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The Windrush Generations: Experiences of passing

2019 is the first year that the nation celebrates Windrush day as an officially recognised anniversary, so we spoke with Caribbean elders and heard their experiences.

Rachael Minott, Horniman’s Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice), with the help of Shasti Lowton, created a series of events where multiple generations of Caribbeans could gather and share food, stories and advice. 

Here, the group discuss how different generations respond to the passing of their loved ones.

Norman:

I didn't know my great grandfather, neither from madda nor fadda, but my mother grandfather, he was a lovely man and he was very old. I remember when he was ill they said he was shraveling.

We went to see him, and then we went to church. When we came back from church they said he died. I could remember all of us went into the bed with him! And jump up in the bed and stay in the bed with him a long time with him, because he was really a lovely man, he was old and peaceful.

Catherine:

In our current Caribbean society, you wouldn't see many people get into bed with somebody who’s passed. That's because you had such closeness, I think we are missing those close relationships with our family members so you wouldn't dream of doing that.

But also again, society views death differently, English society, and we pick that up unfortunately, and so they are there and we are here. Before, you would spend time hugging them until they went cold.

Lyn:

The way you brought me up, I know that when someone passes you wash the body, you sit with the body, and you talk to the body. It’s normal.

But if I say that to a friend of mine - even Caribbean friends, or those of Caribbean decent - would look at me strangely. They don't really wash the body, their older relatives would but the younger ones of my generation and younger wouldn't think of doing that.

Rather than saying the kids don't do it, well the kids won’t do it if they don’t know how to do it, unless they have been taught.

That's the thing about tradition, heritage and all that stuff -you have to pass it on.

If you don't pass it on, if you don't do it around people, people never pick it up. You have to teach.

The Windrush Generation: Teaching the Other Generations

2019 will be the first year that the nation celebrates Windrush day as an officially recognised anniversary, so we took this opportunity to talk with Caribbean elders and hear their experiences.

Rachael Minott, Horniman’s Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice), with the help of Shasti Lowton, created a series of events where multiple generations of Caribbeans could gather and share food, stories and advice. 

Here, the group discussed what they wish they could teach the generations.

Vanes Creavalle

I think maybe the power of accepting change.

Because it’s really hard to accept change, especially when you’ve seen a lot and experienced a lot of things, and I feel like you need to be more accepting of change in that there are different people. 

We have a really multicultural society but we seem very sheltered and isolated within our communities, which in some cases is good cos its nice we can develop our cultures and traditions, but in other senses, it's limiting what we can do.

Like saying, because I’m Caribbean I’m only going to have with Caribbean people, it stops us from making a much greater impact.

I think to have the diversity in that, telling your story to Caribbean people, but telling your story to others is important because there can be a mutual understanding. And I feel like until we have that understanding we are not really going to go anywhere.

Because you can always say, 'this is my story, this is my story'. And you can tell your family that story, but apart from that, where is your story going?

I don't think there is any further conversation.

  • Windrush: Howard, Vanes and Catherine laughing together, Howard, Vanes and Catherine laughing together
    Howard, Vanes and Catherine laughing together

So I think there needs to be more acceptance of change, as well as more conversations with not just your family, or the people in your race, or people you talk to normally - but more open conversation with everybody so we can come together and share what we have.

And then when we share we can create something much better in the future.

Catherine Ross

My granddaughter is eight going on eighty - she knows everything.

She’ll come up to me and say - cause she thinks I know nothing, I’m only her Grandma - she’ll say, 'I bet you don't know' or 'Did you know?' And I’m like, I’ve been here sixty-odd years, I think I will know a few things!

But you have to put on these things and be like, 'Really? And what happens next...' cause I’m pushing her with follow questions to see how much she does know, so then I can give my input.

She always feels like she has to teach me when I come visit, something she feels I won’t know. And I feel like that is really, really good.

But there are things that she does know that I’m sure I didn’t know until I was fifteen! You know what I mean, so I think the younger generation know a lot more than we ever did, and I certainly knew more than my dad.

  • Catherine Ross, Catherine Ross
    Catherine Ross

But only because they came from the Caribbean to here, and you know I grew up here, so I felt I knew everything and now my granddaughter is doing it to me, she knows more than I do.

I think it’s nice each generation can help the next.

Howard Richards

That's the goal though, you raise a child, the child learns you, then they go out and learn the world - and then they come back and teach you. Simple.

So the child becomes stronger. 

  • Windrush - Howard Richards, Howard Richards
    Howard Richards

The Windrush Generation: Memories of Family

2019 will be the first year that the nation celebrates Windrush day as an officially recognised anniversary, so we took this opportunity to talk with Caribbean elders and hear their experiences.

Rachael Minott, Horniman’s Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice), with the help of Shasti Lowton, created a series of events where multiple generations of Caribbeans could gather and share food, stories and advice. 

Here, the group shares some of their thoughts and memories connected to family.

  • Windrush: Howard, Vanes and Catherine laughing together, Howard, Vanes and Catherine laughing together
    Howard, Vanes and Catherine laughing together

Catherine Ross

Mum and Dad - Did you think when you settled your family of six in Nottingham from St Kitts all those years ago that one day you would have 210 descendants!

That through a series of marriages and romantic liaisons they would all claim and assert their familial link to you both with such fierce pride and love.

Many of these have Caribbean blood running through their veins and not just from St Kitts! In some of them, the blood of the English and the Irish have a presence and a vibrancy, but all of them have your indomitable spirit, that marvellous trait that brought you from sunny shores to a place that couldn’t be more different.

Where your courage and persistence helped you succeed in creating a home for your family, providing for your growing family needs and inspiring your family and others to reach for the stars and follow their dreams.

  • Catherine Ross, Catherine Ross
    Catherine Ross

Many a time I recalled a phrase you used when it was taking one of us a time to grasp things you were trying to teach us, “Yuh ears hard?”

That’s what I remember, Mum and Dad, the many Caribbean sayings you used in so many situations – from teaching us good manners to expressing your delight or annoyance over matters.

One thing all my siblings and I say when we get together for family reunions, is how much we are like you both in this regard. We hear ourselves chiding our children in the phrases we were regularly admonished with. We laugh and thank the Lord for you, the best parents ever.

Have we become more like you since your passing over a quarter of a century ago? We all say we hope so, and if we keep trying to be then the world will be a better place, how could it not be if we put our faith into practice and we try and help others less fortunate in whatever situation and community we find ourselves. 

We now realise, as you said, the best gift we will ever be given is family, they are a blessing and so we should treat them well and kindly because “You never miss the water till the well runs dry”.

If we had realised the importance of this saying of yours then we would have asked more questions of you: learned more life lessons from you and would have had even more of your wisdom to share with others - the world would have been an even more beautiful place.

We thank you for what you have shared with us and many others do too.

As people of the Windrush generation, you brought hope to these British shores, showed what rewards courage can bring and left a vibrant legacy, a beacon for all who inhabit the British Isles to be grateful for those who came from the Caribbean Isles.

I applaud you for your efforts, I recognise you for your achievements and I love you for showing us that it’s the people who make a difference to life. Thank you.

Vanes Creavalle

My Grandad. He was a photographer and the idea that he was capturing moments in history - I think it’s just really amazing to capture single moments. I think that's really beautiful.

As they say, pictures can tell a thousand words, so capturing moments in history, family moments and peoples smile even - I just think it’s so beautiful to take pictures.

In our house there is actually a picture of my granddad taking a picture and, as my dad always says, there are not many pictures of the people who take pictures.

I think that kind of capturing someone in their element doing something that they love, I think that's really powerful - that's always inspired me.

  • Windrush - Howard talking to Vanes, Howard talking to Vanes
    Howard talking to Vanes

Howard Richards

The best childhood memory I’ve got is my grandmother.

My mother and father came to England, leaving me in Jamaica. I was born in St Andrews in my father’s house where I was left with my Hanti.

My grandmother lived in Trewlany, which is on the north coast, St Andrews is in Kingston, in fact. My grandmother came from Trewlany and took us from my Hanti and brought us to Trewlany to live with her.

We walked with no shoes on the foot: beautiful. We walked through cane trees: beautiful.

I used to think about coming to England. I’m going to go to England one day and see my mother and father. But when I left Jamaica to come here I cry for all three, four weeks, because I missed my grandmother.

The Windrush Generation: Reflections on Food

2019 will be the first year that the nation celebrates Windrush day as an officially recognised anniversary so we took this opportunity to talk with Caribbean elders and hear their experiences.

Rachael Minott, Horniman’s Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice), with the help of Shasti Lowton, created a series of events where multiple generations of Caribbeans could gather and share food, stories and advice. 

Together, the group planned a meal and shared some reflections about food.

  • A composite from the Windrush project, The group shared memories of food and drink. Clockwise from top left: Normal and Dunstan, the group eating, Catherine and Lyn, Shasti and Morella.
    The group shared memories of food and drink. Clockwise from top left: Normal and Dunstan, the group eating, Catherine and Lyn, Shasti and Morella.

Morella Forde

Mum goes to church on Sundays but as teenagers we were left to make our own choices so sometimes we too went to church.

When we came back home we had to help her in the kitchen to prepare the Sunday meals of our stewed red beans, rice, ground provisions like yams, sweet potatoes, macaroni cheese, etc, not forgetting our green bananas with fried fish and stewed chicken.

  • Windrush - Morella Forde, Morella Forde
    Morella Forde

On Saturdays mum still cooks our national dish of broth, and we have conversations of Dominica and England as mum tells us stories when she first came to England, and the problems she had with the racism in finding a place to live and work.

She believed she could come to England to get some money and go back to build and improve her lifestyle, and instead she was in a worse position.

She rented one room - sharing with other people - and money was to the minimum.

Dad would have his friends round to play dominoes and have their rum or whiskey drinks, as they played just like in Dominica. The men have not lost playing dominoes tradition after dinner.

Dinner time was always a time we made to give jokes and stories - remembering the Anansi stories which were always so funny. We played calypso and soca music, and danced.

It’s lovely that we kept these traditions because it reminded me so much of my homeland and these memories are precious to me.

Howard Richards

My grandmother’s cooking was beyond my comprehension, beyond anyone’s comprehension.

She could twiss up hot chocolate, anything she touched her hands on, it was something out of the world!

  • Windrush - Howard Richards, Howard Richards
    Howard Richards

Lynda Louise Burrell

Whenever I smell Dettol, I remember Grandma. It transports me back in time to Grandma’s house - clean, and comforting, and a range of childhood memories tumble over each other.

Caribbean spiced bun and cheese, stewed chicken, Guinness punch, and ackee and salt fish, the smells that make up the quintessential Caribbean Home.

Something that Grandma instilled in me early was that you should always have food on the stove, as you never know when someone may stop by and a good Caribbean must always be able to offer visitors something to eat.

  • Windrush - Lynda Louise Burrell, Lynda Louise Burrell
    Lynda Louise Burrell

Well, my modern busy lifestyle doesn’t always allow me to follow this social etiquette, but again who would have thought in those days that one day society would have a system for cooked food to be delivered from a restaurant to your home with just a phone call, within minutes, and some of the suppliers can deliver drink too!

So, within minutes of the arrival of guests, and some great welcome and engaging conversation, you could be wining and dining - and as the Caribbean saying goes, “telling jokes!”

That’s what I miss most - not just Grandmas' good advice, advice for all seasons and reasons, but her laughter and the jokes we shared.

  • Windrush menu, The menu for the day
    The menu for the day

The Windrush Generation: Stories, memories, food and advice

2019 will be the first year that the nation celebrates Windrush day as an officially recognised anniversary so we took this opportunity to talk with Caribbean elders and hear their experiences.

Rachael Minott, Horniman’s Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice), wanted to use the World Gallery at the Horniman as a tool to better appeal to the people of Forest Hill, as 24.5% of Forest Hill population is of Caribbean descent.

Rachael, with the help of Shasti Lowton, created a series of events where multiple generations could gather and share food, stories and advice. These events would allow a discussion of the Windrush generation’s impact within families.

Who are the Windrush generation?

On 22 June 1948, the HMT Empire Windrush, arrived at Tilbury Docks, Essex, having sailed from Kinston, Jamaica.

Among its passengers were 492 people from the Caribbean who arrived, as all colonials were, British subjects of the Empire, with the same rights of movement and settlement as all who lived in Britain.

  • HMT Empire Windrush, HMT Empire Windrush, at sea between 1945 and 1954. , Royal Navy Official Photographer, Imperial War Museum via wikicommons
    HMT Empire Windrush, at sea between 1945 and 1954. , Royal Navy Official Photographer, Imperial War Museum via wikicommons

This date is now regarded as the symbolic starting point of a wave of Caribbean migration, with those who migrated between 1948 and 1971 referred to as the Windrush generation.

As a part of the post-war relief effort, these people helped to build the NHS, staffed the transport systems and worked in the industrial heart of the UK.

Music, food, language, fashion and art have all been transformed by Caribbean cultural influence, and fundamental human rights were championed by this community, among others, as they fought for equality.

This generation of migrants were pioneers, changing a cultural landscape and facing challenges of ignorance and prejudice. Their legacy can be felt across the world, but it is within the intimate connections of communities, within families and between friends, that their legacy touches our hearts.

What is the Windrush scandal?

On 18 June 2018, the government announced that a National Windrush Day will take place on 22 June every year to celebrate the contribution of the Windrush generation and their descendants.

However, 2018 also saw what has become known as the ‘Windrush Scandal’ where it emerged that for years this generation has faced deportation, withdrawal of care, and evictions due to failures by the Home Office to keep records of their legal status.

How did this happen?

The Immigration Act of 1971 firmly established a distinction among British subjects concerning rights to enter and stay in the UK, but it preserved certain immigration rights of Commonwealth citizens who had already settled.

A decade later, the British Nationality Act 1981 established what is now known as British citizenship. However, at this moment many Commonwealth citizens ceased to be British subjects, but did not become British citizens.

Changes to Immigration law in 2012, required people to have documentation to work, rent a property or access benefits, including healthcare. The Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016 imposed compulsory immigration checks for access to these services.

Residents were expected to hold expensive biometric residence cards introduced in 2008 with formerly accepted documents deemed invalid proof of status.

This led to a number of people from the Windrush generation being wrongful classified as illegal immigrants. They were unable to use the Home Office database to prove their right to remain, as the government had destroyed all the landing cards in their care in 2009.

  • Windrush Scandal protest – from Parliament Square to the Home Office. London, Windrush Scandal protest – from Parliament Square to the Home Office. London, Steve Eason via Flickr CC BY 2.0
    Windrush Scandal protest – from Parliament Square to the Home Office. London, Steve Eason via Flickr CC BY 2.0

What was the result?

Nationwide protests, speeches in parliament and a swell of public support saw a change in Home Secretary, an apology from Theresa May and a commitment to support and compensate those who have been affected.

Since then, the Home Office has admitted that of the 164 people who were known to be wrongly detained or removed from the country, at least 19 died before officials were able to contact them to apologise; another 27 have not been traced.


Windrush Day must not be separated from the Windrush scandal that highlights the mass injustices still faced by this generation of Caribbean migrants.

The influence of this group on Britain and British identity has been staggering and we owe them so much.

This Windrush Day we will celebrate their contribution to our country, through sharing some of their thoughts and memories as well as pictures from these gatherings, so watch this space.

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