By Joy Sigaud
On Monday 22 June 2020, the nation paid tribute to the outstanding and ongoing contribution of the Windrush Generation and their descendants. HRH Prince Charles paid tribute through a film, The Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a statement and prominent members of the Windrush Community became oracles of hope and distinction. Nationwide tributes and events including a host of virtual events were held.
There were over 700 pieces of separate broadcast coverage between Sunday 21st and Monday 22nd. This Morning live in Brixton, The One Show feature, Christiane Amanpour’s feature on Windrush Day for her nightly PBS/CNN show in the US on Monday evening to name a few.
In the midst of celebrations, Windrush Day gave opportunity for the voices of those who were and are victims of the Windrush Scandal to be heard and brought once again to the forefront, with campaigners such as Jacqui McKenzie, Amelia Gentleman and Patrick Vernon having their say.
#Windrush Day trended in the number one position all day on twitter and well into the evening.
In the weeks in the run up to Windrush Day, the broadcast media brought attention through film and radio the reality of the victims who have fallen foul of the government’s Hostile Environment Policies and the campaign to free those incarcerated for no obvious reason but an inability to obtain a passport although having lived in the UK for decades.
On the day itself there were sing-alongs, chat shows, endless zoom events as well as a minute observation silence and in the days preceding, the broadsheets certainly did not miss the opportunity to highlight something, anything to do with Windrush including the number of victims of Covid 19 which has been devastating for the community.
It is noted that websites have sprung up since 22nd June managing to compile and gather as much information about Windrush as could be garnered at the 11th hour with downloads for banners and fliers active well into the 23rd June which is a great step in the right direction for the community.
With most of the Windrush Community having family members settled in the USA, the Black Lives Matter worldwide attention is of great significance.
I think we can safely say, Windrush is firmly on the British calendar and as we look forward to Windrush 2021 we can but only hope in these troubled times that it will be all good news next year.
Windrush Day marks the anniversary of the arrival of MV Empire Windrush at the Port of Tilbury, near London, on 22 June 1948. The arrival of the Empire Windrush nearly 72 years ago marked a seminal moment in Britain’s history and has come to represent the rich diversity of this nation.
Those who arrived on the Empire Windrush, their descendants and those who followed them have made and continue to make an enormous contribution to Britain, not just in the vital work of rebuilding the country and public services following World War 2, but in enriching our shared social, economic, cultural and religious life.
Overcoming great sacrifice and hardship, the Windrush Generation and their descendants have gone on to lead the field across public life, in business, the arts and sport. Britain would be much diminished without their contribution.
In June 2018, the government announced an annual Windrush Day to encourage wider communities across the country to commemorate the Windrush story on Windrush Day and throughout the year.
The national celebration is backed by a £500,000 Windrush Day Grant Scheme overseen by a Windrush Day Advisory Panel of community representatives.
Launched in October 2019, the Windrush Day Grant Scheme received over 200 bids for funding from community groups, charities and local authorities across England.
This year’s successful bids came from across the country from Bristol to Birmingham and Leicester to Leeds indicating the breadth of enthusiasm in communities across the country to mark Windrush Day 2020.
With online lectures and readings, cooking classes, and theatrical and musical events, the country will recognise how British Caribbean communities have changed our society for the better.
Building on the success of the inaugural national Windrush Day, last year 49 projects across the country were awarded funding to mark Windrush Day 2020 and commemorate the seminal moment 72 years ago when the MV Empire Windrush arrived at the port of Tilbury.
Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:
“Britain would not be the strong and vibrant nation it is today without the immeasurable contributions that the Windrush Generation have made to our country.
“These are men and women who built their lives and made their home here in Britain, enriching all spheres of our society as a result.
“From supporting and leading community networks and public services, to elevating our arts and culture, this generation has contributed so much to our society and our economy.
“I also want to say a deep and heartfelt thanks to all those working in our NHS, councils and all other key sectors – including children and relatives from the Windrush generation.
“You are the true heroes working on the frontline in the battle against coronavirus: a battle that we are winning thanks to your efforts.
“Wherever you are in the country I’d encourage you to share in the celebrations and enjoy the range of thought-provoking materials online, marking the day in a way that it so deserves from your home.”
Faith Minister Lord Greenhalgh said:
“Windrush Day is a fantastic opportunity to recognise and celebrate the huge contribution made by those who first stepped ashore at Tilbury docks more than 70 years ago.
“They came to rebuild the nation following the war and they and their descendants have continued to enrich social, economic, political and religious life ever since.
“The 22 June 1948 was a pivotal event in our national story and Windrush Day keeps their legacy alive for future generations, ensuring that we all understand the diversity of Britain’s history.”
Chief Executive of Jamaica National and Windrush Day Advisory Panel Member Paulette Simpson, said:
“We are living in extraordinary times, but the commitment and effort shown by community groups around the country to adapt and adjust their plans to ensure Windrush Day 2020 is acknowledged and celebrated is both inspiring and heart-warming.
“It clearly demonstrates the depth of feeling that exists for the Windrush Generation and their descendants and all they have contributed and continue to contribute to British Society – and that’s to say nothing of the great resilience and fortitude they showed.
“With each passing year, Windrush Day becomes more firmly embedded in the national consciousness. It might not be a Windrush Day like we saw last year, but it will remain a Windrush Day honoured by a community fiercely proud of their heritage, and a day that provides an opportunity for us all to celebrate our shared culture and heritage.”