Great Britain June 22 issue celebrates contribution of Caribbean migrants
By Pete Gibson
Great Britain’s Royal Mail issued eight stamps June 22 to mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the MV Empire Windrush, which carried several hundred West Indian migrants to the United Kingdom.
The Empire Windrush arrived at the port of Tilbury, England, on June 21, 1948, and its passengers disembarked a day later. The ship has come to symbolize the mass migration of people from the Caribbean to the United Kingdom in the post-war era, Royal Mail said.
The Windrush generation refers to the more than 500,000 Commonwealth citizens who settled in the United Kingdom between the arrival of the Empire Windrush and 1972.
Royal Mail celebrates the contribution of the Windrush generation to the United Kingdom on the eight new stamps presented in four horizontal se-tenant (side-by-side) pairs.
The stamps in one pair are valued at the first-class rate (currently £1.10). The other pairs are denominated £1, £2 (the international economy rate for letters up to 100 grams), and £2.20 (the standard international rate for letters up to 100 grams), respectively.
Royal Mail commissioned five artists with Caribbean heritage to create the illustrations for the stamps.
The first-class stamp showing passengers in the foreground and the Empire Windrush in the background comes from an illustration titled “From Small Island Life to Big Island Dreams” by Kareen Cox, who also designed the £2.20 stamp titled “Taste of the Caribbean.”
Another £2.20 stamp shows the illustration “Dancehall Rhythms” by Alvin Kofi.
Tomekah George provided the illustration “Ode to Saturday Schools” for the first-class stamp that shows a teacher and students. According to the text in the presentation pack included with the stamp issue, members of the Windrush generation established their own supplementary Saturday schools when schools failed their children.
An artist named Bokiba illustrated the £1 stamp showing a carnival parade and the £2 stamp showing cricket players. The illustrations are titled “Carnival Come Thru!” and “Here We Come,” respectively.
“Carnival has become one of the most important and lasting visual statements of the impact of West Indians on the UK,” the presentation pack said, “with many events now taking place across the country. The same is true of cricket: West Indians brought with them a certain style, with whistles and tin cans filled with pebbles, and an exuberance that was infectious and that has fundamentally changed the way the national sport of cricket is played and enjoyed.”
The other £1 stamp shows two individuals in an illustration by Emma Prempeh titled “Basking in the Sun After a Hard Work Day.” Prempeh also provided the illustration “The March” for a £2 stamp.
The imagery in Prempeh’s illustrations brings to mind the challenges faced by the Windrush generation even as they provided necessary labor. The presentation pack describes how recruiters were sent to the Caribbean to help fill a shortage of 54,000 nurses at the National Health Service. Still, the immigrants faced housing discrimination and felt the ramifications of race riots.
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