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Thurrock celebrates Windrush milestone

CELEBRATION: The arrival of the Empire Windrush remains of huge signi cance to Thurrock

“BY THAMES to All People of the World”, is the motto of Thurrock and it never rung more true than on June 22, 1948, when Tilbury Docks welcomed nearly 500 people from the Caribbean to their new home.

The arrival of the Empire Windrush marked the birth of multicultural modern Britain and remains of huge signi - cance to the borough.

Ever since opening in 1886, Tilbury Docks have helped link Thurrock and Britain to the rest of the world, opening the way for trading goods and operating passenger line services.

While a number of notable people have travelled through the docks, including Mark Twain from America and George Orwell coming back from France, no passengers have ever had as significant an impact on Britain and Thurrock’s heritage and culture as those aboard the Windrush.

Indeed, the borough’s motto, which appears on its Coat of Arms, reflects the importance of the River Thames and Tilbury Docks in connecting Great Britain with the world.

The significance of the arrival of the Windrush has come into full focus in recent weeks as the borough and the rest of the nation prepare to celebrate 70 years since the vessel arrived from Kingston, Jamaica.

To mark the occasion locally, Thurrock Council had been working with the Tilbury on the Thames Trust, Tilbury Riverside Project, Heritage Lottery Fund and Tilbury Fort on a free community event to celebrate the important milestone in our history.

The event which took place at London Cruise Terminal in Tilbury on June 22 celebrated Caribbean culture becoming a vital part of British society and how the Windrush generation transformed aspects of British life.

Highlights included:
• An excerpt from a new dance production by Phoenix Dance (Movement of the People)
• A performance by the Royal Opera House Thurrock Community Choir
• Guest speakers, including the spoken word and the story of the Windrush and a talk from an ex-crew member of the Windrush
• Live music from the William Palmer Trust
• Dancing and singing with a Jamaican flavour
• Dance performances from local dance groups Elite and Tiny Tappers
• Heritage displays
• Caribbean food stalls

Cllr Deborah Huelin, Thurrock Council’s Portfolio Holder for Communities, said: “The arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks is not only an important part of our local heritage, but it marked the birth of multi-cultural Britain. It is important that we celebrate the contribution of the Windrush generation to our country".

Council backing for local exhibition

Thurrock Council has also supported volunteers and the Tilbury Riverside Project in hosting a special Empire Windrush exhibition over the last month.

The exhibition, which has been based at Tilbury Hub and is open to the public, featured a display of local history, stories and images of the vessel arriving at Tilbury Docks 70 years ago.

Even prior to the arrival of the Windrush, a great many migrants disembarked onto the docks of Thurrock during its rich history. From Bronze Age Beaker people to the Romans, Saxons (Thurrock is a Saxon word), Normans (Grays is named after the Norman knight Henry De Grey), Dutch sea wall builders and, more recently, Czecho-slovakian shoe manufacturers in the 1930s, the borough has witnessed the arrival of people from across the world.

Many of the companies operating in Thurrock today are multinational, including the likes of family and household care products manufacturer Proctor & Gamble.

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