Museum leaders are among those calling for the UK to recognise the importance of this year’s 75th anniversary of the arrival of the ship HMT Empire Windrush to the UK.
The Windrush ship arrived at Tilbury Docks on 22 June 1948, bringing 500 passengers from the Caribbean to help rebuild Britain after the second world war. The occasion is seen as symbolic of the start of postwar Commonwealth Britain and its shift towards becoming a multi-ethnic society.
Campaigners from the arts, sport, politics, business and faith groups have created the Windrush 75 Network to help coordinate efforts across the UK to encourage public participation in celebrations throughout the year.
Patrick Vernon, convenor of the Windrush 75 Network, 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.”
Historian David Olusoga said: “The arrival of the Windrush is a pivotal moment in black history and British history. We see its legacy every day, when we turn on the radio or TV, walk down the High Street or cheer for England at the World Cup. So, it’s important that the anniversary is marked in a significant way and that everyone is invited to take part.”
Many museums are already planning events to mark Windrush 75, including the Migration Museum in south London
"Every passenger on board, the tens of thousands who made similar journeys, and the hundreds of thousands of people with connections to this historic moment have their own stories to tell and legacy to share,” said Aditi Anand, the artistic director at the Migration Museum. "Collectively, the story of Windrush is relevant to all of us as a central part of our national story.
"Now more than ever, it’s important to recognise and celebrate the lives, achievements, struggles and contributions of the Windrush Generation and their families. We hope that organisations across the UK will come together to do so in 2023."
Tony Butler, executive director at Derby Museums, said: “In 2023, museums up and down the count,ry from London to Leeds, Preston to Reading, will be hosting events and exhibitions commemorating the Windrush legacy. Derby Museum will draw on our ongoing work with younger community members, who have collected testimony from the Windrush generation about their histories and experiences.
“The commemoration of Windrush 75 is an important landmark of the experience of people from the Caribbean in the UK. Museums are civic spaces where stories are told. More often than not this is done by way of objects and art. Many of those people who made that journey 75 years ago did not bring objects with them. Over the years, as places of memory, museums and community heritage organisations across the UK have collected oral histories and memories to share their stories with the public.”
Tristram Hunt, the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), said: “The V&A will mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush with a season of displays, talks, workshops and events beginning in May 2023 and running throughout the summer. The programme of events will tell rich, layered stories about the Windrush generation and their legacies through objects from the V&A Collection and beyond, showcasing artists and designers associated with Windrush and exploring the impact of the Caribbean presence on art, design and culture in Britain.”
Polling for the Windrush 75 Network has found that six in 10 people in Britain (61%) agree that “Britain owes a great deal to the Windrush generation of migrants and should recognise their contribution as part of our national story”.
People also want this history taught in schools: a further six in 10 (62%) agree that “the arrival of Windrush is a key moment in Britain's history of migration and change. It is important for integration today that all of our children are taught about the shared history of a multi-ethnic Britain”.
British Future, a thinktank that looks at identity and is involved in the Windrush 75 network, said that the combination of the King's coronation and the 75th anniversaries of the NHS and Windrush makes 2023 a special year for identity in the UK.
The National Windrush Museum GB and the Institute of Caribbean Studies, University of the West Indies at Mona Jamaica, are organising a conference to mark Windrush 75.
A call for proposals for the conference closes on 27 January. Submissions and requests for more information should be emailed to: email@example.com with the subject heading “International Windrush Conference 2023″.
The conference will be presented through a series of online and in person sessions on 23-24 June at the South Bank Centre, London.