Unheard oral histories are released by the Museum of London to mark Windrush Day

windrush 3
The Hamburg-Lloyd liner Monte Rosa at the Greenwich Tier, on 8th September, 1934, Albert Gravely Linney
The ‘Monte Rosa’ was renamed the ‘Empire Windrush’ after she was captured by the British at the end of Word War II. To the left is the Elder Dempster Line’s ‘New Toronto’ which was sunk by a U-boat in 1942.  © Museum of London

In commemoration of Windrush Day, the Museum of London has released, for the first time, a selection of unheard oral histories from its collection. Recorded in 2018 as part of the Conversation Booth project at The Arrival event in City Hall, the Windrush Conversations tell each individual’s unique story of arrival in London and their time and experience in the city since.

Exploring what Britain looked like to the Windrush generation, these honest accounts provide an insight into the strong sense of identity as well as the strength of character and resilience of a community in the face of adversity and discrimination that lingers to this day. These personal stories have been uncovered by community volunteers as part of the museum’s Listening to London project, which explores and reinterprets stories from the museum’s extensive oral history collection.

“It’s fantastic that we’re able to share these oral histories celebrating the Windrush generation and the ones who followed. These vivid and lively conversations bring to light the lived experience of different generations of Londoners with Afro-Caribbean heritage, celebrating the contribution of these communities to life in London and highlighting the hardships they, and their family before them, faced as part of their everyday life in Britain.” Foteini Aravani, Digital Curator at the Museum of London

The oral histories will form part of the Museum of London’s new online collection of Windrush-related content which can be found here and includes objects, photos, videos and articles from the collections. Visitors at home will also find a list of additional resources to learn more about Windrush and the challenges faced by the Afro-Caribbean community.

This online collection serves as an important accompaniment to the objects and material currently on display at both the Museum of London and the Museum of London Docklands; in particular, our London, Sugar & Slavery gallery which contextualizes these narratives within a history of London’s involvement in the transatlantic trade.

Demonstration in Support of Joshua Francis, Brixton, 1972, Neil Kenlock
Demonstration in Support of Joshua Francis, Brixton, 1972, Neil Kenlock Protestors are shown at a demonstration holding a banner of Joshua Francis, a 38 year old Jamacian man who was injured in a fray with police officers and sentenced to nine months in prison for assault. A number of public demonstrations were organised to campaign for Francis’ release and the rights of black communities in south London. At Lambeth Hall, an appeal against Francis’ conviction was attended by hundreds. Demonstrators carried banners with images of Francis in hospital, badly-injured. Although Francis was later released from prison, his conviction was upheld.
“At the Museum of London Docklands, the London, Sugar and Slavery gallery encourages us to collectively reflect and think about some of the legacies around London’s role in the transatlantic trade. A key part of this acknowledges histories of colonisation, imperialism and forced and voluntary migration. Having arrived as part of Britain’s commonwealth citizens, the Windrush generation has changed the political and cultural makeup of London today. The gallery seeks to document these stories of identity in formation and recognises the way in which such stories continue to put forward important questions concerning citizenship and anti-racism.” Aleema Gray, Community History Curator at the Museum of London Docklands

During lockdown the Museum of London shifted focus to temporarily become the Museum for London as part of a mission to bring first-class online content to visitors at home while our physical doors are closed. The release of the Windrush Conversations and our Windrush Stories collection is a continuation of this mission.

The Museum of London is currently closed to visitors. Click here to find out more about their online exhibitions.

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