Before 2020 I would have sat down over a cuppa and a slice of cake (I love museum coffee shops) and interviewed Charlotte Paddock, The Adults and Communities Participation Manager and Katie Cassells, Families and Young People Manager from Royal Museums Greenwich but instead in this digital world I sent them the questions which they kindly answered. But it does mean I did not get any cake. But this is what I learned.
Royal Museums Greenwich, RMG, was awarded funding from the Windrush Fund to celebrate Windrush Day and the Windrush generation during 2021. The museum had been working with local partners to create a programme of activities for the 22nd June to mark the important contributions and legacies of the Windrush generation and their descendants and to highlight the injustices they have and continue to experience.
The museum has been working with the newly digitised Waterline Collection which features images taken in the Caribbean in the early to mid-20th century on passenger cruise-liners. These images will act as the focus for the development of reminiscence resources for people with Caribbean heritage living with dementia. The project will be run in collaboration with the Caribbean Social Forum and will be launched on the 22nd June, with development of the resources taking place in coming months.
The Windrush and Wellbeing dementia project is building on previous research completed with local partners, the Caribbean Social Forum, and will be working closely with them to ensure the resources are relevant, useful and supportive. With them the museum has created four ‘Talking Heads’ videos that will go live on the website.
Members of the Caribbean Social Forum had great fun working with CeCelia and Colin from Ethnovox, a local choir as they recorded their personal histories alongside Caribbean music inspired by their stories. Both the museum team and the Caribbean Social Forum are looking forward to the public’s reaction to these films when they are launched on the 22nd June.
The museum has also worked very closely with Mulgrave Primary School, who will be performing on Windrush Day. The school has worked with Ethnovox to learn two songs inspired by the experiences of the Windrush generation and will perform these live on Windrush Day. Their performance will be recorded and shared with members of the Caribbean Social Forum who are still isolating. The school has loved being involved and has invited CeCelia back to the classroom after their sessions.
Windrush Day celebrates and commemorates the legacies of the Windrush Generation within Britain. It helps to raise awareness of the contributions of Caribbean communities to Britain and emphasises the importance of this shared history to all communities across the UK. Consequently, celebrating Windrush Day at the National Maritime Museum allows us to build awareness of a momentous moment in British history and to deepen understanding about the Windrush Generation, their descendants, and their immense contribution to British communities.
The Windrush generation has helped re-build Britain after the Second World War, and worked tirelessly for the NHS, positively influencing art, food and culture making Britain a much richer place to live. They were however betrayed when the ‘hostile environment’ policy resulted in a huge number of them being illegally deported. Recognising Windrush Day therefore although it sheds light on the contributions made by the Windrush generation is also an opportunity to look at the discrimination and inequality they have experienced and continue to face today.
Windrush Day is definitely an important opportunity to recognise the long journey made by Caribbean migrants to the UK by sea in the mid-20th century, an important part of Britain’s maritime history. As there is a significant British-Caribbean population in the Borough of Greenwich, the museum wanted to ensure the RMG collection and learning programme acknowledged this and offered them opportunities to celebrate their heritage.
The museum is therefore marking the day with a collection of performances and workshops involving Ethnovox, a local choir, Mulgrave Primary School and the Caribbean Social Forum. A-level students from Lewisham College will be performing a spoken word poem inspired by ‘Whose Government’ a mural by the Blkbrd Collective and are performing an original dance piece inspired by Windrush. A podcast has been developed with historians S.I. Martin and Kelly Foster to celebrate the musical sounds of the Windrush generation.
Rachelle Romeo, the artist of ‘Identity’, an embroidered map recently acquired into the RMG collection will be running a creative workshop called ‘What does living in Britain mean to you?’ to explore people’s relationship with their national identity.
Rodreguez King-Dorset has written a new performance inspired by spoken evidence from the Windrush Generation who were impacted by the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy.
All these events will help all who join with the Royal Museums Greenwich to discover the reasons why many people chose to come to Britain, what it was like for them when they arrived and how their favourite calypsonians captured the new immigrant experience. Find this online at https://www.rmg.co.uk/stories/topics/windrush-day-conversation-historians-si-martin-kelly-foster
How can we get involved and support?
The team at Royal Museums Greenwich invites everyone to come along and join them at the National Maritime Museum on Tuesday 22nd June, 11am – 4pm, and celebrate Windrush. They invite visitors to watch the performances from 12pm – 1pm inspired by the Windrush Generation’s legacy and contribution.
Charlotte and Katie invite the Caribbean community across the UK to share their stories with RMG, to share their memories associated with the Caribbean. The museum has recently digitised the Waterline Collection in its archives, amongst which are images and photos of Caribbean islands, and memories that are collected from the community. These will be used to create resources for Caribbean elders living with dementia in partnership with the Caribbean Social Forum.