WINDRUSH75: LEGACY OF LEGENDS
The Windrush generation helped re-build Britain after World War II, shaping the country we know today. We are standing on their shoulders. We were recently approached by the Windrush Committee to see whether we were interested in creating a beer to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Windrush arriving in the UK. We were honoured.
The result is Legacy of Legends. It’s been a privilege to work with the Windrush Community in celebrating such an important part of our history.
On the label are six such legends who we met via Windrush Generations UK. They were kind enough to tell us their stories and we’re honoured to be featuring them on the label. If you’re reading this you’ve probably scanned the QR on the can to find out a little more about Eric, Jules, June, Leroy, Veronica and Viola, and Windrush Generations UK.
June Foster was born in Jamaica and arrived in the UK on 29 September 1965, “I came on a year contract to work for a year in a mill, and after that you could go back to Jamaica. I choose to stay, I thought since I was here already, I might as well!
“After I left that job, my husband and I moved from Manchester here to Bradford. I did several jobs but the one I enjoyed the most, was the one I had last before I retired. I used to work as a care worker for adults with learning difficulties. I used to work long hours, and I did it for 12 years, but it was the job I enjoyed the most."
On 24 May 1962 Viola McKenzie arrived in the UK. “It was Empire Day, as they used to call it back home. I’ll never forget it. When I first arrived, I worked for a company printing magazines like Woman’s Own, before working for English Electric, helping to make parts of aeroplanes. But it was too messy. I used to break fingernails all the time.
“I then moved into nursing, and I did that for 40 years. I did auxiliary nursing, or assistant nursing as it’s now called. I loved it. Of course, at some point I was told that I wasn’t a British citizen. What rubbish. I had been here for 50 years with a British passport. When I arrived, I had planned on only staying two years; I’d work my share but then go home. And now, I’ve been here 61 years! I do go back every year, it’s far too cold to stay here over winter! I need the sunshine and good food!”
Jules Jarvis arrived from Dominica in 1961 having just turned 18: “When I arrived, I looked at all the chimneys and thought that this country will never be out of work! I thought they were factories! I was told quickly that those were all homes to live in, burning coal to keep people warm!
“I had a couple of jobs, at a wool mill and at English Electric, making turbines. But as a young man in Dominica, I operated cinema projectors. So, when I first got here, I went for a job at a cinema, had an interview, and the bloke interviewing me said I knew more than him! I was 18 but he thought I was two years too old. It meant I had to be paid half-a-full wage, with a full wage coming in at 21. So, I had to be on my way.
“I worked for 22 years for a furniture company, making, packing and shipping furniture and I was very happy there, I really enjoyed what I did.”
Leroy Thomas moved to the UK from Jamaica, but did have the option to move to America: "I'm glad I came here. England and the people were more reserved and approachable, I found it easier to talk to people here. When I arrived I thought the houses were all factories because of the chimneys! Before I came I didn't have much of an idea of what England was like and when I got here, a lot of people would stare and talk about me. But I'm glad I came, you got used to it and it stopped."
Veronica Benjamin was born in Jamaica in 1954, and moved to the UK in 1967. "I can just remember us getting here and it being so dark! It was probably only 6 in the evening. But it was a November. I was only young, but still had to do the chores, the shopping, just like back in Jamaica. I did miss the warmth and the sun. But I was with my family here. The fact we were all together was the main thing."
Windrush Generations UK was formed in 2017, incorporated in 2020. It is a local grassroots heritage arts and culture organisation with national and international impact, advocating to successfully charter and navigate the 7Cs of Windrush: Celebrations, Commemorations, Contributions, Care, Conflicts, Challenges and Change for the Windrush generation.
Windrush Generations UK’s mission statement is to: “Acknowledge, honour and preserve our rich diverse heritage. To extract maximum benefit from the legacy bestowed by our Ancestors and Elders for the benefit of the descendants to realise their true potential through collective organisation, promotion and sharing of our culture and history.
“To provide supporting, wellbeing and uplifting projects through our volunteers and strategic partners to enhance the quality of life for all generations. To overcome injustices and discriminations faced and to eliminate institutional hostility and inequity. To improve our communities' position with relevant innovative solutions, for the betterment of all facets of society and raising the standard for Windrush.”
All proceeds from sales of Windrush75: Legacy of Legends will be donated to Windrush Generations UK for them to continue their important work. For more information on the organisation please visit http://wcob.co.uk/