AS ONE of the first major events to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the arrival the HMT Empire Windrush, Windrush: Movement of The People, brought out key figures and dignitaries excited to witness the contemporary dance production which paid homage to the first wave of Caribbean migrants who came to England and famously began the post-war immigration boom that was to radically change British society.
The lively production, which hosted its first London show on Thursday (Apr 26) at the Peacock Theatre, celebrates the rise of multicultural Britain, shining a light on an important era of British social history, using dance, music and a multicultural cast to tell an international story.
Sharon Watson, the choreographer behind the production said: “The making of Windrush: Movement of The People has taken me to places and spaces I would never have imagined, emotionally, physically and spiritually. It delves into a rich Caribbean history born out of a need and a desire to serve the ‘Motherland.’
“It captures relationships, hopes and ambitions, in addition to a very personal story of my own family’s experience leaving Jamaica and arriving in the UK. This is my first narrative work and being gifted with subject made it more pleasurable to create even if at atimes my tears took centre stage.”
Attendees at the performance included Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon, Lord Nicholas Bourne of Aberystwyth, Jamaica High Commissioner to the UK HE Seth George Ramocan, Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Cabinet minister for Culture Sonia Winifred and many more.
Speaking after the show, Baroness Lawrence said: “Windrush: Movement of The People brought back memories for me growing up and what it was like for my family when they arrived.
“I think it really just highlights the importance of treasuring those who are still alive, who went through a very distressing time.”
Mayor of Lambeth, Cllr Marcia Cameron added: “I thought it was absolutely tremendous and what an innovative way to do a performance in dance, because as a people we celebrate a lot through dance.
“In Windrush: Movement of The People, they featured some early ska, music from the 60s, the 80s and gospel. It told our history in such a unique way that people can relate to and the creativity of the dancers were amazing.”
The timing of the performance comes amid a national outcry after it was revealed that UK residents from the Windrush generation are at risk of deportation and maybe without the necessary documentation to prove their right to work and live in the UK.
While this year is supposed to mark a time of celebration, it has been overshadowed by a crisis which has rocked the nation and has become a discussion among many.
“It’s quite ironic that we’re going into June to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the HMT Empire Windrush and this is how we as a country say ‘thank you’,” said Cabinet Minister for Culture, Cllr Sonia Winifred. “Although we knew there were problems from last year, we didn’t know the extent of it and I think many of us are outrage at how bad it all is. I just feel sorry for so many people who are suffering in silence and don’t know who to turn to.”
“I’m really hoping that through highlighting this issue, that this will be the beginning of something new,” said Winifred. “I feel like we’ve been asleep for a very long time and we need to wake up and support one another. I’ve had people contact me and tell me that they‘re worried – even those who aren’t a part of the Windrush generation are concerned and its resulted in this collective uncertainty and feeling of not belonging.”
H E Seth George Ramocan echoed similar sentiments and acknowledged the importance of recognising the contribution of Caribbean migrants to the country. He said: “I like the UK and think it’s a wonderful country, but one of the things that’s not so great is that it never sufficiently expressed the role of the Caribbean diaspora in this country and how much it has made a difference in making Britain what it is today. I think we as a people and our children must be the beneficiaries of that.”
“This year is the 70th anniversary of Windrush and it’s is a very good time to redeem what was lost and I think there’s a lot that has been done and it’s good that the media has awakened the atrocities that has happened to the Windrush generation and that the overall consensus is that this is wrong and something needs to be done about it.”
In the wake of the grief felt by thousands whose UK residency status remains in question, Windrush: Movement of The People arouses a mixture of emotions from passion and anger, to sadness and compassion. “I think the country has to put it right,” added Baroness Lawrence: “It’s like this generation is suffering twice now which is unacceptable.”