I was fortunate enough to attend the service at Westminster Abbey on 22 June to mark Windrush Day. Me and about 2,000 other folk. The steel band playing in the church by Shern Hall Methodist Youth Steel band, set the scene. The harmonic twang of pan never fails to lift the spirit, and the mix of hymns and spirituals they played was a joy to listen to and even dance to as Baroness Floella Benjamin, did on her way in, with a willing member of the public! She received a hearty round of applause from the crowd, as she sashayed to her seat.
The atmosphere in the abbey was interesting: a mix of celebratory, joyful, respectful and thankful. Westminster Abbey – seat of the British religious establishment, where graves of diplomats, politicians and British royalty are buried and royals have married – was to host a service with a difference. I sat with Karen Roach, a pastor at St. James Church Hampton Hill, as we watched key names in British politics enter the Abbey: Prime Minister Teresa May, Home Secretary Sajid David, Baroness Floella Benjamin, Diana Abbot, Paul Boeteng.
The hour long service started with a solo of Jerusalem, sung by a girl with locks, followed by an enactment of Caribbeans coming to this country, some who may have perviously served in the war, detailing their thoughts and feelings as they came to Britain to help re-build the ‘Mothercountry.’
The service was led by the Very Rev Dr. john Hall, Dean of Westminster, and the Rev Joel Edwards gave an address, which intimated that the setting down of the ship had not been an entirely welcome arrival. “The children of Windrush have experienced over-representation in Britain’s prisons and mental health institutions, underachievement in education and in the job market.” He described Windrush as a spaceship and invited us to think about what where we would be in 2088, what shape would we be in then? “Settlement has meant racism, sometimes too much policing and not enough protection, and Stephen Lawrence,” he said.
I was so grateful to be there, and know that, in memory of my ‘Windrush’ ancestors (actually, my grandfather came over in 1955 on a ship called the Reina Del Pacifico), I still have much work to do.
© Suzy Rowland Rigg