Windrush Day celebrations at Network Rail

Windrush Day celebrations at Network Rail

Published 22 June 2023 | Average read time
4 min read
Stories People and the railway

The railway is marking the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the arrival of the Empire Windrush in Britain – an event that led to a significant chapter in the country’s history.

We’re collaborating with the Windrush Commemoration Committee to host a day of celebration at London Waterloo station.

Passengers of the Windrush were among those who helped rebuild Britain’s workforce after World War II after they arrived on 22 June 1948.

A generation of Commonwealth citizens came to the UK after receiving the right to settle, with almost half a million people coming to Britain from the Caribbean.

It’s a particularly important period of history for the railway, with large numbers of the Windrush Generation travelling through London Waterloo from the docks on the South Coast of England.

1960s photograph of the Windrush Generation arriving at London Waterloo - men, women and children, standing in a circle talking and smiling

Photograph above (and header photograph) by Howard Grey.

Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, speaks in front of the Windrush statue at London Waterloo station as part of a special event marking the 75th anniversary of the Empire Windrush.

Coming together in remembrance and learning

Today, members of Network Rail, train operator Southern Western Railway, the Windrush Commemoration Committee and British Transport Police came together in remembrance.

The day began with a commemoration service led by Christopher Henley, the Railway Chaplain for Network Rail’s Wessex route. It was held beside the National Windrush Monument.

This permanent memorial – designed by renowned Jamaican artist Basil Watson – was unveiled on Windrush Day 2022. It symbolises 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.

Baroness Floella Benjamin, DBE, chair of the Windrush Commemoration Committee, said: “It celebrates and acknowledges the contribution made by Caribbean people to Britain.”

Attendees enjoyed a steel drum band, while talks later detailed the experiences of family members of the Windrush Generation.

Ellie Burrows, managing director for the Southern region at Network Rail, described it as “heart-warming to hear colleagues’ stories and experiences”.

Holding the event at London Waterloo was particularly significant given its strong connection with Windrush. Ellie said: “There can be few more fitting locations for this event as Britain’s busiest station which was the gateway to London for so many of them.”

A steel band performs on the concourse of London Waterloo as part of an event marking the 75th anniversary of the Empire Windrush.

A positive outlook

Cultural Fusion, our employee network that works to support and promote cultural diversity, played an important role in organising the day.

Judith Ibukunlayo, a project manager at Network Rail and chair of Cultural Fusion, said: “I really wanted to celebrate the positive contributions made by individuals and to know who they are; especially because we’re not often taught that at school.”

Nafisa Nathani, one of the chief organisers of the event and a member of Cultural Fusion, said: “The Windrush Generation to me is a story about creating hope and telling the positive story of humanity, by highlighting a generation that have a generous capacity for compassion and cooperation despite the hostility they experienced.”

The network that celebrates cultural differences

Cultural Fusion is one of eight employee networks at Network Rail that helps make us a diverse and inclusive employer.

Cultural Fusion began in 2013 with just two members and has now grown to over 1,100 members.

One of its chief aims is to increase social mobility at Network Rail, particularly focusing on ethnic minority colleagues. To achieve this, the network offers its members a wide variety of career development tools including coaching and interview preparation.

Another focus is to support members’ health and well-being. One very popular initiative is its weekly ‘virtual tea break’.

The network has hosted a one-hour tea break each Wednesday since May 2020 to bring members together in a safe space. Attendees can hear from external speakers, share experiences and connect and re-energise with one another. One member called it, “the best meeting of the week”.

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Cultural Fusion