75 years ago, on 22nd June 1948, the HMT Empire Windrush docked in Tilbury, Essex. It carried passengers from the Caribbean, who had come on the invitation of the kind, to fill labour shortages in the UK. Those 493 passengers were the first of many to come to the UK to help the country rebuild after the devestation of World War II and HMT Empire Windrush became a symbole of a wider mass migration movement: the Windrush Generation
In 2018 it emerged that the British government had not properly recorded the details of those who had been invited to come and help the country’s recovery. As a consequence many had their right to remain in the UK questioned and some, tragically and wrongly, were deported. For more information on what became known as the Windrush Scandal please visit the British Library’s Windrush Stories.
To mark the 75th anniversary Highgate Wood School arranged a series of events to celebrate the Windrush Generation’s contribution to life in Britain and also to highlight some of the struggles that the people of the Windrush Generation faced. To support these events the school welcomed the veteran broadcaster, Sir Trevor McDonald and the celebrated footballer, Brendon Batson OBE who had been a teammate of Highgate Wood School’s own Laurie Cunningham. One of the highlights of the occasion was the renaming of one the school’s main buildings in honour of the Windrush Generation: the Windrush Building
“Windrush in Our Hearts” was one of the centrepieces of our celebrations. A production scripted by our own Ms Rachel Board it relayed many of the stories and experiences of the Windrush Generation. Two productions ran on the day, with Sir Trevor McDonald watching great deal of the rehearsals. Well done to Malaak Alabdali, Leila Ali, Leila Bakalti, Rosie Bourne, Raven Bovell, Hannah Braithwaite, Naomi Brown, Lauren David-Sutherland, Afia Forde-Twenewaah, Justice Hammond, Hannah Lowcock, Sami McDermott, Zarina Mole, Faith Olabode, Daniella Owolabi, Sky Parke-Antonis, Beth Ratcliffe, Isla Short, Rosie Simmons, Naimah Solomon, Daisy Stokes and Baylee-Mayé Westcarr who performed on stage and also Maya Paul, Gabriel Shenker, Ava Smith, Christina Sotiropoulou, Molly Tong and Ava Smith who played a major role behind the scenes
Our students engaged with Sir Trevor McDonald in two separate forums where he discussed his long career in broadcasting and journalism and also his background. SIr Trevor was born in Trinidad, where his career in the media began, and was sent to London in 1962 to report on talks that were happening the culminated in setting a date for Trinidad’s independence. Seven years later he moved to London permanently, first as a journalist for the BBC and then as a report for ITN – where he established his reputation, being named Newcaster of the Year several times and regularly topping the polls as the most authoritative and trustworthy news present. He has received Honorary Degrees from at least eight universities.
Students, staff and also guests from Haringey Council joined Sir Trevor McDonald as he unveiled the plaque – designed by our own Design and Technology Department – that marks the renaming of one of the school’s main buildings in our of the Windrush Generation. The plaque reads: “To commemorate the lasting legacy of the Windrush generation to modern British society” The unveiling was one of the highlights to the commemorations that spanned across two days and included contributions from several school departments, including History, Art, Maths, Drama, Music, Media Studies, Social Sciences, Geography, REP and PE, as well as D&T
Brendon Batson OBE was born in Greneda before moving to Trinidad at the age of 6 and then migrating to England in 1962 when he was nine years old. As a schoolboy he was signed by Arsenal and whilst at the club’s academy he won the FA Youth Cup of 1971. A celebrated career followed, including time spent playing with the legendary Laurie Cunningham, who used to attend Highgate Wood School. Following the end of his playing days, Brendon Batson became a senior figure in the Professional Footballers’ Association, to which he remains a trustee. Whilst at Highgate Wood School Mr Batson answered questions put to him by our students and also agreed to referree an after-school football match
To demonstrate that Maths can be at the centre of everything, our students used mathematical modelling to illustrate some of the aspects of the Windrush Generation and gain a better understanding of the people of the Caribbean who came to Britain’s aid in the 1950s. They displayed some of their results in colour chalk graphs and pie charts outside the Windrush building. This mathematical analysis was also echoed by students in Geography who explored the demography of the West Indies and the routes that many took to come to Britain.
Together with designing the plaque to mark the renaming of the Windrush Building, our Design and Technology Department, with the help of our textiles students, design a magnificent quilt to commemorate the occasion and mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush. Elsewhere our photography students exhibited their portrait pictures of some of the surviving members of the Windrush Generation. These photographs are now on display on the main Art corridor.