Hackney’s Caribbean Tea Party pays homage to Windrush generation
Hackney’s second Windrush Tea Party saw Stoke Newington Town Hall transform into a vibrant celebration of the Windrush generation and their outstanding contributions to British identity.
Both Windrush elders and their descendants enjoyed celebrating through music, performances, speeches, exhibitions and high tea with a Caribbean twist at the party, which was held on the UK’s first National Windrush Day.
Guests were greeted with a rendition of the traditional Jamaican folk song “Day-O” by Hackney drumming legend Jah Bunny and his band, performing on a stage decorated with vibrant costumes supplied by Hackney-based youth carnival group, Tropical Isles, and draped with flags from across the Caribbean. They were also treated to performances of popular Caribbean tunes, including “No Woman No Cry” and “Redemption Song”.
Cllr Carole Williams, Cabinet Member for Employment, Skills and Human Resources, who passed the Windrush motion last year was appointed Hackney Council’s Cabinet Member for Windrush on the eve of the celebrations, which took place on 22 June.
Last year’s celebrations began with a tea party in the Assembly Room at Hackney Town Hall on Mare Street. In October, the then Speaker of Hackney held a reception in her parlour for Caribbean elders. And, at the end of the year, the then Speaker took a group to the New Year’s Day Parade through central London, dressed in 1950s/1960s style clothing to represent early migrants to the UK as well as military costume to honour those Caribbean and Commonwealth citizens who fought for this country during the Second World War. This year’s celebrations have been even bigger.
The motion which I took to full council last year, commits the council to celebrate the contribution the Windrush generation has made to the UK and to Hackney. This year’s programme achieved just that. It included a dominoes knock-out tournament, two intergenerational baking days, cricket games as well as an event hosted by the Friends of Woodberry Down that included a sing-along, and a performance by a steel drum artist.
Reading stories of those affected by the hostile environment policies, the impact on their lives, housing and relations makes this period of history all the more poignant. The motion also commits the council to campaign against the hostile environment policies, and to stand up for a generation of who are falling foul to those policies. In the coming months, I will be working hard to do just that.
After a welcome from Deputy Mayor Anntoinette Bramble, a spread of traditional cakes, jerk chicken sandwiches, saltfish and callaloo dumplings, plantain chips, tea and rum punch, guests enjoyed a performance of “Mercy’s Story” from the Hackney Caribbean Elderly Organisation (HCEO). Centred around the character, Mercy, this performance retold the journey that the Windrush generation experienced, through letters sent back home to the Caribbean, including stories of getting married, drinking rum punch and dancing. The reading was interspersed with renditions of classic Caribbean tunes that had guests up on their feet.
Grafton Primus, 79, from St Vincent, who arrived in the UK in 1967, said: “When I first came to England, it was very cold compared to the Caribbean, but I found my feet and settled into the English way of life. I have no complaints at all. This is a historic moment for the Windrush people and for generations to come. It’s important to have a historic celebration or holiday to remember the people - this way the Windrush generation can never be forgotten.
Jean Wynter, 81, who came to the UK from Jamaica in 1962, said: “When I first came to the UK, it was very dark - there was no light, just black fog, and we had to stay inside as we couldn’t see outside. The milkman came and brought the milk, and we just put it on the window - we didn’t need a fridge because it was so cold. It’s important to remember those who have put in the hard work, and for the children to learn about the hard work that we have done.”
In addition to the entertainment on show, the audience also enjoyed striking a pose in The Real Selfie Project’s rare analogue photobooth. Both elders and youngsters alike queued up to have their photos taken in the 1970’s machine, as part of a project led by photographic arts charity Autograph ABP and supported by Hackney Council and arts organisation Create. The project aims to depict the borough’s diversity and redefine the selfie through a collage of black & white photo strips of Hackney residents. Guests were also able to take a photo strip home as a souvenir.
The event builds on the successes of last year’s tea party, which took place in October. This year’s event is part of Hackney Council’s Windrush Generation Festival, which has seen both Windrush elders and their descendantsdescendents enjoy a domino tournament, cricket matches, street parties and Windrush Father’s Day activities, to name a few. To top it off, the Windrush parade finale at Hackney One Carnival will close the festival to an audience of 60,000 in September.
Find out more about our Windrush celebrations on our black history webpage.