Ivor Novello Award winner Renell Shaw writes on behalf of the Ivors Academy.
“You cannot know where you are going until you know where you have been.”
Windrush Day honours the legacy of a determined, talented, and inventive community of people, whose profound influence on our music industry and society in the UK can be traced back to their arrival in 1948, and actually many years before.
If you have grandparents from the Windrush Generation, I am sure you’ve heard their stories showing us the importance of legacy, community, and traditions, and how our families have contributed to the economic, political, and cultural advancement of Britain.
Those cultural contributions stretch far and wide and include – Dub Poet Linton Kwesi Johnson whose entertaining yet politically sharp lyrics reflected the essence of the times; Lovers Rock as the UK’s unique branch of the reggae genre; The Jazz Warriors who greatly impacted British jazz and the next generation of musicians; and British sound systems which led to the birth of Jungle, Garage and Grime.
The sonic identity of British Caribbean culture gives all of us a path to trace our history, a shared history, and for this we thank the Windrush generation.
Ivors Academy member Melissa James reflects on the impact and experiences of the Windrush Generation.
Today we remember that day of arrival, back in June 1948, when the Windrush ship docked at Tilbury in Essex.
Over 500 travellers disembarked and dispersed themselves into cities across England, the “Mother Country”. This first wave of immigrants from the Caribbean would soon become vital to the success of the NHS and to the growth of a national transport network. Through their music and creativity, Caribbean culture would also inspire and influence music makers with tunes and rhythms rarely experienced before.
Whatever their talents, their willingness to work was often met with a less than warm welcome. Confronted with signs of “No Blacks”, made this message bitter and clear. Yet the Windrush generation fought through years of racial trauma with a resilience to make England their home.
Lest we forget, these experiences of the past, as hostilities linger on in current times. The Windrush scandal continues unresolved and injustice still prevails.
Windrush Day honours those who made that journey 73 years ago. We recognise the valuable contribution that the West Indian community continues to make to our society but look ahead to what we all must do to achieve our collective freedom.
Discover more about Windrush Day.
Listen to our Windrush Day Playlist on Apple Music and explore West Indian music heritage from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.