75 years ago, just after the celebrations of the British victory for World War II, HMT Empire Windrush set sail to welcome 1,027 residents from Jamaica, Trinidad, St Lucia, Grenada, Barbados and other Caribbean islands. Mainly due to the thinned out workforce because of the war, the UK government made plans to invite those from commonwealth countries who may have also served in the British Armed Forces.
Throughout this time there was a period of mass immigration from countries such as India, Jamaica, Pakistan, Kenya and South Africa up until 1973, what has become known as the “Windrush generation”. It is important to remember this period in time as it changed the demographic of Britain forever, and still contributes to the growing diversity of different areas of the UK.
Although the Windrush generation brought a large workforce to Britain at the time and have passed on their legacy there have been struggles that continue to surface, even recently.
Due to the 1971 Immigration Act, Commonwealth citizens were able to live and work in the UK. However in 2018 it was found that the home office did not keep issued paperwork of those that had the right to stay, they had also destroyed landing cards in 2010 of those that arrived on HMT Empire Windrush. This has led to residents that have lived their whole lives in Britain, being unable to prove their citizenship.
The result of this was 83 people that had arrived legitimately in 1973 were wrongly deported, and many others were threatened with the same fate. This highlights the importance of continuing to celebrate this moment in time. It has been celebrated every year on the 22nd June since 2018.
Around Beeston there are many residents that are part of the Windrush generation, and have been taking part in celebrations. In Nottingham Market Square festivities were held, that acknowledged Windrush and their contribution to the city, as well as all the racism that they have endured.
They wanted to celebrate those that came to live around Nottingham and Beeston and to thank them for their contributions to working in factories, hospitals and public transport.
My Grandma arrived in the UK in 1974, a year after the great Windrush. She came here on her own, after enduring an eight hour flight from India, knowing she was about to get married to my Grandad after only seeing a photo of him. Fortunately, she had friends down in Coventry that she stayed with for about a month before marrying my grandad and staying together.
She joked to me that when she saw my Grandad’s photo he looked older than she thought, but that she didn’t have much of a choice and embraced him for who he was. She mentioned also that she didn’t care about anything else, all she knew was they would be in love and nothing else mattered other than her family.
They both emigrated to the UK, as they wanted better opportunities that the UK offered that India didn’t, the chance to work hard, earn money and make a better life for themselves. Grandma has always found it hard to sit still and she is always doing something. So when it came to being expected to be a housewife, she ended up breaking traditions and working in a knitting factory. That opened her up to new people and experiences.
After my grandad sadly passed away, it was hard to upkeep the needs of four children but she worked very hard so she could provide. She also loved being around people and I nicknamed her “social butterfly” because of how she makes sure that she checks in with all of her friends.
She values her community and how it can benefit others, without those that supported her my Grandma wouldn’t be the woman she is today. Also she is part of a community group so that her and her friends can keep in touch. They feel they have a safe space that they didn’t have when they first arrived.
From my own experience, it’s hard to feel like you fit in. Sometimes I feel that I might not be Indian enough and other times I don’t feel British enough. I have always felt conflicted by my heritage but I want any other descendents of immigrants who experience this to remember that it makes us who we are, and previous generations have been through so much just so that we can be here today.