Leeds City Museum celebrate Windrush generation amidst scandal

October 4, 2018

As the political row over citizenship continues, Leeds City Council have launched a new exhibition in the Leeds City Museum on Windrush Generation in Leeds.

By Sophie Atkinson

Outside Leeds City Muesum

Leeds City Museum, located in the centre of Leeds, has a new Windrush exhibition.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush to the UK, bringing immigrants from the Commonwealth to the UK.

The Leeds exhibition comes in the middle of the ongoing ‘Windrush scandal’ after it emerged that some people who believed they were British citizens did not have the correct documentation and were asked to leave.

The scandal has spanned over several years and saw the Home Office wrongfully detaining or removing 18 people from the UK.

Local stories

Whilst this issue is ongoing, Leeds City Council has commissioned an exhibition showcasing local stories and real photographs dating back to the year the Empire Windrush arrived in Essex in 1948.

However, whilst the local council are praising the Windrush generation, others say the government are doing their hardest to forget.

“Absolute disgrace”

MP for Leeds North East, Fabian Hamilton, told Leeds Hacks: “It’s an absolute disgrace that this scandal is still ongoing and that some members of the Windrush generation are still being treated with such blatant contempt and disrespect by the government.”

Many are calling for compensation to victims who have been affected by wrongful deportation and those who have had to prove their legal citizenship, but the process has been a slow one.

“Scandal is discrimination”

Leeds Hacks spoke to Trevor Rene, whose grandfather came to the UK in 1948. He says the government are definitely “delaying compensation,” and “there shouldn’t be if’s or but’s.”

Rene also believes the “Windrush scandal is discrimination and a racist act towards commonwealth citizens,” which has “happened because of Theresa May’s nasty hostile environment policy.”

Fabian Hamilton says: “I do not think any financial sum would make up for the brutal nature of the hostile environment policy peddled by Theresa May as Home Secretary and now as Prime Minister.

“The only way the government could ever end this scandal is to the end the hostile environment policy immediately.

“Theresa May has repeatedly refused to apologise for her hostile environment policy, which has led to many losing their homes, being denied healthcare, or being wrongly deported.”

The government claimed that the hostile environment was to tackle illegal immigration, when in reality is has consistently targeted people who are here legally.”

Representing different cultures

Khadijah Ibrahiim, coordinator of the exhibition and of Jamaican parentage, says the Leeds City Museum hopes to “celebrate the Windrush movement” and aims to show just how much these individuals “contributed to British society.”

“It’s very important for different cultures to be represented to stop any hostility, which is why the exhibition aims to showcase all aspects of the Windrush generations’ lives.”

From weddings shortly after they arrive to popular music at the time, this is shown through real-life stories of those who arrived in 1948, or relatives.

One individual who is featured in the exhibition, through stories and photographs, is Alford Gardner.

Alford Gardner, a 91 year-old who was amongst 492 Caribbean passengers on board the SS Empire Windrush.

Alford (right) with his friend in their RAF uniforms. Credit: Leeds City Museums

Gardner was a passenger on-board the SS Empire Windrush in 1948. This ship brought 492 people from the Caribbean to the UK, after they were invited by the British government to help with the post-war skills shortage.

Originally from Jamaica, Alford Gardner served in the Royal Air Force before settling in Leeds, after taking a college course in the city.

According to The Guardian, Gardner has “encountered flashes of hostility over the decades, but says he is happy he settled in the UK.”

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