“Carnival Windrush brought the Caribbean spirit to the Arboretum, with visitors treated to a magnificent display of colours, music and sound,” said Rachel Smith, Head of Learning and Participation at the Arboretum. “It was incredible to welcome thousands of people to the site, many of them first-time visitors, for a magnificent cultural celebration of the legacy of the Windrush Generation. Together we explored how this pioneering group of migrants helped to shape modern Britain, not only making unprecedented economic contributions to society, but leaving a lasting cultural impact.”
The free event, organised in collaboration with Black Voices, associate partners of the Arboretum, explored 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.
From early in the morning, the rhythmic resonant sound of steelpan drums could be heard across our grounds welcoming the crowds arriving for a packed day of festivities hosted by BBC WM’s Nikki Tapper. The main stage featured captivating performances from Black Voices, ACE Dance and Music, the Notebenders, the Reggaelators, and many other talented artists.
One of the highlights was the debut performance of ‘We Honour You’ by an ensemble of more than 200 choristers 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. This exclusive new composition paying tribute to the Windrush Generation was created by the renowned composer, songwriter, and choirmaster, Ken Burton.
One of the most beautiful and poignant moments during the day was a period of reflection led by Reverand Ermal Kirby, a leading Methodist minister who was born in the Caribbean. Reverend Kirby spoke about the challenges that faced migrants on their arrival in Britain and how they relentlessly pursued every opportunity for themselves and their children. The ‘Windrush Pioneers’, a group of Windrush migrants and their descendants, nominated by care homes and community centres to represent the broader community, were then presented with handkerchiefs embroidered with the words “We Honour You”.
“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 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.”