By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, LONDON, England, Weds. June 22, 2022: The National Windrush monument was today unveiled at London’s Waterloo Station on National Windrush Day.
Members of the Windrush generation and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were on hand to witness the unveiling of the National Monument that was designed by renowned Jamaican artist Basil Watson. Windrush Day marks the arrival of Caribbean immigrants to the shores of Britain on 22 June each year – the day HMT Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks in 1948.
The monument, created with £1 million funding from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, “symbolizes the courage, commitment and resilience of the thousands of men, women and children who travelled to the UK to start new lives from 1948 to 1971,” a statement said.
The monument features three figures – a man, woman, and child – dressed in their “Sunday best” are climbing a mountain of suitcases together, demonstrating the inseparable bond of the Windrush pioneers and their descendants, and the hopes and aspirations of their generation as they arrive to start new lives in the UK.
It “… will be a permanent place of reflection, fostering greater understanding and celebrating the talent, hard work and contribution of the Windrush generation who arrived in Britain between 1948-1971,” a statement added.
“It has been an honor to design and create this monument which pays tribute to the Windrush generation migrants as they arrived in Britain with their dreams and aspirations, courage and dignity, skills and talents,” Watson commented. “They arrived with the idea of laying a foundation for their families and their future, and a hope of contributing to a society that they expected would welcome them in return. From this seemingly auspicious beginning despite many challenges, they spread their culture across Britain influencing many aspects of the society. “My parents, along with a great many others, took the long arduous voyage from the Caribbean with very little or nothing other than their aspirations, their courage and a promise of opportunity for advancement. This monument tells that story of hope, determination, a strong belief in selves and a vison for the future.”
“Without you all Britain would simply not be what it is today,” Prince William said. “I want to say a profound thank you to every member of that generation and the generations that have followed.” He also talked about how the “past weighs heavily” on the people of the Caribbean and the Windrush generation.
He said members of the Windrush generation had been victims of racism when they arrived and said “discrimination remains an all too familiar experience for black men and women in Britain in 2022.” The duke referred to the Windrush scandal, which broke in April 2018, and said it still “rightly reverberates through the Caribbean community here in the UK.”
The scandal, which saw members of the Windrush generation and their children wrongly detained and even deported, led to the UK government apologizing for the deportation threats many faced.
Secretary of State Michael Gove MP said: “Seeing Basil Watson’s magnificent monument, it’s easy to imagine the excitement, hope and apprehension that the Windrush pioneers must have felt as they arrived in the UK. Overcoming great sacrifice and hardship, the Windrush Generation and their descendants have gone on to make an immense contribution to public life. Britain would be much diminished without them.”
“The National Windrush Monument will be a permanent place of reflection, celebration and inspiration for Caribbean communities and the wider public, especially children,” said Chair of the Windrush Commemoration Committee Baroness Floella Benjamin, DBE DL. “It will act as a symbolic link to our past and a permanent reminder of our shared history and heritage for generations to come. I hope it will be a catalyst for other monuments across Britain commemorating the extraordinary contribution to this country by the Windrush generation. I am grateful to the members of the Windrush Commemoration Committee for their boundless dedication to ensuring this monument comes to fruition, and hope the Caribbean communities who we have sought to serve, believe that we have done them justice.”
The Windrush generation has come to be defined as those people who emigrated from the Caribbean to Britain between the arrival of the MV Empire Windrush on 22 June 1948 and the Immigration Act 1971.
Following public engagement in 2021, in which Watson’s design resonated the most, he was commissioned to create the Monument by the Windrush Commemoration Committee (WCC), chaired by Baroness Floella Benjamin DBE DL. Basil worked collaboratively with a team at Pangolin Editions in Stroud, Gloucester to complete the monument.
The Monument’s location, London Waterloo station, was chosen due to its significance in the Windrush story as thousands of people who arrived from the Caribbean passed through the station on their way to start their new lives across the country.
2022 is the fourth annual National Windrush Day and this year’s projects will focus on bringing communities together – across different ages and ethnic backgrounds – to commemorate, celebrate and educate their local area about the contribution of the Windrush generation and their descendants across the country.