Exhibition in Basingstoke Tells Story Of the Windrush Generation

MV Windrush docking in London June 22, 1948
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An exhibition about the Windrush generation has opened in Basingstoke and documents the birth of multicultural Britain.

‘Our Windrush Story’ tells the story of Basingstoke’s British Caribbean community through their own voices as well as images and artefacts.

The aim according to organisers Hampshire Cultural Trust is to celebrate the vibrant cultural tapestry of the borough, showcasing Caribbean culture and a legacy of community and faith, of hope and resilience.

And reflecting the fact that Basingstoke became a place of sanctuary.

Windrush arrived in Tilbury in 1946. Credit: ITV News Meridian

The arrival of the ship HMT Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks from Jamaica on 22 June 1948, bringing 802 passengers from the Caribbean, is a moment that shaped modern Britain.

The Trust partnered with the Basingstoke Caribbean Society and Friends, and Cultural Diversity Consortium for the project, which marks the 75th anniversary of a significant national event. The exhibition explores the journeys and the challenges passengers faced starting new lives and recognising the contributions of the Windrush generation who have lived, worked and raised families in Basingstoke.

The Windrush generation comprises 500,000 Commonwealth citizens who settled in Britain between 1948 and 1971. Having been invited to help rebuild the nation after the Second World War, they played an essential role in key fields such as nursing, transportation, construction, and both military and civil service.

Effie Blankson, Chair of the Cultural Diversity Consortium said: ”It’s really about making sure that the Windrush generation who have made meaningful contributions to Basingstoke are duly recognised. It’s a time to really share widely their stories and those contributions.”

Five years ago it was revealed thousands of immigrants had been incorrectly classed as illegal, something that became known as the Windrush scandal.

People affected by the scandal arrived to the UK between 1948 and 1971, when immigration laws changed in the UK.

Those who were incorrectly classed as illegal immigrants, who were also from countries outside the Caribbean, struggled to find work, housing, access healthcare and in some cases people who had lived their whole lives in the UK were deported.

Grace Powell at the exhibition. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Grace Powell, Chair of Basingstoke Caribbean Society and Friends, said the scandal affected the community deeply and worried people like her.

She said: “The Home Office did say ‘No, you’re alright, you’ve got a British passport what are you worried about and I said, well, no, people have been sent back so explain it to me.'”

“So there’s been a massive fallout and I don’t think it’s been really addressed because there are still people who have lost homes, they’ve lost belongings and people sadly, Jamaicans, were sent back or they went to bury a relative and couldn’t come back and were ill and have died.”

This exhibition features a special photographic commission by Tamsyn Warde and an immersive soundscape by composer Thomas Baynes, Chalkstream Productions Ltd.

It can be seen at the Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery until the end of July.

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