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UK to unveil first national Windrush museum site

HMT Empire Windrush, docked at Southampton (PA)
HMT Empire Windrush, docked at Southampton (PA)

The UK is set to unveil its first-ever Windrush museum after Baroness Floella Benjamin led calls in the House of Lords for a dedicated site.

Photographs, passports and letters from Windrush pioneers will feature alongside other personal belongings from families who came to Britain from the Caribbean 75 years ago while interactive displays will feature their migration stories.

The site, which will be a permanent part of the National Maritime Museum, is the result of a joint venture between the online National Windrush Museum (NWM) and the Royal Museums Greenwich.

The initial focus will be to research and document the impact of Windrush fashion and style and its influence on Britain.

Dr Les Johnson, who founded the NWM in 2021, said: “At the heart of our mission lies a deep connection to documenting stories of resilience, pioneers, achievements, and invaluable contributions to the UK’s social fabric.

“This canvas is both exciting and valuable as it commissions work to reinterpret these historical narratives in the context of modern life.

“This partnership represents not just a collaboration but a significant opportunity to advance the National Windrush Museum mission sharing the stories of the Windrush generation and their descendants.”

Dr Les Johnson, founder of the National Windrush Museum, and Paddy Rodgers of RMG (National Windrush Museum)
Dr Les Johnson, founder of the National Windrush Museum, and Paddy Rodgers of RMG (National Windrush Museum)

A Memorandum of Understanding between the museums was signed in the House of Lords with Baroness Benjamin, former news anchor Moira Stuart, entrepreneur Levi Roots and actor Rudolph Walker all present. A date for the opening of the new museum has not yet been set.

Baroness Benjamin tweeted afterwards: “This signing ... proves ‘everything happens for a reason’. Because I made a speech celebrating Caribbean history in which I described the idea of creating a Windrush museum as a great legacy. Who would have thought?”

There are approximately 2,500 museums in Britain – however, there is no Windrush museum or building that exclusively highlights the legacies of Windrush pioneers or their descendants.

Baroness Benjamin, former news anchor Moira Stuart, entrepreneur Levi Roots and actor Rudolph Walker were all present (Rudolph Walker/X)
Baroness Benjamin, former news anchor Moira Stuart, entrepreneur Levi Roots and actor Rudolph Walker were all present (Rudolph Walker/X)

Dr Johnson set up the National Windrush Museum to research, document and preserve the legacy of the Windrush generation and their successors.

Activities outlined in the MOU include the development of new programmes for schools and young people and collaborative research and digital media initiatives.

The signing of the document coincides with the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush – an event that was marked by national commemorative celebrations throughout 2023.

“It is a privilege to be able to sign this document and I look forward to a successful relationship with the National Windrush Museum,” said Paddy Rodgers, CEO of Royal Museums Greenwich.