The voices of Windrush

A Windrush Day flag raising was hosted in Dartford to mark Windrush Day and the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the SSE Windrush. Organised by the North Kent Caribbean Network (NKCN) working in partnership with Cohesion Plus and Dartford Borough Council, the event took place on Monday 19th June.

A related event took place on the 21st of June, attended by the NKCN founder Michelle Bramble. The events highlighted the experiences of those arriving in the UK back in the 1950’s and 60's. This included the challenges and discrimination faced and how the Caribbean communities endured these difficulties in order to build a life for themselves. 

Healthwatch attended as part of ensuring representation of seldom heard voices across the Kent and Medway area. Several stories were captured on the day and are shared below. We heard about their experiences of travel, work, education, living conditions and the impact of the scandal around deportation.

Healthwatch have also produced a resource available below that shares and offers signposting to support around many of the health concerns faced by those belonging to the Windrush generation and their families, as well as sharing a little of the reason why the day is important. 

Windrush resources

Download the Windrush resources here

Currently Healthwatch Kent are working with the community to ensure their experiences with accessible equipment are taken into account when the new Integrated Community Equipment services are commissioned next year. We continue in our engagement work to hear stories through NKCN and similar voluntary community social enterprise (VCSE) groups representing communities that advocate for seldom heard voices.

Gurvinder Sandher MBE DL, Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus commented:

“We are really pleased to be co-delivering this event with the NKCN marking Windrush Day and the many wonderful contributions made by the Caribbean community to the UK since the 1940’s. We wouldn’t be the diverse society we are now if the Commonwealth hadn’t take up the call to arms by Britain post World War 2 to help rebuild the mother country. As such, today is an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of the Windrush generation and acknowledge their struggles and the many difficulties they faced as well as celebrating their many successes.”

"One of my parents came to this country, initially for two years, then returned to the Caribbean. They had several children before their return to the UK. 

I arrived over a decade after my mother's first period in England. I learned about Windrush and the related racism and segregation as I was starting secondary school.

We weren't allowed into establishments at the time, which didn't change for at least another decade after I arrived. I've spent my life here. In the early years we had to form our own groups. My children were born here and had to struggle for what they have."

"I was in my late teens when I joined by father in the UK. I entered an apprenticeship and travelled with my job. I didn't stay in good places. They were often cramped, nearly ten people in a room, often the room smelled. A lot of opportunities were available that wouldn't have been otherwise. People weren't nasty when I arrived. The first person I encountered was friendly and started a conversation."

"I came over to stay with my aunt. Windrush didn't impact me, I was with a good family. Though I had no choice I am grateful. I had a lovely time when I came over, but not everyone did.  I began school in south London. There were a lot of black people in my area. People weren't nice and would pick on me. Though there wasn't racism in school the workplace was different. I know racist things happened but I didn't see them."

"I felt bad for those that came over and later they or their children were surprised by how their passport was renewed. People were deported when I believe they shouldn’t be. There’s a lot of loss. Living in the past doesn't help but when those that have been here contributed to England's recovery and then were not welcome. That is sad."

"I came later than some, paying my fare in work and then joined the army. I travelled and was able to buy a house in Battersea.  I didn't experience difficulties or prejudice and was largely welcomed."