June 22nd was slated Windrush Day in the year 2018 on the 70th anniversary of the Windrush migration. Eva Wong Nava shares why June 22nd is an important day by taking a peek into history and stories.


As I write this article, the winds are rushing. It is strong today, rustling through the trees in my garden, causing a swirl of leaves to blow hither and thither. It’s not a warm wind, mind you, and we’re nearly in June. Talking about the weather is a very common British past time and I have embraced this habit fully since emigrating to England in the early ‘90s.


Like many in the Windrush Generation, I know what it feels like to leave your homeland for greener, but frostier pastures. I came to England to further my studies. Though my first winter in England was horrendous, and I missed my tropical home, I gritted my teeth and shivered through my studies.

“You never know where the winds of education will take you,” my mother would whisper into my ears when I was tardy with homework and grumbled at having to attend yet another tuition class. And I would think, “What a strange expression. I would rather sail with the wind to Neverland.”

Children’s stories are also full of wind – The Wind in The Willows (Kenneth Grahame/several illustrators), The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer), Kate, Who Tamed the Wind (Liz Garton Scanlon/illustrator, Lee White).

Today, I would like to talk about another kind of wind – Windrush. It is the name of a German-built cruise ship, the HMT Empire Windrush, that was responsible for bringing the largest groups of immigrants from the West Indies to post-war United Kingdom between 1948 and 1971. This immigration flow led to a generation of Commonwealth citizens who became British citizens, known as the Windrush Generation. Amongst the 1027 people who boarded the Windrush, more than half were from Jamaica. Others were from Bermuda, Trinidad, British Guiana and the Caribbean. A handful were from non-Caribbean origins.


The Empire Windrush at the Port of Tilbury on 22 June 1948.
Image source: The Guardian (31.03.2022)


And not all were from the Afro-Caribbean communities either. When I was an English teacher in one of London’s comprehensive schools, my Head-of-Department was Jamaican-Chinese, and her parents sailed from Kingston to England during the 1950s.


The history of the Windrush Generation is related to Great Britain’s colonial history. Many came from the West Indies, under the auspices of the post-war government, to fill jobs predominantly in the steel, coal, iron and food industries, while some came to further and finish their education, and others came as midwives and nurses. The Windrush Generation arrived in the United Kingdom at a time when the nation was rebuilding itself after a devastating world war.


Windrush Day was launched after a 5-year campaign by Patrick Vernon (OBE) who was the first Briton to call for a day to commemorate the contribution that the Windrush Generation had made to the United Kingdom and to honour them and their descendants, and to celebrate the diversity in British history. This happened after the infamous Windrush Scandal in 2018, which saw many people from the Windrush Generation being unfairly and wrongly deported. These were adults who had come to the UK as children with their parents in the 1950s and ‘60s.


I know what being an immigrant or migrant feels like; to be part of a society that feels strange to you, yet you know is important to contribute to, in what is now your new home. I was also once a citizen of the Commonwealth, living in the United Kingdom, knowing that my status here was untenable if I didn’t find a job that allowed me the leave to remain in Great Britain with a working permit. I once, too, also feared deportation. But luckily for me, that was not my lived experience. When I left England, it was by choice. I left in 2009 because the winds took me and my family to another continent, and I didn’t return home to Britain again until 2020. The first children’s book I purchased was Coming To England by Floella Benjamin, illustrated by Diane Ewen.


Floella Benjamin wears many hats, and one of these is Baroness. She is also an actress, an advocate, presenter and parliamentarian. To top this, she is a businesswoman, with her own production company, which she founded in 1987. In 2018, former Prime Minister Theresa May invited Baroness Benjamin to chair the Windrush Commemoration Committee. The Committee oversees the commissioning of relevant and significant monuments to the Windrush Generation. It has to be said that this Baroness has contributed to British society and to her community in myriad ways. Hers is a story of resilience and enterprise, which is what Windrush Day celebrates.


Coming to England, by Floella Benjamin, illustrated by Diane Ewen

I loved this picture book because it speaks to many, many children who know what it’s like to move countries, to make a new home with their parents in a foreign land, and, most importantly, to know that they’re not the only ones. Coming To England is also a story about hopes and dreams, and about dreams coming true. And children need to see that they can and must dream in order for dreams to come true.


Next up, I’d like to shine the spotlight on Benjamin Zephaniah. To many, Zephaniah needs no introduction: he is “poet, writer, lyricist, musician and naughty boy.” 


Cover of Windrush Child

Windrush Child (Scholastic UK, 2020) is a middle-grade novel about a Jamaican boy named Leonard, who arrives in Southampton with his mother. Leonard is a good boy who doesn’t complain or give his parents trouble. He knows that they came to England to “try to make a better life”. But everything is different in England, even the Jamaican food. And worst of all, he is faced with racist attacks in his new school and on the streets. This is essential reading for someone who wants to understand the Windrush Generation’s experience in their adopted home country. And I love a bit of historical fiction for children, which is what I feel Zephaniah’s book is.


I’d like to finish with this powerful and evocative picture book, John Agard’s Windrush Child (Walker Books, 2022), by poet John Agard, illustrated by Sophie Bass.


What a beautifully illustrated lyrical and poetic celebration of a child’s journey to their new home.


Cover of John Agard's Windrush Child

John Agard is an award-winning Afro-Guyanese playwright, poet and children's writer, who came to live in Britain in 1977, and has been based here ever since. His poems have been anthologised and studied as texts in the National Curriculum across schools in Britain. He recently received the BookTrust lifetime achievement award, becoming the first poet to do so. Agard is lauded for his love of language and for using his ability as a poet to connect with children through the medium.

As children’s book creators, we know that a story, whether it is a Picture Book, Middle-Grade or YA one, is informed by current affairs, family and personal histories and lived experiences. As a human race, our stories are a collection of our formative experiences that include all the things that we’ve been through as individuals. The three stories mentioned above are specific yet universal, and this is what makes stories resonate and linger.




Words & Pictures would like to take this opportunity to celebrate Windrush Day with fellow members from the Black, Asian, and Afro-Caribbean communities.

* Feature Image:  Cabbi Charles



Credit: Maya El-Glaoui

Eva Wong Nava
is a child of the diaspora. She lives between two worlds and is a citizen of many universes. She writes across age ranges, but her preferred writing age is between 4 and 8. She is the Feature Editor of Representation at Words & Pictures. You can contact her at, and find her @evawongnava on Instagram and Twitter.



Cabbi Charles writes, illustrates and publishes picture books. Cabbi was Shortlisted for the JerichoPrize 2021, and has enjoyed self publishing three picture books including one based on her St Lucian mother who was part of the Windrush generation.

Twitter @zuribooks

Instagram @cabbicharles





Gulfem Wormald
is the Editor of Words & Pictures.


Contact: Twitter: @GulfemWormald

No comments:

We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.