Carnival Windrush set to celebrate contribution of the Windrush Generation

Carnival Windrush, an immersive and vibrant celebration and commemoration of the Windrush Generation, is coming to the National Memorial Arboretum, within the National Forest in Staffordshire, on 6 August. 


Carnival Windrush celebrates the legacy of the HMT Empire Windrush which arrived on UK shores 75-years ago, and the significant role the ‘Windrush Generation’ played in rebuilding the country after the Second World War.


Created in collaboration with female a cappella quintet Black Voices, associate partners of the Arboretum, this day-long free event promises to captivate visitors with its poetry, invigorating music, soulful songs and mesmerising dances. Hosted by the renowned BBC WM's Nikki Tapper, Carnival Windrush will feature carnival-themed arts and crafts, a colourful carnival procession, steelpan workshops, and captivating performances by Black Voices, ACE Dance and Music, the Notebenders, the Reggaelators, and many other talented artists.


“Carnival Windrush will be a fantastic celebration of the legacy, tenacity, resilience, style and poise of the pioneering migrants from the Caribbean who were invited to this country to assist with reconstruction in the wake of the Second World War,” said Nikki Tapper, host of Carnival Windrush. “It is an honour and a blessing to be hosting this event at the National Memorial Arboretum - such a fitting and significant location, focused on remembering those who have sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of defending freedom and creating opportunities for the people of this country.” After the Second World War, large parts of Britain were in desperate need of rebuilding, so the UK actively invited migrants from Commonwealth nations to fill essential roles in many different industries, including the railways, construction sector, and the NHS.


On 22 June 1948, HMT Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury docks, bringing more than 800 passengers from the Caribbean and marking the starting point of a wave of Caribbean migration from 1948 to 1971, which became known as the ‘Windrush Generation’. It is estimated that nearly half a million men and women from the Caribbean emigrated to the UK during this period, helping to rebuild the country and contributing toward British culture and identity.   


During Carnival Windrush, the ‘Windrush Pioneers’, a group of Windrush migrants and their descendants, nominated by care homes and community centres to represent the broader community, will participate in a moment of thanksgiving and reflection. This poignant moment will be an opportunity for everyone to contemplate how the Windrush Generation has helped shape modern Britain.  


The Carnival Windrush programme also boasts a highly anticipated premiere performance by the 'Sounds of Windrush' massed schools choir, a project facilitated by Black Voices. Over an eight-week period, the talented quintet has collaborated with schools across the Midlands to help pupils explore the profound story of the Windrush Generation through the power of music and song. The culmination of this incredible initiative will be showcased during Carnival Windrush, featuring a mass performance of ‘Across the Sea’ an exclusive composition by the renowned composer, songwriter, and choirmaster, Ken Burton.


Another special new composition by Ken Burton, ‘We Honour You’, will be performed as an ensemble by a group of adult choirs recruited from across the West Midlands; Lichfield Gospel Choir, The Reggae Choir (Birmingham), Town Hall Gospel Choir (Birmingham), Birmingham Community Gospel Choir, Voices Entwined (Walsall) and Black Voices. These choirs will also be independently performing a selection of songs on the main stage throughout the day. 


“Those who migrated on board HMT Empire Windrush, to help rebuild the economy after World War II, have paved the way for today's Black Britons,” said Carol Pemberton MBE, founder of a cappella quintet Black Voices. “I am one of ten children to parents of the Windrush Generation. It is because of their journey that I have been able to travel every continent and perform before royalty and presidents as part of Black Voices. It has been wonderful to introduce hundreds of school pupils from across the Midlands to the dreams, ambition and resilience of the Windrush pioneers. Every culture and community deserves space to celebrate lives lived and commemorate lives lost, and music can play a unique role in remembrance through its ability to connect people to themselves and to others.”


“We are bringing carnival colours, music and sounds to the Arboretum as we celebrate and commemorate the resilience, contributions and cultural impact of the Windrush generation on the identity and history of Britain,” explains Mark Ellis, National Memorial Arboretum Lead. “Sharing incredible stories of service and sacrifice has always been at the heart of the Arboretum’s activity programme, so we are particularly keen to hear how students have engaged with inspirational and moving stories from the Windrush generation in their own classrooms as part of our workshops led by Black Voices.”

Children participating in carnival