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Celebrities sign up for Windrush celebrations

THE SS Windrush which left Kingston, Jamaica, on May 24, 1948, and arrived at Tilbury Docks, in Essex, on June 21, 1948, was a pivotal passage in more ways than one.

Not only did it offer the promise of new opportunities for Caribbean people who were facing hard economic conditions, it also signalled the start of a new era in British history.

Having paid a fare of £28, the 492 official passengers – and a few stowaways – arrived in the Mother Country to help rebuild post-war Britain by filling labour shortages in state-run services like the NHS and the London transport system.

Passengers came from across the West Indies including Jamaica, Trinidad, and Bermuda. Most were men, and many were ex-servicemen who had served during the Second World War.

As they walked off the ship on that misty morning, they would not have been able to imagine the impact their presence would have on their new home.

IRRESISTIBLE

The recollections of Aldwyn ‘Lord Kitchener’ Roberts, the grandmaster of calypso who later returned permanently to Trinidad in 1962, were published in Windrush: the irresistible rise of multi-racial Britain by Mike and Trevor Phillips: “As the boat reached Tilbury, the water was brown and red. Well, it’s the time I really realised that people are really brave. All those stowaways jumped from the ship into the water and started swimming ashore. And I was wondering if these fellas are not afraid of alligators, because that water seemed to me that it must have some kind of reptile in it. Anyway, they went ashore, and we took the train from Tilbury to London. About a week after, I went to a place called the Paramount, where they could dance, there was a lot of dancing there. To my surprise, many of the stowaways were in the Paramount jiving, dancing and what have you. I had to laugh, I couldn’t believe it. A man just stowaway and, after a couple of days, he was in a dance hall jiving and dancing around.


ARRIVALS: The newly arrived migrants

"But entering England, when the boat had about four days to land in England, I get this kind of wonderful feeling that I’m going to land on the Mother Country, the soil of the Mother Country. And I started to compose this song, London is the Place for Me.”

Though they had been invited to Britain through an advert in Jamaican newspaper, the Daily Gleaner, there was little infrastructure put in place for their arrival.

Those who had already organised work and accommodation did so, but 230 or more were housed in a deep air-raid shelter under Clapham Common in south London.

The nearest Labour exchange was in Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, and as a result the area became a natural home to the new migrants.

In Brixton today, Windrush Square is named in their honour.

To mark the 65th anniversary of the arrival, Thurrock Council and its partners including The Voice, the Kingsway Project, Black Heritage Today and Thurrock African Group will mark the event in style.


CELEBRITY HOST: Angie Le Mar

Celebrities and other high-profile figures will gather on Saturday, June 22, at the Port of Tilbury, for an awards ceremony, compered by comedian Angie Le Mar, and a celebration dinner following a river cruise.

Other high-profile guests include singer Misha B and former athlete Dalton Grant.

The following day, Sunday, June 23, a family fun day will take place including tours of the Windrush exhibitions, music and educational workshops, a gospel choir and dance performances.

Samson De Alyn, project director for the 65th anniversary celebrations, said: “Thurrock Council elebrated the 60th anniversary five years ago and wanted to build on from that. It shouldn’t just be a one-off. One thing that the African Caribbean community has not always done well but is getting better at is making the connection to our heritage and celebrating it.”

In 2008, Thurrock Council, Thurrock Heritage Forum and the Thurrock Local History Society organised for a plaque to be erected at the London Cruise Terminal.


CHAMPION: Athlete Dalton Grant

George Ruddock, managing director of GV Media, said: “This is a significant milestone and should be celebrated. This group of people helped shape Britain and were pioneers across many areas in trade unions, workers groups, the NHS, London Transport, the buses, and culture as such the Notting Hill Carnival.

“The 65th anniversary follows a wave of celebrations such as Jamaica’s 50th independence and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I encourage everyone to get involved to commemorate this part of our history. It will also be a great opportunity to catch up with old friends.”

Reflecting on swapping Britain for Jamaica, Windrush passenger Lucille Harris, who had come to join her husband said: “I am glad that my husband sent for me. Here anybody come to this country they can make a good life. It’s a nice country. It’s cold. It’s different, but you can live happily; that’s all I’m saying. But I live a good life, a good life, a clean life, and I am pleased with it.”

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