Windrush Day 75: three generations across two families reflect on what it means to them

Katie Templeton-Knight hears the stories of people from the Windrush Generation, who upended their lives in the Caribbean to find a new life in the UK.

People from the Windrush Generation and their descendants have reflected on what Windrush Day means to them 75 years on.

The Windrush Generation is the name given to the mass migration movement to the UK from Caribbean countries. This period began when the HMT Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks in Essex in 1948 and ended in 1971.

They were invited by the British government to fill a post war labour shortage in areas such as the NHS, military and transport industry.

Derrick Thomas, 86, was born in Guyana and was training to be a motor engineer but his parents encouraged him to travel and seek more opportunities.

Derrick Thomas was stationed at RAF Wattisham near Ipswich. Credit: Family Photo

Remembering that time, Derrick Thomas from Ipswich in Suffolk, recalls how he was not exactly excited by the prospect of coming to the UK.

"To be honest with you, I didnt want to come to England in the first place. I cried for a week but in those days, you couldnt go against your mother so that was it," he said.

He arrived at London's Victoria Coach Station on August 1st 1957.

Like many from the Windrush generation, Derrick quickly settled into life in the United Kingdom. He travelled the world completing national service in the RAF and later working as a flight simulator specialist and CT scanner engineer.

Derrick has fond memories of living in Suffolk, particularly when he was chosen to carry the Olympic torch through Ipswich at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

In his own words, he describes what it was like seeing the torch as a child in Guiana on a visit to the cinema in 1948.

However, life has not always been easy for Derrick and he has faced several incidents of racism since leaving Guyana.

Derrick also has described how the Windrush Scandal is painful to remember. In 2018, it was revealed that the government did not have records of some people who had been granted permission to stay in the UK. As a result, they were detained and deported.

23 people died without ever receiving compensation for the hardship they endured.

"I think its very important for the younger generation here to know about the Windrush generation because they set the foundation here. To be treated the way they have been treated is not very nice at all.

"You ask someone to come here and when you finish, you kick them out."

Despite the difficulties faced by Derrick, he has always had a positive outlook and made the most of opportunities.

His daughter Barbara now also lives in Suffolk and has two children and a grandchild.

She has also described what Windrush means to her and why shes grateful that her father made the choice to come to the UK.

She said: "My generation are really appreciative of what my fathers generation have done for us, opened the door for us to do and experience things that I might not have done otherwise and certainly not if he hadnt come from Guyana in the time he did."

Eden is heavily influenced by the colours and the culture of Jamaica. Credit: ITV News

For artist Eden Mullane from Norfolk, her grandparents, much like Derrick, chose to leave behind their lives in the Caribbean and come to the UK.

Eden's artwork is heavily influenced by her Jamaican heritage, with its vibrant colours to illustrate the Caribbean landscape.

She said: "Jamaica and Windrush heavily influences my work everyday. Growing up, I always remember my grandma talking fondly about her experiences in Jamaica."

Eden's grandfather worked in car production at Morris Oxford for over 25 years and her grandmother raised their eight children. They were also founding members of the church at their home in Oxford.

Eden Mullane's grandparents with their children. Credit: Family photo

As a nine-year-old, she first travelled to Jamaica and was so inspired by what she saw, the experience has never left her.

"It just completely changed my life and I was transported to this different tropical world of different cultures and colours.

"When I arrived back in England, I felt that art would be the way that Id stay connected with that side of my culture."

One painting with meaning is her grandmother's childhood home called 'A vista from Port Antonio'.

A painting of Eden's grandmother's childhood home Credit: ITV News

She said: "What's so special about it for me is that it represents my grandmother's beginnings and even more so with the Windrush generation, where they originally came from.

"First and foremost, the Windrush generation laid the foundations for the black British society that we live in. I'm very proud to be a part of that and I see a lot of strength and hard work and determination thats come from that generation."

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