Windrush Cymru stories, in their own words - an online exhibition to celebrate a generation

Published 30/09/2020   |   Last Updated 06/10/2020

  • Stories of Wales’ Windrush generation forms a powerful virtual exhibition

  • Two online events will explore and celebrate the contributions of people of African and African-Caribbean descent in Wales

  • Reflecting the theme of 2020 Black History Wales throughout the year starting in October

Stories of a generation, told by the people themselves, form a powerful and insightful exhibition on how the Windrush Cymru Elders have influenced and enriched Welsh life.  

Coinciding with start of Black History Wales 2020 year of events, throughout October this virtual exhibition of The Windrush Cymru: celebrating the lives and journeys of a generation. Our Voices, Our Stories, Our History will be hosted on theSenedd website, and is part of Race Council Cymru’s Windrush Heritage Project, funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. 

Told in their own words, the exhibition features a glimpse at stories by 10 people – known as Windrush Cymru Elders - whose own journeys, or that of their family, brought them to Wales during a period of immigration between 1948 and 1988.  

Invited by successive UK governments to address labour shortages, many members of Caribbean Commonwealth countries decided to immigrate and became known as the Windrush generation - which derives from the ship the ‘HMT Empire Windrush’ which brought one of the first groups to the UK in 1948. 

Available from Thursday 1 October 2020 until the end of the month, the stories shared in The Windrush Cymru exhibition maps the routes which brought people from Caribbean Commonwealth countries to live in Wales and reflects what life was like for them when they arrived. It explores the challenges of building a new life in a country very different from their birth-place, finding work and the attitudes of people towards them, then and now.  

The stories show how they, and the generation after them, have made their mark in all walks of life: through the jobs they worked, careers they built, the children they raised and the contributions they made to community and culture. 

The Windrush Cymru 

Anthony Wayne-Wright from Cardiff shares the story of his father, who came to Wales from Trelawny, Jamaica in the 1950s and worked in Nantgarw Pit for over 35 years.

Daisy Maynard was born in 1925 in Bassterre, St Kitts. She was in her mid-30s when she came to Wales with friends in the mid-1950s. Her first job was at the Super Oil Seals factory before moving to Hamadryad Hospital in Cardiff to work as a nurse.

Roma Taylor was born in Antigua, Caribbean and came to Britain in 1950 when she was 15 years old. After training as a nurse she joined the army and served for 25 years. She is also the founder and Chair of the Windrush Cymru Elders.

Read their stories and more here

Lecture and online panel discussion

Inspired by the Elders’ stories, and to complement the exhibition, historian Abu-Bakr Madden Al-Shabazz will deliver a lecture exploring the Welsh Windrush legacy. The lecture, Windrush Cymru: A History will be streamed from Thursday 1 October, marking the first day of Black History Wales and to open the exhibition.

The online lecture will take place at 7.00 on Thursday 1 October on the Senedd You Tube channel. It will remain available to watch here after the initial broadcast.  

Later in the month, on Friday 23 October, the Senedd will host a virtual panel discussion bringing together people from a broad range of sectors to discuss and celebrate the contribution of people of African and African-Caribbean descent in Wales. 

Watch the lecture on the Senedd YouTube channel

Windrush overlooked in Welsh life 

Whilst media attention in recent years has raised awareness of the Windrush generation in the UK, it hasn’t always been recognised as something relevant to Wales. Highlighting these stories and their value to Welsh life is the aim of Race Council Cymru’s Windrush Heritage Project, and something that Abu-Bakr Madden Al Shabazz addresses in his lecture.   

Antonia Osuji, Race Council Cymru, Project Officer on The Windrush Cymru Project, said: “I am incredibly honoured to have been welcomed by the elders to listen, and document, first hand, the stories of the Windrush Generation. These stories are historically and culturally valuable to both older and, especially the younger generation. An awareness and education of the history, contributions and presence of people of African and Caribbean descent and indeed the Commonwealth nations, in UK and in Wales, is so important; and something which we should all strive to change. 

“So we are delighted to be working in partnership with the Senedd and The St Fagan National Museum of History on this enlightening virtual taster exhibition; and also thanking The National Lottery Heritage Fund for making this project possible.” 

As one of the legacies of the Project, the stories of The Windrush Cymru exhibition will be archived by St Fagan National Museum of History to help form a wider picture of Welsh life.  

Sioned Hughes, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’ Head of Public History and Archaeology, said: “The Windrush Generation and their families have made an invaluable contribution to Wales, and we are proud to be working in partnership with Race Council Cymru and the Senedd to tell these important stories in this online exhibition. The oral histories recorded by the Windrush Cymru project will become part of the archive collection at St Fagans National Museum of History, and we are immensely grateful to the Windrush Elders for sharing their lived experiences with us for future generations.“  

The Windrush Cymru was originally planned as a travelling exhibition and the Senedd in Cardiff Bay was to be one of the host venues. Due to COVID-19, it has been adapted for this virtual online exhibition, which allows access to an even wider audience through the Senedd website.  

Llywydd of the Senedd, Elin Jones MS, says: “These are the stories of ordinary people whose extraordinary experiences as members of what is known as the Windrush generation have shaped the story of Welsh life.  

“It is a privilege to listen, learn and enrich our understanding of the experiences of all of Wales’ citizens, and in this case, to celebrate the integral role of people of African and African-Caribbean descent in forming today’s Wales.” 

Work continues to capture stories for prosperity 

Professor Uzo Iwobi, founder of Race Council Cymru and initiator of The Windrush Cymru Project, has supported the Elders for many years. Hearing their appeals for their stories to be captured for prosperity and continue their legacy for their children and grandchildren. She continues to support The Windrush Cymru Elders in capturing their stories for younger generations and is delighted to finally see it come to fruition. 

Along with the virtual archive, The Windrush Cymru exhibition has now been scheduled to be on display at the Senedd in September 2021.