Monday, June 22, 2020

Despite the Virus Port Finds a Way to Celebrate the Windrush Generation Anniversary

Video Substitutes for Previous Live Events
Shipping News Feature

UK – With the Black Lives matter campaign and talks of slavery really hitting the headlines for all the right and wrong reasons over the past week or so, a particularly British link to her colonial heritage is always normally marked on the 22 June every year, particularly by the Tilbury on the Thames Trust in partnership with Port of Tilbury - national Windrush Day.

It was the Essex port some 72 years ago which played a significant role for the first of what became known as the Windrush generation, as their arrival point into the UK from their long voyage. This year, the Covid-19 restrictions meant that none of the usual celebratory events can take place, but both the Tilbury on the Thames Trust and the port wanted to mark the day.

In order to do this a short video (viewable HERE) has been created that celebrates the contribution, to the NHS especially, of the Windrush generation and the role of the Port of Tilbury in the arrival in the UK of migrants aboard the Empire Windrush into Tilbury on 22nd June 1948. Commenting on the event, Stuart Wallace, Chair of Tilbury on the Thames Trust and Chief Operating Officer at Forth Ports said:

“We are proud of the part the Port of Tilbury played when the SS Empire Windrush arrived in our port 72 years ago. It is so important to remember the positive impact the Windrush generation played then, and now, in our local and national culture as well as the role in the beginning of our much-valued NHS, which also celebrates its 72nd anniversary this year.

”At the port we will continue to hold events and create educational opportunities for the community for Windrush Day. Although we cannot have a celebration together today as we usually do, we hope we can gather for Windrush Day 2021 here at the port where it all began.”

This year the video will substitute for the live events which normally mark the anniversary. A major celebration was held at the Port of Tilbury in 2018 to mark the 70th Anniversary of its arrival. A summer carnival was held in Tilbury on 20 July 2019 inspired by the local heritage of the area and the role of Tilbury with the Empire Windrush, as well as drawing on the style of the Notting Hill carnival. The project engaged with the local schools and residents of Tilbury, in a programme of educational workshops. Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle Price commented:

“Tilbury is at the heart of Britain’s maritime heritage. On June 22nd we celebrate the arrival of the Empire Windrush, a landmark event in our nation’s story. In this year as we fight the Covid-19 epidemic, we remember that the Windrush arrived in the same year that the NHS was born and that throughout its history migrant workers have played a massive contribution to our health service. Thank you to all our key workers for keeping our country going throughout lockdown. And thank you to the Windrush generation who have contributed so much to our nation and its culture.”

Footnote: Although the video refers to 492 West Indian migrants arriving on the Windrush the truth of the matter lies elsewhere. When the vessel called at Kingston, Jamaica en route to England she was scheduled to pick up British servicemen looking to return home post war. At the time the 1948 British Nationality Act was passing through Parliament and she actually arrived carrying over 1,000 passengers with 802 quoting Caribbean addresses. These people were travelling in anticipation of the passing of the Act.

When interviewed most of those aboard said they only expected to make Britain a temporary stop but in time almost all settled permanently, helping launch the country as a truly multicultural society.

Photo: Celebrating the big day before the virus hit. Courtesy Port of Tilbury.