Caribritish - Children Of Windrush


012018060820180725 (R4)

Journalist Hugh Muir examines Carib-British identity through the descendants of Windrush.

In the first of a two part series, journalist Hugh Muir examines Carib-British identity through the descendants of Windrush.

Seventy years ago, 492 men and women disembarked at Tilbury dock from the Empire Windrush. We have seen the photos and the newsreels. But what happened next? What do we know about the families they built here, the children and grandchildren? Did the Caribbean culture they brought with them endure, or are their children and grandchildren in all ways British?

Hugh Muir explores the lives and identities of British Caribbeans in the UK.

There are almost 1 million people in the UK who identify as having Caribbean or mixed Caribbean heritage. Through the stories and memories of Hugh's family and others, he tries to understand how a British Caribbean presence and identity was formed over three generations.

This first episode is set between two homes - that of Hugh's dad, William Edward in rural Aberdeen, south west Jamaica, and the traditional Caribbean front room of the 1960s and 70s. It was in this symbolic space that many West-Indian parents, including Hugh's now ageing and frail father, paraded the beliefs and values they sought to pass down to subsequent generations - religious values, work ethic and aspiration. It was where children absorbed their parents' culture via the radiogram, blues parties, prayer gatherings and stories of "back home".

But passing the torch from conservative parents with a sense of Empire and notions of the Motherland to children forced to navigate Britain as it was, while forming their own identities, was not an easy process. There was conflict inside and outside the home and a struggle with the authorities, which continues to this day with the Windrush immigration scandal.

And yet there emerged from that process an explosion of vital and distinct British Caribbean culture - lovers rock, the soundsystem, a look, and a vocabulary that helped the Windrush children stamp their imprint on British society and pave the way for the next generation.

A Cast Iron Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

02Caribritish: Children Of Windrush (part 2)2018061520180726 (R4)

Journalist Hugh Muir meets the grandchildren of the Windrush pioneers.

Journalist Hugh Muir examines Carib-British identity through the descendants of Windrush.

In the second part of his exploration into British Caribbean identity, journalist Hugh Muir meets the grandchildren of the Windrush pioneers.

They are born here to parents born or brought up in Britain, they speak with British accents and the island rivalries of their grandparents are long gone. So how Caribbean do they feel - if it all?

Through conversations with young British Caribbeans, including his daughter Ruby and the producer Zakia Sewell, Hugh asks whether the Windrushers' attitudes and culture still serve this young generation navigating modern Britain.

Today, there are young British Caribbeans working in all areas of public life - in the arts, in business, education and the civil service. Many are living out the dreams of their grandparents. Hugh meets members of Young Identity, a spoken-word collective from Manchester, who are proud to hear their grandparents' patois infiltrating British language and music. He also talks to Nicholas Daley, a mixed-heritage fashion designer who takes cues from the dashing Windrushers in their sharp suits and hats.

While the Windrush look and language might provide inspiration for some, for others the traditional values of the grandparents are a hindrance. Selina Stone, a theology lecturer, wants her Pentecostal church to address more of the difficult issues facing her generation. For Craig Pinkey, a criminology lecturer and youth worker, there's an unconscious bias in the workplace and for the young Caribbeans he works with in inner city Birmingham, it's poverty and alienation.

On his journey, Hugh meets Tia Simon Campbell and Naeem Davis who run a queer club night called BBZ, something their more conservative grandparents would never have imagined. But like many of their peers, they still identify with their Caribbeaness. Although they've only ever visited the sunny islands, they feel a huge gratitude for the hard work and endurance of the Windrushers who set out to create a better life for their descendants.

Produced by Zakia Sewell
A Cast Iron Radio production for BBC Radio 4.