Windrush generation honoured with two new public works in London

[Many thanks to Joan Anim-Addo and Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Gareth Harris (The Art Newspaper) reports on sculptures that were unveiled today—on Windrush Day (June 22), which remembers the generation of workers who came by ship to the UK from the Caribbean after the Second World War.

Two major public art works honouring the Windrush generation of workers who came to the UK from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1971 have been unveiled in London. The works—by Basil Watson and Thomas J Price—mark Windrush Day, the 74th anniversary of the arrival of the passenger ship HMT Empire Windrush at Tilbury Dock on 22 June 1948, bringing hundreds of passengers from the Caribbean seeking a new life in the UK.

Watson, who is based in Atlanta, Georgia, was commissioned to create the National Windrush Monument, which now stands at Waterloo Station. The monument was funded by the UK government Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities which provided £1m. “[The monument] will pay tribute to the dreams, ambition, courage and resilience of the Windrush pioneers who arrived in Britain after the Second World War and the generations that followed over the years,” a department statement says.

Watson’s work shows three smartly dressed figures—a man, woman and child—climbing a mountain of suitcases, hand-in-hand. The artist tells The Art Newspaper that the work takes on extra resonance in the wake of movements such as Black Lives Matter. “I think it speaks to an integration of cultures and races and so on… [it is about] respect for people’s culture, respect for people’s ambitions. It also reflects that we all, basically, have the same aspirations of progress for ourselves or families or communities. It speaks of all of that.” Watson spent part of his childhood in the UK after his parents travelled from Jamaica as part of the Windrush generation.

[. . .] The artist explains also how the creative process evolved. “One possibility was presenting a single figure that represented the achievements of the generation. But eventually, it came back around to the family and representing that aspect of it,” he says. But how will people react at Waterloo station? “The impact, the meaning and significance of it will slowly seep into the consciousness of the public,” Watson adds.

Watson has created several large-scale sculptures including Emotional Cliff (2013) along with representations of the Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt and the civil rights leader Martin Luther King. He was selected following a consultation process with the British-Caribbean community, managed by the contemporary public art organisation UP Projects. The process engaged with more than 250 international and British cultural leaders in the Caribbean community, who helped to develop a long list of artists. A public consultation was also undertaken.

[. . .] The London-based sculptor Thomas J Price was on the shortlist for the Waterloo work. His work, Warm Shores, has been unveiled outside Hackney Town Hall; the piece represents a multi-generational cohort of Hackney Windrush residents and their descendants, say the project organisers.

Price’s work—and another Windrush piece by Veronica Ryan—were commissioned by Hackney Council in partnership with the arts organisation Create. The selection panel was chaired by Mark Sealy, the director of the Hackney-based gallery Autograph ABP. [. . .]

[First photo © Steve Russell: Basil Watson working on the National Windrush Monument; second photo © Steve Russell Studios: Basil Watson’s work at Waterloo station in London; third photo, by Damian Griffiths: Thomas J Price’s Warm Shores, located outside Hackney Town Hall.]

For full article, see

Windrush generation ‘moved to tears’ as monument unveiled in London
Nadia Khomami, The Guardian, June 22, 2022

‘It’s not a monument, it’s a celebration’: Windrush sculpture unveiled in Hackney
Amah-Rose Abrams, The Guardian, June 22, 2022

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