Saturday, December 03, 2022

National Windrush Monument

London The Unfinished City
The National Windrush Monument.

Anyone travelling through Waterloo station, since late June of this year, will almost definitely have seen the 3.5 metre (11.5 feet) tall bronze National Windrush Monument. 

The Monument depicts a family (father, mother, daughter) dressed in their 'Sunday Best', while standing atop seven suitcases, which contain all of their worldly belongings from their Caribbean home. 

The monument is dedicated to all those who emigrated from the Caribbean to Britain between the arrival of the ship HMT Empire Windrush on 22 June 1948 and the Immigration Act 1971.

Designed by Jamaican artist Basil Watson the monument was unveiled, on June 22, 2022, by HRH Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and members of the Windrush generation.

Waterloo station was selected as the monuments location as thousands of Caribbean people travelled from Southampton to London, before spreading out across Great Britain.

London The Unfinished City
"The call goes out, to every corner, answered, in time, by a Rush of Wind."

Below you will find the poem.Around the plinth of seven battered and bulging suitcases there is an inscription that lists the members of the Windrush Committee, who commissioned the sculpture, and a poem "You Called..and we came" written by Professor Laura Serrant OBE.


You called…and we came.
In ships bigger than anything we had seen,
dwarfing our islands and covering them
in the shadows of smoke and noise.
Crowded, excited voices filled the air,
traveling to the ‘motherland’
– over weeks, over oceans that threatened to engulf us.
Driven by a wish, a call to save, to rebuild
and support efforts to establish ‘health for all’
in the aftermath of war.

You called….and we came.
Women and men of position in our homelands;
nurses with a pride in the excellence of our care.
With experience of management, organisation
and a sense of duty.
We appeared.
Smiling and eager to work on the wards, communities and clinics
of this England.

You called….and we came.
Our big hearts, skilful hands and quick minds
encased in our skins – of a darker hue.
Which had shimmered and glowed
in our sunnier climes..
But now signified our difference
– our un-belonging.
Matrons became assistants
Nurses became like chambermaids.
All the while striving to fulfil our promise
– to succour, to serve, to care.

You called….and we came.
The blue of the sister’s uniform
– seemed as far away from us as the moon.
Unreachable by our dark hands in this cold land.
But we were made of sterner stuff.
The hot sun, which once beat down on our ancestors,
when they too left their lands,
Shone within us.
Forging our hearts and minds
with the resistance of Ebony.

You called….and we came.
Rising like the Phoenix ,
from the heat of rejection.
We cared, we worked and we organised.
Until the quickness of our brains
and the excellence of our care
made it hard for you to contain us.
And slowly, so slowly,
the blue uniforms had dark and lighter bodies beneath them.
The professional care in our touch
was valued despite the strangeness of our speech
and the kinks in our hair.

You called….and we came.
A new millennium – new hopes spread across this land.
New populations, engaging and reflecting
the varied, diverse and vibrant nature of these shores.
Challenging and reflecting on leadership for health.
Moves to melt the ‘snow’ at the peaks of our profession.
Recognising the richness of our kaleidoscope nation.
Where compassion, courage and diversity are reflected
In our presence and our contribution:
Not only the hopes and dreams of our ancestors.
– Human values needed to truly lead change…and add value.

Remember… you called.

Remember… you called

YOU. Called.

Remember, it was us, who came.

©Professor Laura Serrant 2017

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