The Windrush Generation in Cheltenham and Gloucester

Project Participants: Ben Andriessen, Mark Bonello, Rhiannon Carter and Ewan Lee Trehearne

In a new series of posts, History students at the University of Gloucestershire will be outlining progress on new research projects for the 2019 Gloucester History Festival.

After the government scandal surrounding the Windrush Generation in 2018, there has been a huge increase in interest of the arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks, Essex in 1948 and its aftermath. Our group has undertaken the task of looking into the experiences of members of the first and second generation who arrived from the Caribbean. Our aim for the project is to ultimately engage the local community on the historical realities of the Windrush generation and how these events shaped both Cheltenham and Gloucester over the past 75 years.

Our group had very limited knowledge of what the term ‘Windrush’ meant and our interests were mainly captured when the media and news were overcome with debates over the deportation crisis last year. The reports from The Guardian over unlawful deportations of second generation members and their placement into detention centres engaged our interests of the experiences of the Windrush Generation. Our primary concerns when we first started this project were to clearly comprehend what exactly happened and how it affected the lives of so many people. From this preliminary research, we found that ‘Windrush’ holds its origins from the name of the first ship that brought immigrants over from Commonwealth countries, especially the West Indies, the ‘Empire Windrush.’ The programme occurred in the aftermath of WWII and aimed to provide opportunities and better lives for any citizens in the West Indies who wished to migrate to Britain. This has shaped one of our primary focuses as we believe it is integral for other people to be educated on this matter as it has massively shaped the UK’s population. We also believe it is critically important for teenagers and young people to be given some understanding on this; we were shocked that even though it plays an integral part in modern British history, there are very limited numbers of people especially in the younger generations who were aware that the ‘Windrush’ even occurred, which respectfully includes ourselves. 

We have narrowed down our search on information about the Windrush generation to focus solely on the local and surrounding communities, in order to make the history more applicable to the population of Cheltenham and Gloucester. Mark has already undertaken research in the Gloucester Heritage Hub and has focused on how many immigrants from the Commonwealth nations involved in the scheme came to settle in Gloucester after WWII. Looking forward, we are planning to spend more time in the archives in Gloucester to see if we can find any data that could develop our research further. We are also planning to employ more local resources in Cheltenham Library to see how the programme and the experiences of those who first settled in the area were reported in local newspapers. Rhiannon has already been in talks with members of staff at the library to help with this area of our project.

Conducting interviews with people who are members of the first and second-generation of Windrush is also the next task ahead of our group and we have been in contact with Glen Francis who is a second Windrush Generation member. By being allowed to retell the stories of those affected, it will also allow us to have a deeper understanding of how they were affected on an emotional level, especially as they were raised in an entirely different culture to their parents who made the trip over from the Caribbean. We are also looking into discussing how the Windrush scandal was documented last year across various news outlets and how it may have affected their lives. Furthermore, the interview process is also going to include local groups of people who are also looking to educate the local communities and believe that it will be an important connection between the university and the wider community.

We are very much looking forward to presenting our findings of the project and hope that it will help spark more conversation and education over this historic event.