Honouring the Windrush generation for their contributions to Britain

Olive Jones, 22 June 2022

While Windrush Day is a day of celebration, it’s also an opportunity to reflect on the difficulties faced by the Windrush generation both in the past and present.

As a proud Black Brit with Jamaican heritage, I would like to say thank you to the 1027 passengers on HMT Empire Windrush for making the brave decision to leave their home nations, paving the way for the Afro Caribbean community and winning over hearts and minds in Britain.

First officially recognised as a day of celebration in 2017, Windrush Day marks the anniversary of the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush on 22 June 1948. The ship carried the first Caribbean migrants to the UK to help rebuild Britain after the Second World War.

It’s 74 years since 1027 passengers from the Caribbean boarded the Windrush Empire, eager and excited to start a new life in England. I wonder what those passengers would have to say about their decision to move, and their experiences in a ‘new world’. I expect there are some very sad and horrifying memories, as well as positive reflections about good times.

On this day we recognise and thank all those who arrived on Empire Windrush (known as the Windrush generation), and their descendants, for the enormous contributions they made to Britain during its recovery from the Second World War and have continued to make ever since.

Following the war, the UK was in urgent need of repair. The Windrush generation came over, largely from the Caribbean, to undertake a variety of jobs to help rebuild the nation. These jobs included the production of steel, coal, iron, and food, as well as roles in running public transport and staffing the NHS.

But it’s also important to remember Windrush immigrants faced hostility from some parts of the British population. Although encouraged to settle and take up employment in the UK, many were denied access to this due to the colour of their skin.

Windrush marked the start of a very long journey and fight for the Afro Caribbean community to secure equality and inclusion, and great progress has been made. There is a lot more to do, and people like me will keep on challenging the status quo to drive real change in communities across the country.

Social housing helping migrants  

Social housing has a long and proud history of housing migrants, which includes the Windrush generation. Our member Metropolitan Thames Valley (MTVH) is now a big, mainstream housing association, but was set up to provide housing for the Windrush generation.  

More than 50 years ago, MTVH founder Lady Molly Huggins established a charitable organisation to provide safe and affordable homes for the people who came to rebuild Britain in the 1950’s.

As one of just six out of 600 housing associations in the UK to specifically house migrants in 1957, Lady Molly was bold and courageous in her work. She stood against injustice and invested in the people who make Britain what it is today.

Learn more about MTVH’s history with the Windrush generation

Celebrating the Windrush generation

There are many events arranged across the UK to celebrate Windrush Day, which is always great to see as I think it’s important to recognise the huge contribution made by the Afro Caribbean community to British culture and the way we live. 

Windrush Day also shines a light on how the Windrush generation laid the foundations for the Black British society we know today. The purpose of the remembrance is to encourage communities across the country to celebrate these contributions made by the Windrush generation and their descendants and thank all those involved for rebuilding our society.