Arthur Torrington CBE

Co-founder, Director, Windrush Foundation

Windrush75 is an opportunity to remember British Caribbean men and women who arrived on 22 June 1948 at Tilbury Docks, having travelled on the ship Empire Windrush. Commemorative events should mark the iconic event with thoughtfulness and soberness. The first 20 years of their lives in the UK were the worst two decades of their lives in the sense that many of them struggled to settle down. Many emigrated to North America because of overt racism in the UK. We know this from a special edition of The Sunday Times magazine in June 1968. Ex-RAF WWII serviceman and a Windrush passenger Sam King organised the feature which commemorated the 20th anniversary of Windrush Day.

Housing was the major drawback from day one, 22 June 1948. More than 236 male passengers were obliged to live in the Clapham South Deep Shelter, in Lambeth, for at least 3 weeks. They visited a Labour Exchange in Brixton, from where jobs were obtained. It was in Lambeth that many found more suitable accommodation. Lambeth, in particular Brixton, became the first home of the Windrush generation.

As we mark the 75th anniversary of Empire Windrush’s arrival, it is important that we celebrate, among other, Windrush pioneers like Oswald ‘Columbus’ Denniston and Lucilda Harris who made Brixton their first homes in 1948, or Vincent Reid, a Black history lecturer at Brixton College. This could be done by holding heritage events to tell their inspiring stories and help young people to better Windrush heritage.

Ros Griffiths

Windrush Generation descendant and community activist

I was born in Lambeth and made in Brixton. I’m the daughter of Windrush Generation members and have become an award winning social entrepreneur, community activist/organiser and I am also the chairperson of the Friends of Windrush Square.

I am looking forward to Windrush 75 because it provides a great opportunity to widen the ongoing conversation about the Windrush Generation’s past, present and the future of modern Britain. I’m looking forward to hearing people’s stories, joining celebrations and commemorations, and using this opportunity to highlight the serious social issues that the experience of the Windrush Generation highlights.

The Windrush Generation were met with hostility and discrimination meaning often they didn’t feel they belonged, despite responding to an invitation to come and help rebuild post-war Britain. I am the first generation born in this country, and that hostility and discrimination resulted in me feeling like an outsider who was treated differently, it was alienating. It was frustrating and caused me anger for many years, particularly when I was younger.

The anger and frustration continued through my schooling, people from my community felt constant harassment, they were over-policed and underserved. I witnessed how that anger spilt out into the streets. That experience is a huge part of Brixton’s history, and also the Windrush Generation’s history, and it’s important that we don’t lose sight of this.

To this end, to work through that and become a force for good, my experience becomes a lesson. I’m no longer a slave to my fears and focus on working with the community to find solutions, and find ways forward for the greater good. Windrush 75 is an opportunity to reflect on that journey.

A big turning point for me was when President Nelson Mandela came to Brixton in 1996, and reminded us all that we our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. I think that resonated with many members of the Windrush Generation. It encouraged me to focus on creating positive change in our community and find solutions to lead to a better future for the next generation.

Since the dark days of the ‘80s when Brixton was burnt to the ground, and the worlds eyes were on us, we’ve moved to a more open, community dialogue, there’s more acceptance of difference and now it’s a place where multiculturalism flourishes, it’s rich with culture, people are able to be heard. It’s become a famous place since that moment of reconning.

We must learn lesson from the Windrush Generation who paved the way for people like me. They had great work ethics, they were determined and so resilient. They have passed on those qualities to their descendants who have become leaders. It was such a resilient generation that has taught us all so many admirable qualities, they are unbelievable. I’ve learnt so much.

Windrush Poems

Members of Poetic Unity wrote in response to the theme: Windrush


By Aicha Therese

My ancestors stand when I speak,
Ten-thousands in figures behind me,
Every moment spent in the present.
Leaves their remanence behind,
A legacy continues,
Through the life of mine.

Though my eyes have never seen what they have,
My soul still remembers, like embers floating in the dark,
I grasp understanding in anxiety,
Ancestors guiding me,
A gentle breeze moving a tree,
Swaying statuesque and still.

What life have you lived through others?
What are you still yet to see?
Every lifeline fulfilling a new need.

I want to know what you have seen,
Branches gripping and growing through the land,
My ancestors stand when I speak,
Ten-thousands in figures behind me.

Building Blocks Of Britain

By Demii Lee Walker

A force of excellence with suitcases full of skill and
bags bursting with knowledge anchored at Tilbury Dock in 1948.
75 years later, let us not forget a date
that shaped British history as we know it.

Their mighty spirit paved Great Britain’s foundations,
with sweat, tears, love and resilience.
Their dedication cut through hostility
and laid the building blocks of stability street by street.
Their heartbeat, formed the rhythm of our healthcare
and shaped the pulse of productivity.
Their creativity, designed a tapestry of diversity,
transforming the look of adversity with grace.
Their footsteps imprinted on the railway tracks and bus routes,
creating pathways of cultural connections
that went far beyond commutes.
Their music embodied the essence of hope, soul and unity,
a lovers rock genre that built an unwavering community.
Their craft changed the landscape and brought
Britain to new heights, imbued every brick
and beam with new life.
Their taste buds ignited a scotch of fire and flame,
a culinary heritage enriched in depth and choice.
Their voice, a siren of justice,
carved out a language of freedom and what it means to sacrifice.
Their vision awoke innovators of social change,
who knocked down barriers to lead the way,
remoulding and reshaping Britain’s very DNA.

Their profound legacy stitched into the fabric of our nation.
They are the generation of pioneers who turned rubble to gold
and the change makers that departed us from the old.
Their resonance echoes in the halls of victory
and forever their names will be etched in history.

When Life Gives Us Lemons, We Lime

By Jayda David

when life gives us lemons; we lime
from caribbean coastlines to british border lines
til dem put up police lines
and say lines like

“go back to where you came from”

so we got on front lines and back lines to
move waistlines and make headlines,

“one of the world’s biggest street festivals”

but the costumes and the colours and the sound systems
and the patties and the rum will never make us forget that
this fun was birthed from pain and strife in our community

the Notting Hill riots and the murder of Kelso Cochrane
and racial tensions amongst the white British
and abuse of power by the police
forced us to come together and fight for
our rights and our lives in the streets

all these lemons, a sour recipe for the sweet unity we feel when we lime

so thanks to Rhaune Laslett, Claudia Jones, Leslie Palmer and
the entire Windrush Generation – for embracing and empowering
Caribbean culture, in a time when it would’ve made sense to hide

to the generations that followed and grew it into something so big
that it could never be ignored
and even though they try and lock off our carnival,
we remind them what it all started for

it didn’t start with permission, or guidance or a please or a thank you

it started with a mission and a vision to improve the quality of living
for the black Carib immigrants who had been shipped in to
build back this country, brick by brick,
but still had to face a lot of stick

so when life gives you lemons, you can make lemonade

but all we,
grab a steel pan, a speaker, a flag and a whistle, then come together
and lime


By Blaize Alexis-Anglin

When jerk first touchdown inna London.

Surely you’ve heard of the day Jerk touch down inna london.
They came by the sea so it’s only natural that they brought the wave with them.

This modern day vernacular which sounds so spectacular stems from the scotch
bonnet and pimento rhythm that has imprinted most of the world.

Even though the island is Likkle,
The people tallawah.

They touched down inna dis country leading with their hips,
their hearts,
their waistline,
their clarts and try know the Clark’s are never too far behind.

No matter how badly you mistreat those who laid the foundations.
You can never silence the heartbeat of a generation.
That is the legacy.

And despite the constant restrictions a colourful seed was still planted in hateful
Bloomed in discontent,
And out sprouted the branches of our heritage amassing over an entire nation.

If you look closely you can see how our rhythms & whines intertwine like vines
within the concrete steps.
And if you look closer,
You can see us gully creeping across the foundations of your culture.

They struck and left a mark like a lightning bolt,
What you’re seeing right now is a direct result of when Jerk First Touch Down
Inna London.

Island Life

By Sydney Peters

Oh, how I dream of the day, when,
The smooth salty seas could take me away,
Where I was a portal of love and rays,
Nothing but sand, sea, sun for days, I,
Love it here,
The sand between my toes, nothing above it here,
India has its cuisine,
China has its fields and,
Norway has its reindeer, but,
The inner peace and the outer vibes makes this place uncomparable,
The abundance is sharable,
And the prospect of not coming back to the UK? I don’t careable,

I see how people will come here to expire,
But I don’t see how people will see this natural beauty,
And decide to part ways with it,
Ancestors shout louder, I wanna stay with it,
Coconut turned football, im gonna play with it,
Melanin and gratitude, imma sit here and pray with it,

I will never take this for granted,
I was on a cold island, where coming home late, wet and tired,
Made me feel like im hasbeen,
But I belong to the heat, seen the places that my dad’s seen,
But the UK makes me feel like the aftermath of a crime scene,
But that’s the old times,
New times call for jubilation and triumph,
Horns are blaring, cars are swerving, drinks are flowing,
Birds are chirping, pepperpots boiling, steel pans co-ordinating,
And, in the midst of this, nobody is hating,

This is me, this is whats its meant to be,
This Sydneys now hotter than the Opera House in Sydney,
It’s time to cool off in water so pure and cleansed,
It’s beauty convinces you that there must be a God,

But as I delve deeper into the sea,
The waves take me back to the state of me,
The dream state, the state that made me believe, that,
I was the manifestation of the island me.