Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land

Welcomed by some as ‘Sons of Empire.’ Vilified by those spreading fears of a ‘black invasion.’ 70 years since the Empire Windrush carried hundreds of migrants to London, hear the Caribbean voices behind the 1940s headlines. Why did people come? What did they leave behind? And how did they shape Britain?

Entrance Hall
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB
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Start: 2018/06/01 End: 2018/10/21
£ FREE

Enslavement. Colonialism. Rebellion.

Welcomed by some as ‘Sons of Empire.’ Vilified by those spreading fears of a ‘black invasion.’ 70 years since the Empire Windrush carried hundreds of migrants to London, hear the Caribbean voices behind the 1940s headlines. Why did people come? What did they leave behind? And how did they shape Britain?

Revisit 1948 and explore how the Windrush story is much more than the dawn of British multiculturalism it has come to represent.

Learn more about the personal stories of the Windrush generation, including that of the Jamaican feminist poet Una Marson, who became the first black woman employed by the BBC. Listen to the sounds of the Caribbean, from jazz and calypso to the speeches of Marcus Garvey and personal reflections from some of the first Caribbean nurses to join the NHS.

Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land is a free exhibition at the British Library marking 70 years since the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks on 26th June 1948, carrying over a thousand Caribbean migrants to Britain, as well as the anniversary of the British Nationality Act 1948, which established common citizenship and enabled all British subjects to settle permanently in Britain.

Using our unique collection of literature, sound recordings, personal correspondence and official reports, the British Library will be exploring the deeper reasons why the arrival of the Windrush became a symbol for the origins of British multiculturalism.

This exhibition asks where the Windrush generation came from – not simply geographically but also historically and culturally, and how they shaped British society before and after World War II. Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land will place the experiences and struggles of migrants in the mid-20th century within a larger narrative of Caribbean history and decolonisation, and explore the Windrush voyage in a broader context of migration and the cultural shifts that were taking place in British society.

The exhibits also include a number of loan items as part of the exhibition, from Lambeth Archives, George Padmore Institute and Goldsmiths University, as well as loans from individuals with personal connections to the voyage, including the novelist Andrea Levy, whose father, Winston Levy, was a passenger on board the Empire Windrush.

Elizabeth Cooper, co-curator of the exhibition and curator of Latin American and Caribbean Collections at the British Library said:

“This exhibition tells a vital story, placing the experiences and struggles of Caribbean migrants in the mid-20th century within the larger historical context of decolonisation. Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land seeks to open up a conversation about the ways slavery, colonialism, and race have through history structured British identity and society – a context that is today more relevant than ever, given the recent headlines relating to the Windrush generation. It will explore the ways that culture has been fundamental to struggles for freedom and belonging.”

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