communities have their own Windrush Day celebrations. Below are the ones we know about this year — let us know about any others in the comments.
BRIXTON: Author Tony Fairweather launches his new book, Twenty-Eight Pounds Ten Shillings - A Windrush Story, at Brixton Library, about the two-week voyage many young Caribbean people experienced on the Empire Windrush. 16 June
ISLINGTON: Head to Brickworks Community Centre for Islington Council's Windrush Day event, with speeches from The bRepair Shop host Jay Blades MBE, Emily Thornberry MP and local community leaders — plus a chance to hear from Islington elders who arrived in the UK during the Windrush period, along with Caribbean food, drink, and music. 22 June
BRENT: The Library at Willesden Green hosts a day of talks and activities celebrating the Caribbean diaspora, including storytime for under-5s. 22 June
PIMLICO: Caribbean arts, crafts and storytelling all feature in City of Westminster's Windrush Day event at Pimlico Library. 22 June
NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM, GREENWICH: Choir performances, Soca and Calypso costume displays, dance classes, domino demonstrations and curator talks are all part of the Windrush Day event at National Maritime Museum (plus, scroll to the bottom of this page for online Windrush Day resources). 22 June
ONLINE: The Windrush Foundation — a charity delivering heritage projects to highlight African and Caribbean peoples' contribution to UK life — runs an online Windrush Day celebration, appreciating the lives of Windrush pioneers. 22 June
TOTTENHAM: Aptly, the Bernie Grant Arts Centre — named after the former local MP who migrated from British Guiana in the West Indies — hosts the Windrush Day event in Tottenham. The main event takes place on Saturday, a carnival-style party with live music, arts, crafts and games. 25 June (part of a wider week of celebrations)
NEWHAM: Old Town Hall Stratford hosts a day-long celebration for all ages, including workshops for anyone who wants to trace their Windrush ancestry*, a steel band and reggae choir, Caribbean market stalls and refreshments and a fashion show. 25 June
WALTHAM FOREST: Watch a film of Phoenix Dance Theatre performing Windrush: Movement of the People, a contemporary dance work exploring the narrative of the arrival of SS Empire Windrush. Takes place at St-Peter-in-the-Forest. 25 June
*For anyone interested in tracing their Windrush ancestry using passenger lists, there are other special events at Ealing Central Library (21 June) and Dalston CLR James Library (23 June) to help you on your way.
Visit Brixton's Black Cultural Archives
Aptly located on Windrush Square, the Black Cultural Archives are home to a reading room, library and exhibition space, dedicated to collecting and recording the stories of African and Caribbean people in Britain. There are several books about the Windrush generation, and the archives also has copies of the 1948 Nationality Act — which gave all colonial subjects British citizenship — and subsequent Immigration Acts which attempted to remove this right. In 2021, the BCA teamed up with TfL to release a Black history tube map, with each stop named after an important figure in Black British history.
Get involved in Caribbean culture here in London
From Caribbean restaurants and bars, to music nights with a Caribbean influence, the legacy of the Windrush generation and their descendants is alive in London now more than ever — and it's there year-round.
Why not try some of London's best Caribbean restaurants, including the Jamaican Negril in Brixton (the jerk chicken is something else). The Rum Kitchen, with branches in Soho, Shoreditch and Brixton specialises in dishes like saltfish fritters and curry goat, washed down with rum cocktails and a side of Carnival-inspired music. Alternatively, make your acquaintance with the Caribbean's favourite spirit at London's best bars for rum.
Music is a tradition that's stuck with Londoners of Caribbean descent, thanks in no small part to The Windrush calypsonians —the likes of Lord Kitchener, the Mighty Terror and Lord Beginner — whose songs were inspired by all aspects of their new lives here in London.
Busspepper events specialise in Caribbean parties in London, including regular Bacchanal Fridays inspired by the pre-carnival parties in Trinidad, with Soca music — an offshoot of the Calypso genre — a speciality. Brixton Jamm, Hoxton's Troy Bar and Hootananny Brixton are all ones to watch for regular reggae nights.
And then of course, there's carnival. Over the August bank holiday weekend, the streets of west London come alive with the sounds of Mas, Soca and Calypso for Notting Hill Carnival.
Learn more about the Windrush Generation
Our 2021 Windrush Day guide included some suggested reading on the topic, whether you want to know more about the personal stories and struggles of members of the Windrush generation, or learn about (or even try) Caribbean cooking.
And again, we cannot overstate what a fantastic job Brixton's Black Cultural Archives does in recording and sharing the history of Caribbean and African communities here in the UK. In particular, the Windrush: What's Next? podcast, looks to the future in the aftermath of the Windrush Scandal.