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  • Heather Cleal

Curating Change: Exhibitions and Events Marking 75 Years Since Windrush


INJECTION shares 5 exhibitions taking place in and around London offering new, immersive perspectives from the Windrush era.

The 22nd June 2023 marked 75 years since the arrival of The HMT Empire Windrush into the port town of Tilbury, Essex. Carrying over 1,000 passengers, a broad majority heralded from the Caribbean and had arrived on British soil with the intention of settling permanently. The ship’s voyage in 1948 formed part of the British government’s drive to rebuild in a post-war society, utilising migration from its then Empire to tackle crippling labour shortages. Those who continued to arrive in Britain until 1971 under the scheme were historically known as the ‘Windrush generation’, and granted indefinite right to remain in the UK.

At least, that was the intention of the Empire Windrush. In 2018, in what is now referred to as the ‘Windrush scandal’, it was revealed that between 2009-2010 the UK Home Office had in fact misrecorded – and in some instances, destroyed altogether – the relevant paperwork and documentation proving the legal status of the Windrush migrants. What followed was nothing short of a gross injustice, with thousands of citizens of the Windrush generation thrust into uncertainty, and left unable to access essential services, including healthcare, work, and housing. In some cases, individuals were even faced with the prospect of deportation after being left unable to prove their arrival dates into the UK.

The government has since apologised for its destruction of the archival records, and subsequently launched a formal enquiry and compensation scheme. However, the level of incompetence that was evidenced points to a systemic injustice within the UK’s immigration system, and a broader neglect of the Windrush generation as a whole. It remains a burden passed down through their families, for many of whom there is no real reparation.

In January 2023, current Home Secretary Suella Braverman revealed that the government was back-tracking on three of its earlier commitments as announced in the Windrush scandal enquiry. Included was its earlier promise to launch events with those affected to “listen and reflect on their stories". It feels like a wholly unnecessary retraction of support, yet follows decades of governance that has insisted on forgetting the Windrush generation. Commemorating 75 years then remains vital to a continued exploration of the Windrush legacy, hearing the stories that have helped to forge the identity of modern Britain.

There remains a rich but often painful history to uncover here which, now more than ever, deserves to be heard in the wake of executive failings. Over this summer, in a commemoration and celebration of 75 years, INJECTION shares 5 exhibitions taking place in and around London offering new, immersive perspectives from the Windrush era:

1. Windrush 75

Victoria and Albert Museum

From now until the 31st of December

Over the course of the summer and autumn months, South Kensington’s Victoria and Albert Museum will be hosting “a season of events and displays marking the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush.” These include guided tours on ‘historical and hidden’ Caribbean culture, multi-media presentations and talks, and photographic displays.

Find out more here: Windrush 75, V&A

© V&A

2. Lewisham: About Face - by EVEWRIGHT

Migration Museum

From now until the 16th of July

As the offspring of parents who first arrived to the UK on Empire Windrush, multidisciplinary visual artist EVEWRIGHT commemorates the 75th anniversary by reflecting on his own upbringing in Lewisham, and “what it means to be Black and British today.” An installation is on display at the Migration Museum in Lewisham Shopping Centre, comprising video and audio which explores the legacy of Caribbean communities in the south-east London borough.


3. The Caribbean Front Room - Stories from Windrush and Beyond

Camden Black British History Community Hub

From now until the 28th of July

‘The Caribbean Front Room’ promises to take visitors back in time with a unique, immersive exploration of the Windrush experience. In recreating the very space that served as the communal meeting point for Caribbean tradition and identity, the installation is a celebration of the Windrush era and the cultural exchange that took place within the UK.

© Love Camden

4. Over a Barrel: Windrush Children Tragedy and Triumph

Black Cultural Archives

From now until the 10th September

Exploring the often neglected stories from the children of the Windrush generation, this exhibition looks to map the struggles and experience of those brought to the UK from the Caribbean. Co-curated with award-winning journalist Nadine White, the Black Cultural Archives have brought together photographs, films, and personal recollections so that audiences may experience Windrush through a new lens. Ultimately, it is with the aim of promoting a deeper understanding of contemporary injustice, as the archive explains, “today, the Windrush Children are elders within Black Communities in England, intimately familiar with the struggles they have endured. Many who were affected by the education system and the hostile environment as children are now adults facing disenfranchisement and abuse through the ongoing Windrush scandal.”

© Black Cultural Archives

5. Recent Acquisition: Journeys to Hope


From now until the 5th of September

Displayed on the outside of the Autograph building at Rivington Place, ‘Recent Acquisition: Journeys to Hope’ is a free, outdoor exhibition sharing the journeys of the Windrush generation, “before, during, and after arriving in the UK.” The display includes newly acquired photographs from the TopFoto archives, alongside their accompanying stories as told by professor Stuart Hall.

© Autograph


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