Hackney’s Caribbean elders join councillors to mark Windrush Day

Ceremony: Caribbean elders with the Mayor and local councillors at the Town Hall. Photograph: Hackney Council

Caribbean elders living in Hackney last week joined the council for a special event to celebrate Windrush Day.

Friday 22 June was seventy years to the day since the MV Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks with 500 Commonwealth citizens on board.

The passengers came to help rebuild Britain in the aftermath of World War II, following a request from Whitehall.

To commemorate the anniversary, members of Hackney’s large Caribbean community were invited to a reception at the Town Hall, organised by Deputy Mayor Anntoinette Bramble and attended by Mayor Philip Glanville and Speaker Clare Potter.

One guest, Caribbean Elder Lola Bello, said: “I like Hackney a lot, you see different people from different nations and we can all relate to each other.

“Days like Windrush Day are important to learn about the past and what people have suffered and how much we have improved from the olden days, as now everybody is united and we have a good community.”

Chiming in: Bells Project residents unveil their framed poem. Photograph: Peabody

Hackney Council’s community library service also marked the occasion by unveiling a framed poem at the Bells Project, a housing scheme for Caribbean elders.

The poem was created at one of the service’s workshops for residents.

Yvette Harte, inclusion officer for the Bells Project, said: “You could see the tenants’ delight when the poem they helped to write was read out.

“One man who has trouble speaking since a stroke was able to get involved in the workshop, and seeing his face when the words he had contributed were spoken out loud was very touching.”

Hackney Museum is also involved in the anniversary celebrations, and has this year taught over 3,000 school children about the stories of local migrants.

Deputy Mayor Bramble said: “It’s really important, as a borough with a large Caribbean community, that we celebrate Windrush Day and those who came from the Caribbean to help rebuild Britain and shape British society.

“Alongside celebrations it’s also important for us to honour and respect people affected by this history in the present, and realise the hardships that communities like the Windrush generation still face today, and how as a society we can reflect on history to overcome this.”

Former Hackney councillor Patrick Vernon last month started a petition to make Windrush Day a national holiday. It has so far been signed by nearly 1,500 people.

Mayor Glanville wrote to the government in May to demand changes to the Immigration Act “to stop any further travesties such as Windrush, as well as more general societal and economic issues”.

You can read the letter in full here