The importance of celebrating the Windrush generation

Windrush cookery day Carole Williams 3

Saturday marks the second annual Windrush Day. Cllr Carole Williams, who last August tabled a Council Motion calling for more support for victims of the Windrush scandal, explains why she feels its important to celebrate the Windrush generation and all other migrants.

On Saturday, Hackney will celebrate the second annual Windrush Day with a Caribbean Tea Party at Stoke Newington Town Hall. The event is just the latest in a year-long programme of activity organised by the Council, and which builds on the first year of the official celebrations.

Myself, and my Council colleagues, believe it’s so important to mark and honour the contribution of the Windrush generation and the contribution of migrant communities more broadly.

Hackney has a long-cherished history of being a destination for new arrivals in the UK, making it the special place it is today. About 8% of Hackney’s population is of African and Caribbean ethnicity and it’s believed to be home to hundreds, if not thousands, of the Windrush generation who came from other Commonwealth countries across the globe. This community has been fundamental to shaping Hackney in every way, from dedication to public services and civic life, business innovation and growth, and creating jobs and opportunities, to cuisine, art and culture, and bustling high streets and town centres.   

We celebrate our migrant communities who contribute a huge amount to the borough and are at the heart of its cultural identity. The current programme of activities that are part of Hackney’s Windrush celebrations have been born out of a set of unique circumstances that started with the HM Empire Windrush setting sail from the Caribbean and arriving in Tilbury Dock more than 70 years ago. It includes the Government’s hostile environment policies and the impact on some members of a generation who had been invited to work in Britain following the Second World War. Brining it right up to date, it also includes Hackney Council passing the country’s first comprehensive motion on Windrush.

The motion was deliberately written to include two important strands - the desire to celebrate the contribution of migrant communities and to support those that have had their identities, sense of belonging, and place in the world called into question in the most unjust manner. We need to make clear that here, in Hackney, everyone is welcome and valued, and we will always stand up for them wherever they are from.

The second strand of the motion set out to address the injustices of immigration policies that incorrectly identified citizens and residents of the UK, as illegal immigrants. By accepting this motion, Members agreed that the Council should call on the Government to reverse its hostile environment policies, to hold a public inquiry, and to learn lessons so that a similar situation cannot arise in the future for other migrant communities in the near or distant future.

Hackney’s first Windrush celebrations were held in 2018. This year we have a much more extensive programme, which has included two intergenerational baking days, cricket workshops, a family fun day. Following Saturday’s tea party there will be more events running up to the Hackney Carnival on 8 September.

We have produced a cookbook containing recipes, comments and memories of settling into your new home halfway around the world. This cookbook will be distributed to those will be attending the Windrush Tea Party and it is dedicated to those who disembarked from HM Empire Windrush at Tilbury Dock on 22 June 1948 as well as those who arrived after, whether on ships or on airplanes. It is also dedicated to their descendants.

I hope that you join our celebrations and enjoy this year’s programme of activities that will continue over the summer.

Visit the Council's Windrush webpage for information on how the Council has been campaigning for more support for victims of the Windrush scandal, advice for undocument migrants, and information on the Windrush Compensation Scheme.