This Windrush Day (22 June) we’re celebrating the vital contribution of the Windrush Generation with a digital flag at some of Britain’s biggest railway stations.
The flag will fly on digital screens at railway stations directly managed by Network Rail. They include London Waterloo, which is strongly associated with the stories of many members of the Windrush Generation. It stands at a point where thousands of Windrush pioneers first arrived in London before starting new lives across the UK.
On 22 June 1948, hundreds of passengers, many of whom had begun their journeys in the Caribbean, disembarked the ship at Tilbury Docks in Essex in search for a better life in Britain.
The MV Empire Windrush and its passengers helped create a richer and more diverse British society and today represent generations of migration from the Caribbean.
Jitesh Bhanderi, shift station manager at London Waterloo, said: “It’s great Network Rail is taking part in Windrush Day celebrations. This day is a reminder to every one of the sacrifice made by the Windrush Generation who came to the UK to help rebuild the nation in the post-war years.
“Without Windrush, the success that is our railway would not have been possible. In 2022 my station, Waterloo, will be home to a permanent monument in their honour, this will provide an opportunity to educate and remind future generations of the amazing achievement by those who came to the UK on Windrush.”
For many, the railway offered the first glimpse of their new home. Baroness Floella Benjamin, who arrived in Britain from Trinidad in 1960, wrote in an article on the Windrush Day website in 2019: “My first impression of England was the myriad greens of the fields and trees as the train chugged towards London. Eventually they were replaced by grim looking buildings shrouded in fog.
“Waterloo station was a thronging mass of rush hour commuters, the men in bowler hats, carrying umbrellas, the women in dark blue, grey or black coats. It was all so disorientating …”
Photographer Howard Grey, then 20 years old, rushed to Waterloo to capture the last of the Windrush Generation arrivals at the station in May 1962. The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 was about to end automatic settlement rights in the UK for citizens of Commonwealth countries.
Howard said almost 60 years later: “The atmosphere was quite subdued, quiet. You’ve got the laughter … they could see their relatives coming but there were barriers. The barriers stopped them going up to them because of all the luggage. All the luggage was taken out of the goods van as they called it and was put on the platforms … But it was very quiet. The whole thing was apprehensive.
“The people there to greet them probably hadn’t seen them for eight years, 10 years … the apprehension of three, four weeks of travelling that the passengers had. They put all their Sunday clothes on because they were coming to London where everybody was smart.”
In April, the four artists in the running to design a national Windrush Monument at London Waterloo station were announced.
The Windrush Monument will be a permanent tribute to a generation of arrivals from the Caribbean to Britain. It will recognise how the Windrush Generation have enriched our nation’s history and made invaluable contributions to all aspects of British life, from our health and transport services to our politics, businesses, literature and culture.
The winning design is planned to be revealed in Black History Month in October and the monument is expected to be unveiled on Windrush Day 2022.
The four artists shortlisted to design the monument are all of Caribbean descent and include world renowned, established and up and coming artists working across the visual arts.
During July and August the public will be encouraged to consider the proposals. The winning design is planned to be revealed during Black History Month in October and the monument is expected to be unveiled on Windrush Day 2022.