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Spirit of the Windrush

PICTURED: Bishop Joe Aldred

BISHOP JOE Aldred of Churches Together in England and chair of the Ecumenical planning group behind Spirit of Windrush – Contributions to Multicultural Britain, a commemorative service at Westminster Abbey tomorrow (June 22) to mark the 70th anniversary of the Empire Windrush’s landing, shares details of how the service came together.

“This was always seen as one of the various activities that would be taking place, possibly one of the few that would focus quite singularly on the Christian community and slightly wider faith community,” said Bishop Aldred.

Choosing the venue

A few locations were considered but ultimately the Abbey was decided on. Bishop Aldred explains why.

“We chose to go to Westminster Abbey because we felt that the importance of the 70th anniversary of the contribution of Caribbean people of the Windrush generation was of such universal value that in fact we should take the service to the centre of national church life in Britain, certainly in England, which we feel is Westminster Abbey.”

Commemorating Windrush contributions

The Windrush legacy extends far beyond the first groups of people who came over from the Caribbean on board Empire Windrush and in the immediate aftermath. Recognising this, those behind the service were determined to ensure that young people were involved and well represented.

“We wanted a strong involvement of younger people as well as a fair sprinkling of the first generation,” Bishop Aldred said. The Revd Canon Joel Edwards agreed to preach, with the Very Rev Dr John Hall, the Dean of Westminster, officiating.

VENUE: Westminster Abbey


The service was designed to explore the themes of invitation, mixed welcome, resilience and overcoming. The need to organise the service months in advance meant that the programme was developed before the Windrush immigration scandal erupted.

However, Bishop Aldred said that the service would embrace that in some way but will be broader and deeper. “We wanted to look more holistically at the way in which the Windrush Generation, in spite of the challenges, have massively contributed to life in this country and to give God thanks for that.”

Caribbean creativity

The planning team devised a programme that celebrated a range of aspects of Caribbean culture. The programme will include:

- Karen Gibson and a specially convened 70th anniversary Windrush choir

- Shirley Thompson was commissioned to write a piece of music especially for the service

- A performance by Shernell Street Methodist Steel Band

- Terry Duffy’s celebrated 14ft painting, Victim, no resurrection

- Museumand’s exhibition on the ‘grip’, a term for the usually brown suitcases carried by people from the Caribbean on their travels to the UK lGospel soloist Carla Jane

- Young performers directed by Roy Alexander Wise


Bishop Aldred said: “Since the landing of the Windrush, there’s a signi cant contribution that has been made to help building the National Health Service, as well as the field of transport, and the elds of education, sport and faith.

“I hope people will go away feeling that sense of progression, that over these 70 years we have pulled our weight and contributed signi cantly to the development of British life.

“As a Christian, I’m hoping that what we will do is to give thanks to God for the strength, the resilience, and for the ingenuity that we showed in that time.”

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