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Caribbean voices celebrated with new London Transport poems

CARIBBEAN VOICES: A new selection of poems from the Caribbean will appear on the tube this summer

A NEW set of poems that celebrates Caribbean poetry will appear on London Underground from July.

The collection focuses on a range of themes, including the complex realities of life in the Caribbean and in Britain as well as the dream of living in a new world of hope and prosperity.
One of the poems is I Am Becoming a Mother by Jamaica’s current poet laureate, Lorna Goodison, who was born in Kingston in 1947 and splits her time between Jamaica and Canada. The work of other recognised poets, including James Berry, Andrew Salkey, Jean Binta Breeze, Kwame Dawes and Grace Nichols are also featured.

Staynton Brown, director of diversity and inclusion at TfL, said: “These poems are a fantastic way of celebrating a variety of Caribbean voices and experiences. I hope customers will enjoy them as they travel across our network and take advantage of the opportunity to reflect on the valuable contribution those from the West Indies have had on London’s culture and economy.”

POETRY: I Am Becoming My Mother by Lorna Goodison (Image: Transport for London)

The poems are appearing across the tube network as London celebrates the 70th anniversary of Windrush this year, which commemorates the pioneering generation that started to come to Britain from the Caribbean from 22 June 1948 on the Empire Windrush ship.

The history of London Transport, Transport for London’s (TfL) predecessor, is intertwined with many of those who consider themselves to be part of the Windrush Generation. The shortage of housing after the Second World War meant that more than 200 migrants were housed for around four weeks in the Clapham South Subterranean shelter, a labyrinth of deep-level passages, below Clapham South tube station.

London Transport employed people from the Caribbean from 1956 onwards to fill staff shortages, opening a recruitment office in Barbados in 1956 and subsequent offices in Jamaica and Trinidad in 1966. Many of these people worked for London Transport for a number of years, playing a vital role in keeping London moving.

Judith Chernaik, writer, editor and founder of Poems on the Underground, said: “We are delighted to be celebrating a wide range of distinguished Caribbean poets, with their special understanding of sharply contrasting worlds of experience. These are poems which speak directly to the heart, and we know Londoners will be touched and inspired by reading them on the tube.”

Poems on the Underground, founded in 1986, aims to bring poetry to a mass audience. It aims to help make journeys more stimulating by showcasing a diverse range of poetry, including classical, contemporary and international poets in tube train carriages across London. The poems are selected by Chernaik and poets Imtiaz Dharker and George Szirtes.

The programme has inspired similar displays on public transport in cities worldwide, from New York and Paris to Moscow and Shanghai. The initiative is supported by Transport for London, Arts Council England and the British Council.

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