Much has been written and spoken about the so called Windrush Generation and Southampton has been a key factor in their history. The ‘Windrush’ generation are those who arrived in the UK from Caribbean countries between 1948 and 1973. Many took up jobs in the nascent NHS and other sectors affected by Britain’s post-war labour shortage. The name ‘Windrush’ derives from the ‘HMT Empire Windrush’ ship which brought one of the first large groups of Caribbean people to the UK in 1948. As the Caribbean was, at the time, a part of the British commonwealth, those who arrived were automatically British subjects and free to permanently live and work in the UK.
In 1948 the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury in Essex, carrying nearly 500 settlers from Jamaica including soldiers who had fought for Britain in the second world war. However, many people arrived at Southampton docks, and some stayed but many then travelled to London and other parts of the country. Most of the migrants came from Jamaica and St Vincent but a number also came from other Caribbean countries. A significant number of those migrants settled in the Newtown/Nicholstown part of the inner city and over the years moved to other parts of the city.
The West Indian Club Aka The African Caribbean Centre opened in September 1976 in the old St Mathews Church, on the corner of Trinity Road and Brintons Road. The Centre was to become a focus for West Indian social and cultural events for nearly forty years. Unfortunately, the building deteriorated over the years and the Centre was put up for sale and the building was bought by The Southampton International Church in 2017.
The closure of the West Indian Club stimulated a campaign to recognise the presence of probably the first migrant community centre in the city and a mural was designed by Don John, Titilopemi Alala and Brian Reed from Solent University dedicated to the West Indian Club and the Windrush Generation. The mural also reminds all of us about The Windrush scandal which began to surface in 2017 after it emerged that hundreds of Commonwealth citizens, many of whom were from the ‘Windrush’ generation, had been wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights.
There was widespread shock and outrage at the fact that so many Black Britons had had their lives devastated by Britain’s deeply flawed and discriminatory immigration system. For those who have been affected by the Windrush scandal, justice has still not been done. There is a huge backlog of cases still to be resolved. The Windrush compensation scheme has been a failure, the scheme is complex to navigate and there is a lack of free legal advice and claims take months to process and compensation offers are insultingly small.
Presently the are two organisations that are dedicated to the welfare of mostly Caribbean peoples are “Black Heritage” community association which supports older members of the African Caribbean community. They provide social and cultural activities which are designed to meet the needs of the group and act as a resource to give advice on issues which impact on this group such as providing workshops on health, finance, and welfare matters. The other is the Priory Road Luncheon Club which is connected to the New Testament Church of God and provides pastoral support to many older people in Caribbean communities that includes lunches and cultural activities.