Organisers DJ Delroy Topnotch Young and Victor Richards put on a Windrush Day celebration on Friday 22 June, to mark the 70-year anniversary of the first group of post-war West Indian immigrants arriving in Britain.
Delroy tells me his motivation for the event was to give thanks, and express his pride for the Windrush Generation, “they paved the way for us; they re-built the country for us.” Delroy eased us into the evening with artfully selected reggae sounds, as aunts and uncles took their seats while pouring over the bar’s offerings, and sharing endless laughter.
My chat with Victor revealed a career in the creative industries, which spans over 25 years, and his legacy as a “Windrush Storyteller”. From his album, Illusion, Victor performed three spoken word poems, backed by cool reggae rhythms. He passionately explains how one of his poems, Remember Mama Remember Papa, is set to a backing track by his good friend, Lorita Grahame, singer of the lover’s rock classic, Young Free and Single. Remember Mama Remember Papa’s up-tempo grove, at first sounds like a party piece, on closer listen, it actually encourages the listener to harken back to their history – the history of racial challenges endured by earlier West Indian settlers in Britain.
My favourite poem, Blues Party, made me feel like a child who’d been sitting in the room when the adults started chatting, decorum tightly intact, as they forgot I was there and started to let their tongues loose. Blues Party tells illicit stories of young men and women enjoying nightlife in the Caribbean communities of years gone by. The ironic hook, which we were encouraged to recite, “no sinful behavior, no fornication, no rudeboys or girls will enter the kingdom of heaven”, along with Victor’s smooth dance moves and mischievous smile, remind us that grown folks invented shenanigans.
Much to my delight, the evening was graced with an official flair by the presence of former Sheriff and Lord Mayor of Nottingham, Merlita Bryan. In front of an intimate audience, Merlita told of arriving in Nottingham in December 1962 from Jamaica, reiterating a theme of the evening, “it was the coldest winter on record!” My highlight was the warmth with which Merlita spoke about her stay in Britain, despite the hardship that she acknowledges, she spoke of the opportunities she’s enjoyed, and her gratitude for them.
Merlita also expressed how lovely it was for everyone to get together and reflect on the contributions of older West Indian generations, along with having the opportunity to explore the household artefacts that were exhibited; artefacts that were once owned by Delroy’s mother, and were the subject of much anecdotal, nostalgic humour.
Good vibes from an easy-going crowd and continuous laughter whiled the evening away until 1am, with my attention firmly captivated. Following the government announcement that National Windrush Day will now be an annual event, Delroy has committed to host it annually, to continue honouring the legacy of those who’ve gone before us.