A day-long conference on the Windrush Scandal, which saw some members of the long-established community in Britain denied citizenship, detained and in some cases deported, will take place in Senate House on 19th June 2023 and reflect on a significant research project based at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR).

June this year marks 75 years since the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks in Essex. Over 800 of its 1,027 passengers came from the Caribbean; many of whom, like Sam King MBE, had served as military personnel during the 2nd World War. In the context of war-torn Britain, their labour was critical and made a significant contribution to the rebuilding of the country.

The anniversary overlaps with the so-called Windrush Scandal, which had led to several members of the British Caribbean community and wider Commonwealth being denied citizenship, detained and or deported under the State’s hostile environment policies. This injustice, which was forced onto the political agenda in 2018, was rooted in the fact that all members of the ‘Windrush Generation’ had right of free entry and settlement in the UK until immigration laws from 1962 onwards began to impose restrictions.

All were automatically classed as British subjects (Citizens of the UK and Colonies), until the islands of their birth became independent: dates which ranged from Jamaica, and Trinidad in 1962, to St Kitts and Nevis in 1983.

Since June 2021, a research team based at the IHR has been working on a ground-breaking project, ‘The Windrush Scandal in a Transnational and Commonwealth Context’. The three-year AHRC-funded project is developing a unique digital research resource of extended interviews on the national and diplomatic activism around the Windrush Scandal, supported by digitized government documents from the British archives and Caribbean government records.

Oral and archival research methodologies are being combined to explore the links between the apparently distinct spheres of international diplomacy and community activism, and the efforts made to support the victims of the scandal. The research team is conducting 60 oral history interviews: 30 of which are being focused on the plight of community members who had their right-to-remain in the UK challenged and their supporters (e.g., Church leaders, MPs, lawyers, charities, activists and journalists). The remaining thirty will focus on the response of Caribbean governments and their representatives in London to the ever-increasing legal restrictions that were imposed on Caribbean migrants to the UK.

Professor Philip Murphy, Director of History & Policy at the IHR, is a Principal Investigator for the project alongside Co-Investigator Dr Rob Waters from Queen Mary University of London. Dr Juanita Cox and Dr Eve Hayes de Kalaf are Research Fellows on the project.

The event, also titled ‘The Windrush Scandal in a Transnational and Commonwealth Context’, will be hosted in the IHR Wolfson Conference Suite on 19 June and will explore the roots of the scandal and its potential implications. Attendees will hear from a selection of speakers who will delve into various aspects of the scandal as well as related topics such as the history of deportation and anti-deportation campaigns, UK-Caribbean relations, compensation, and reparations.

The conference will also mark the launch of an official ‘Windrush Project’ website to share selected documents and interviews from the project alongside podcasts and other educational materials.

Additionally, the research team will embark on a series of roadshow events in British cities with significant Caribbean communities to share their work and source feedback. A second event on that day, ‘Remembering the Ship in Citizenship: An Evening with John Agard and a Celebration of the 75th Anniversary of Windrush’, will recognise the numerous contributions of the Windrush Generation.

The multi-award winning poet and playwright, John Agard will treat attendees to specially-selected readings during the event. One of his poems asks us to ‘remember the ship in citizenship’ and serves as the title of the event.

John will be joined that night by Tobago Crusoe, a composer and musician of the calypso genre.

Both events will be free to attend but require booking in advance. This article was originally posted on the University of London News Page and can be accessed here.

Photos from the Conference

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