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. 2023 is an extra special one — 75 years since the momentous occasion.
Many of those passengers stayed in the UK, 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 where to celebrate Windrush Day on this 75th anniversary year.
Frank Bowling's Arrival, Piccadilly Circus (until 30 June)
Every evening at 8.23pm this June, a digital artwork by Sir Frank Bowling — Arrival — is being broadcast on the Piccadilly Circus screens. This year marks the 70-year anniversary of the artist coming to London from British Guiana (now Guyana) — and the light show features Bowling's trademark vivid abstracts, alongside text, such as 'The moment I arrived in London I knew I was home." On Windrush Day itself (22 June), a special extended version of the artwork will play.
Arrival, Piccadilly Circus, daily at 8.23pm until 30 June, free
Windrush: A Voyage Through the Generations, Clapham Library (1 June-2 September)
Talented photographer Jim Grover is back with another Windrush exhibition; Windrush: A Voyage through the Generations is a colourful photo story, documenting how successive Windrush generations are living their lives in the UK today. 70 photos cover the likes of The Diamonds — an all-female dominoes team in action in south London — and Alford Gardner, one of just two known remaining adult passengers who came over on the Windrush in 1948 (and who we spoke to in 2018).
Windrush: A Voyage Through the Generations, Clapham Library, 1 June-2 September, free
Windrush 75, Royal Albert Hall (9 June)
Craig David, Loose Ends and Salena Godden are accompanied by the Chineke! Orchestra at a musical Windrush extravaganza at the Royal Albert Hall. The evening, hosted by Trevor Nelson, celebrates the impact of Caribbean culture on British life — and is being recorded for later broadcast on BBC Radio 2.
Windrush 75, Royal Albert Hall, 9 June
From War to Windrush 75, IWM London (17 June)
An afternoon of conversations and panels on Windrush takes place at Lambeth's IWM, featuring top historians, actors and the like — including David Harewood and Bonnie Greer. Then, from 6pm, the Second World War Galleries open for a private viewing to ticket holders.
From War to Windrush 75, IWM London, 17 June
Windrush 75 Celebrations, Bernie Grants Arts Centre (19-24 June)
Bernie Grants Arts Centre — named for the Guyana-born politician and campaigner who made his mark on north London — celebrates with an almost-week-long Windrush festival. There's a screening of The Harder They Come with a reggae choir, a cocvert from Pegasus Opera, workshops — plus the unveiling of an art installation inspired by a speech by the Tottenham MP David Lammy in 2018, responding to the Windrush scandal.
Windrush 75 Celebrations, Bernie Grants Arts Centre, 19-24 June
Windrush Day (22 June) and The Spirit of Windrush (24 June), National Maritime Museum
Two separate events take place at Greenwich's National Maritime Museum: on 22 June, Windrush Day events include a multi-school choir singing songs connected to Windrush and the Caribbean, plus Calypso dance workshops. On 24 June, the museum's Spirit of Windrush day sees more activities, including Caribbean-style domino matches, and talks from the likes of Lin Kam Art and Evewright Studios.
National Maritime Museum, 22 and 24 June, free
Windrush 75: Radiate Festival 2023, Burgess Park (24-25 June)
This family-friendly festival was created to celebrate Caribbean and Creole culture across Britain. Across two days, you can experience:
- A live music and dance stage, with 50 acts across the weekend, showcasing soul, reggae, and other genres with their roots in Black culture. Terri Lyons, Mischa B and Richie Spice are among headliners this year.
- A bazaar marketplace, where you can buy snazzy bits and pieces from Black businesses.
- A food village with traders serving up dishes from around the Caribbean and parts of Africa.
- 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 24-25 June. (The Saturday is free entry, Sunday is ticketed, with prices from £7.76)
Indo + Caribbean: The Creation of a Culture, Museum of London Docklands (19 May-19 November 2023)
The Museum of London Docklands' latest exhibition, Indo + Caribbean: The Creation of a Culture, looks into how post-slavery, British planters were behind the despicable indentured labour of some 450,000 Indians in the British Caribbean. It's a temporary exhibition in the permanent Sugar & Slavery gallery.
Indo + Caribbean: The Creation of a Culture, Museum of London Docklands, 19 May-19 November 2023, free
Legacies: London Transport's Caribbean Workforce at London Transport Museum (until 2024)
London Transport Museum's ongoing exhibition, which opened last year, 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.
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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 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
Some 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.
CRAFTING SESSION: Libraries across Waltham Forest are hosting a free 60-minute crafting class suitable for all ages, where you're invited to 'pack for a new future', using cutting, sticking and drawing. It's happening at Wood Street Library (17 June), Hale End Library (21 June) and Walthamstow Library (22 June).
WINDRUSH 75 SERVICE: Food stalls are set up outside Croydon Minster from 5pm, followed by a Windrush 75 service inside at 6pm. 22 June
ENGLAN' VOICE: Artist Daryl Stenvoll-Wells pays tribute to three Windrush era artists — Tam Joseph, Beryl Gilroy and Aldwyn Roberts — in two separate events on Windrush Day: Kilburn Library (10.30am) and Harlesden Library (1pm) 22 June
WINDRUSH AND NHS: Many original Windrushers became workers at the then-nascent NHS — and this link continues with subsequent generations. Learn more with a free talk from Dr Joan St John at Harlesden Library Plus. 6 July
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.
It's open to the public, or you can explore many of its records online, as well as viewing digital exhibitions.
Update: BCA has announced a new exhibition for 2023: Over A Barrel: Windrush Children Tragedy and Triumph, running 22 June-10 September.
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.
The Museum of London Docklands also has some online resources, including photographs, documents, and a chance to listen to members of the Windrush generation telling their stories.
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.