by the RPC
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Published by The RPC
Photographs (Portraits) | Garfield McKenzie
Photographs (Family albums) | Wendy Leocque
Archive photograph | Howard Grey
Edited and text by Wendy Leocque
Designed by ICVL Studio
On June 21st 1948, the Empire Windrush, which was formerly a German troop ship, anchored at Tilbury Docks, Essex. The next day the new arrivals began to disembark, marking June 22nd as Windrush Day. At the time, news reports stated that the number of Caribbean arrivals was 492. The ship’s records show that there were 1,027 passengers. The British Government had called upon their Commonwealth for workers in the transport system, postal service and the newly formed National Health Service. The passengers on Empire Windrush, who came from Bermuda, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, were in fact British citizens, given a right to enter, work and settle in the UK under the 1948 Nationalities Act. Most arrivals were answering the call and some of those were returning servicemen from the Second World War, which saw thousands of men and women from the West Indies serving in the British armed forces, just as they had done in the First World War. Those who arrived from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1971 are known as the Windrush generation.
The portraits within these pages began as a small exhibition. Garfield McKenzie, a professional photographer for over 30 years, wanted to make visible a generation of intrepid individuals, who left their homeland to make the journey to a new life. These elders paved the way for the generations of black British communities who live in the UK today. Garfield could think of no better way to show his respect and admiration for these pioneers than to document their lives. He set about inviting the Windrush generation to his studio, providing transport for those with mobility issues, so that he could create these beautiful portraits that capture the very essence of these individuals.