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Windrush anniversary a ‘jubilee for modern Britain’ say campaigners

04 January 2023


The MV Empire Windrush berthed at Tilbury Docks, with 417 immigrants on board, in June 1948

The MV Empire Windrush berthed at Tilbury Docks, with 417 immigrants on board, in June 1948

THE 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush generation in the UK will be a “diamond jubilee for modern, diverse Britain”, campaigners have said.

The term “Windrush generation” refers to the ship HMT Empire Windrush, which, in 1948, brought workers from the West Indies to Britain (Comment, 13 April 2018; Features, 29 June 2018). More than 1000 people from the Caribbean, including children who travelled under a parent’s passport, made their home in Britain during a period when immigrants were encouraged by the UK Government, between 1948 and 1971.

Special celebrations are to mark the anniversary on 22 June 2023. These are being organised by the Windrush 75 network, which includes the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin; the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyl; and Imam Qari Asim of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board. The NHS, FA, English Cricket Board, and business and cultural leaders are also represented.

Bishop Hudson-Wilkin said on Tuesday: “The Windrush pioneers and those who followed have made such a contribution to our communities, our congregations and wider British society over the last 75 years.

“Offering a place of welcome is part of the Christian tradition, from the stories of the Bible to the work of our churches today. So it is only right that the Church celebrates the Windrush anniversary this year.”

In 2020, the General Synod held a debate on the Windrush legacy during which the Archbishop of Canterbury apologised for the Church’s part in the racist reception given to Caribbean immigrants (News, 14 February 2020).

The convener of the Windrush 75 network, Patrick Vernon, said: “Windrush 75 is like a Diamond Jubilee for modern, diverse Britain. We are celebrating four generations of contribution, legacy, struggle and positive change. And it is a moment to look to the future too, at how we address the challenges to come.”

In a new survey of 2013 UK adults, conducted in December and published by the network on Tuesday, 61 per cent agreed that “Britain owes a great deal to the Windrush generation of migrants and should recognise their contribution as part of our national story.”

Two-thirds of respondents also agreed that Windrush was “a key moment in Britain’s history of migration and change” and that children should be “taught about the shared history of a multi-ethnic Britain”.

On Windrush Day last year, 100 individuals — including Lenny Henry, Benjamin Zephaniah, David Olusoga, Sadiq Khan, and cross-party parliamentarians — called on the Government and institutions to “step up” and make the 75th anniversary “as important in Britain’s calendar as Martin Luther King Day” in the US.

The director of the think tank British Future, Sunder Katwala, said: “Windrush 75 reflects the complex story of migration to Britain, one of pride and of prejudice. But the endpoint of that story so far is us. This is who we are now.”

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