Delighted Hackney residents have given a warm welcome to sculptures of a Black woman and a Black man unveiled yesterday outside Hackney Town Hall.
The nine-foot-high statues, titled Warm Shores, were created by Thomas J Price to celebrate the contribution the Windrush generation has made to the UK.
They were officially unveiled on Windrush Day, which also saw a sculpture by Basil Watson installed at Waterloo station, where many Windrush pioneers arrived.
Price hopes people see themselves in his statues and celebrate their humanity and empathy with others.
The Windrush generation came to the UK from the Caribbean from 1948 until the 1970s to help Britain recover from the war.
Price said: “They were pioneering individuals who were able to muster that courage to come to a totally different place under the promise of a warm welcome.
“This is where the title Warm Shores comes from, leaving a warm, safer home, a warm climate, and the waters of the Caribbean and expecting a warm welcome – perhaps not finding that warm welcome.”
He wants the sculptures to be “beacons of empathy and visibility which are going to be part of the very fabric of Hackney”.
The artist worked with 30 people from Hackney who shared their stories with him over “an emotional three days”. He scanned their faces but the final results do not represent any particular individual.
Joyce Edwards was one of the participants.
She said of the sculptures: “They are wonderful. I just can’t get my head around it, that they are so beautiful.”
Edwards came to the UK from Trinidad in 1965 and trained as a nurse. She was also a social worker in Hackney.
At first, she worked in a factory, which she said was “so harsh”.
“These statues are really important as a celebration,” she added.
Stoke Newington resident Hanan Babiker spotted the statues from a bus and hopped off to have a closer look.
She said: “It’s interesting. I’ve never seen anything like it around Hackney. It’s important for Black people to be here as statues.”
Cabinet member Cllr Carole Williams, who has responsibility for Windrush, as well as employment, human resources and equalities, shared her stories with Price.
She took her mother’s photo, passport and security pass with her.
“There’s a lot of emotion,” she said after looking at the statues. “They are of national significance.”
Warm Shores is the second Windrush sculpture to be commissioned by Hackney Council, with Veronica Ryan’s Turner Prize-nominated custard apple, breadfruit and soursop artworks unveiled on The Narrow Way last year.
Cllr Williams said: “It’s really important that the two pieces work really well together.”
The works were commissioned before the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately affected Black and global majority people.
Cllr Williams added: “I think the statues will hold a special place in everyone’s hearts because of what’s happened in the last two years with Covid and the murder of George Floyd..”
She urged anyone affected by Windrush to get help applying for the compensation scheme.
The Claudia Jones Organisation in Stoke Newington helped set up a free legal clinic to support people with their applications.
For more information, visit windrushjc.org.