Windrush Day 2019

Karin, June 20 2019

Following losses in World War II, Britain was in need of labourers, this prompted a campaign to encourage people from other countries in the British Empire and Commonwealth to immigrate to the UK. On 22 June 1948, the first ship carrying immigrants from the Caribbean arrived. This first ship’s name, HMT Empire Windrush , inspired the generation of imigrants to be called ‘The Windrush Generation’.

70+ years later, and 22 June is #WindrushDay in honour of all those who left their homes and, for many, their families to start a new life and help rebuild Britain. It’s a day to celebrate the rich, mixed history that this country has and embrace the wonderful stories, culture and food that has come to shape Britain.


 

Fictional works:

 


Small island
by Andrea Levy

Returning to England after the war Gilbert Joseph is treated very differently now that he is no longer in an RAF uniform. Joined by his wife Hortense, he rekindles a friendship with Queenie who takes in Jamaican lodgers. Can their dreams of a better life in England overcome the prejudice they face?


In the Falling Snow
by Caryl Phillips
In the Falling Snow

Social worker Keith, separated from his wife and their teenage son, is floundering in a world of fraught sexual politics, parental responsibilities and class expectations. He takes refuge from his domestic problems in a long-cherished writing project and a renewed relationship with his aging father, who came to Britain as part of the windrush generation, but for the first time in his life he begins to feel extremely vulnerable as a black man in English society.


The lonely Londoners
by Samuel Selvon
Image result for the lonely londoners

Looking for a better life a group of West Indians face harsh conditions in London, including racism, bad weather, loneliness, and hard times.


The Empire girls
by Sue Wilsher

Tilbury, 1950s. The Empire is a boarding house run by Vi, Doris’s mother. When Doris becomes pregnant out of marriage, she is kicked out of the house and forced to fend for herself. Desperate to look after her daughter, she takes any job going. She falls in with the Windrush immigrants and finds herself helping one to a new life in Britain.


 

Non-Fictional Work:

 


Windrush: a ship through time
by Paul Arnott

For three decades the Windrush was the maritime Zelig of the twentieth century, playing different roles in the most turbulent years in modern times. Designed in 1930 in the Hamburg boatyard of a Jewish shipbuilder to ferry Germans to a new life in South America, it wasn’t long before Goebbels requisitioned her as one of his ‘Strength Through Joy’ vessels. However, her duties soon darkened: she became a Nazi troop carrier, a support vessel for the pocket battleship Tirpitz and a prison ship transporting Jews to Auschwitz. This is Paul Arnott’s vivid biography of a unique vessel, combining the memories of people who were there with a gripping account of an extraordinary merchant ship at the end of empires.


Mother Country: real stories of the Windrush children 
edited by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

Britain was known as the Mother Country: a home away from home; a place that you would be welcomed with open arms; a land where you were free to build a new life. 70 years on, this remarkable book explores the reality of the Windrush experience. It is an honest, eye-opening, funny, moving and ultimately inspiring celebration of the lives of both ordinary and extraordinary people.


Voices of the Windrush generation: the real story told by the people themselves 
by David Matthews

With over 20 first-hand accounts from men, women and children of Windrush, this work sheds light on the true impact of one of the most disastrous and damaging scandals in recent memory, and gives a platform to those most affected – those whose voices have yet to be truly heard. Their stories provide intimate, personal and moving perspective on what it means to be black in Britain today, and the heartache the ‘hostile environment policy’ our government has created has meant for those who have called this country home for half a century and more.


Windrush: Irresistible Rise of Multi-racial Britain
by Mike Phillips and Trevor Phillips

Broadcaster Trevor Phillips and his novelist brother retell the very human story of Britain’s first West Indian immigrants and their descendants from the first wave of immigration fifty years ago to the present day.


Lovers and Strangers
by Clair Wills

The battered and exhausted Britain of 1945 was desperate for workers – to rebuild, to fill the factories, to make the new NHS work. From all over the world and with many motives, thousands of individuals took the plunge. Most assumed they would spend just three or four years here, sending most of their pay back home, but instead large numbers stayed – and transformed the country. Drawing on an amazing array of unusual and surprising sources, Clair Wills’ book brings to life the incredible diversity and strangeness of the migrant experience.


For more articles and Windrush stories, visit the British Library’s website.

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