Goldsmiths brings Windrush exhibit to Lewisham

Replicas of the Windrush passengers landing cards-Credits: Ilaria Denizhan Cafaro

An exhibit that commemorates the passengers of the HMS Windrush has taken residence in Lewisham shopping centre. 

The installation, entitled Arrival 1948, was first unveiled at Goldsmiths, University of London, in January and was later held at City Hall in June. 

The exhibit features a recreation of the landing cards of those who were onboard the vessel, with the originals destroyed in 2010 by the Home Office for “operational” reasons. The cards were created through information available in the National Archives, detailing their name, job title, country of origin and intended destination. 

Dr John Price, Head of the History department at Goldsmiths, said at the time of the exhibit’s initial announcement that they “seek to ask questions, rather than present answers. We want it to act as a starting point for debate, rather than consolidating consensus, and to provide a wider viewpoint on Windrush, rather than retracing familiar steps.” 

The HMS Windrush famously was the ship that carried 1,027 migrants (with 802 people onboard originating from the West Indies)to Tilbury Dock in 1948 at the recommendation of British government of the time, still reeling from the large loss of life sustained during World War II. Over half settled in London, with those afterwards who emigrated during this period being referred to as the “Windrush generation”. 

The exhibit has received positive feedback from the local community. Ian Anderson,  a visiting Journalism lecturer at Goldsmiths and Linda Lewis, Senior Lecturer and Broadcaster for MA Television Journalism, have been working with students on a project covering the exhibit. He told ELL: “Local people have come up and seen connections with members of their family. It’s been excellent as people are being able to see part of their family story here in a place they wouldn’t expect to (in Lewisham shopping centre)”.  

Anderson believes that more empty retail space should be used for exhibits like this,  saying: “We could fill all this space with exhibitions and artistic installations like this that actually fires people’s imaginations, things that people can engage with and relate to rather than just a shuttered, empty shop.”   

The exhibit also features a map of London, with points indicating the post-Windrush addresses of those who settled in the capital. 

A map of London, with markers indicating the locations where the Windrush passengers settled-Credits: Will Craigie

 Such a subject matter is relevant more than ever in light of the revelations that the government had intentionally created a hostile environment, which had been implemented during former Prime Minister Theresa May’s tenure as the Home Secretary,  for those of who belonged to the Windrush generation with many detained, threatened with or actually deported many years after settling in the UK. 

The exhibit will be available to visit in Lewisham Shopping Centre until 1 November.    

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