WINDRUSH, 70 YEARS ON …Celebrating the Heritage

With an award of £97,500 made possible by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Windrush Foundation will commemorate and celebrate in 2018 the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the ship Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks, Essex, in June 1948.

Harold Phillips and wife Helen meet Prince Charles (1998)

This will be explored through a series of outputs. The project will engage the community with a programme of heritage workshops that will discuss how Windrush migrants built their lives in Britain and featuring their contributions to the community. It will also explore key individuals of the Windrush generation and how their efforts contributed to the development of a more inclusive society in the UK. A commemorative hard copy Brochure and a PDF version will highlight 70 champions – men and women – of Caribbean heritage who have made outstanding contributions to their communities and to Britain and whose work will be included on the project’s website. The project plans to develop educational resources for children studying at Key Stage 2 level, and train to help facilitate the project’s aims through a variety of media, including BEN Television. TV programmes will include interviews, discussions, and heritage news and information. The project intends to highlight the work of co-founder of Windrush Foundation, Sam B. King MBE.

Mrs Dione McDonald, granddaughter of Sam B. King MBE, and one of Windrush Foundation’s Directors, said: “One of my granddad’s passions and goal was for the importance of Windrush to be acknowledged, understood and never forgotten. Therefore, this project is of great value to our community as it aims to give a public platform to the verbal and non-verbal narrative of strength, hope, resilience and philanthropy at the heart of our significant journey.”

Stuart Hobley, Head of HLF London, said: “The arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks was an incredibly significant moment in the history of the Caribbean community; extraordinary stories from everyday lives that have shaped London’s culture. We are delighted that thanks to National Lottery players we are able to support the commemoration of this important anniversary next year.”

One of the champions that would be included in the ’70’ is Harold Phillips, also known as ‘Lord Woodbine’. Paul McCartney spoke of him with affection in the Anthology television series. Phillips settled in Liverpool after arriving on the ship Empire Windrush from Trinidad in 1948.  As a builder and decorator, and a calypso singer, known as Lord Woodbine, and barman in Toxteth. He formed the All-Steel Caribbean Band that was were resident in his own New Colony Club. He also booked the Beatles, then a scruffy bunch, that often turned up with only half their equipment or a member short.

The All-Steel band also played evening sessions in the basement of the Jacaranda, a coffee-bar venture run by Allan Williams. After Phillips left, it remained there, as the Royal Caribbean Steel Band, until 1960, when they were noticed by a German sailor and poached by a Hamburg club agent. The Beatles were, twice nightly, accompanying a Mancunian stripper at Williams’s and Woodbine’s New Cabaret Artists Club. Because they had so gamely gone through this tasteless assignment, their employers were convinced that the group was no longer, as George Harrison would say, “hopefully messing about.”

Lord Woodbine with Beatles in Hamburg

When Koschmider requested a group for another of his Hamburg clubs, Phillips drove the then five Beatles – drummer Pete Best, bass player Stuart Sutcliffe and guitarists Harrison, McCartney and John Lennon – to Germany in an overloaded minibus. Conditions were dire; the musicians’ accommodation was in pokey rooms adjoining a cinema toilet, and, initially, there was an onstage mutiny by the band. But the necessity of keeping up the equivalent of an all-night party atmosphere for their audience began the transformation of the Beatles from clumsy provincials to a peerless live act and a potential chart proposition.

Phillips, however, was all but lost to the archives of oblivion, though his daughter, Barbara, was to surface as a playwright whose work includes episodes for Brookside. Well placed to grow fat on Beatlemania, her father instead chose to continue living quietly in Toxteth. He never featured at any of the Beatles conventions, and, unlike others less qualified, resisted the chance to cash in on the group’s fame. Harold Phillips, entrepreneur, born 1928; died July 5, 2000.


Thanks to National Lottery players, HLF invests money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.  Follow HLF on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLottery and #HLFsupported .

Windrush Foundation is now recruiting project volunteers, especially black British youth, who will be able to acquire a deeper understanding of post-war history and heritage. Furthermore, the skills acquired will include: research, presentation, event-management, scriptwriting, editing, producing, filming, and interviewing. These will also increase volunteers’ confidence, self-esteem, empowering them as they interact with other individuals in the community.

The Windrush 70 Project will end in November 2018.

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