Indenture to Windrush: a salute to the invisible passengers of two imperial migrations

Thursday 4 May 2017

Britain’s part in the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition is well documented. But the story of the British Empire’s role in its sanitised replacement – indentured labour – is largely unknown.

That is about to change thanks to ‘Indenture to Windrush’, a live oral event at Senate House on 12 May ((6.30–8.30 pm). Organised by the Centre for Postcolonial Studies at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, it marks the centenary year of the abolition of Indian indenture, a system which forcibly brought Chinese and East Indians to the Caribbean for harsh labour on the region’s sugar plantations. It will also commemorate the arrival, nearly 70 years ago, of Britain’s first wave of West Indian immigrants aboard the passenger liner Empire Windrush.

Chaired by Trevor Phillips, former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and Mike Phillips, the co-authors of Windrush: The Irresisitible Rise of Multicultural Britain, ‘Indenture to Windrush’ is designed to highlight this almost forgotten part of our imperial history and celebrate the pioneering ‘Windrush generation’ which included the descendants of indentured immigrants.

The event is shaping up to be a lively evening. As well as migrants and their children talking about their experiences as minorities within a minority – living and working in a society which was largely unaware the Indian and Chinese presence in the Caribbean – there will music from Khalil Rahman Ali on the subject of Indians in the Caribbean, and literature. Professor David Dabydeen, UK-based award-winning Guyanese poet and novelist of the Indian-Caribbean experience, will do a commemorative reading and talk about Samuel Selvon's iconic Windrush era book The Lonely Londoners, and his own migrant experiences.

Other confirmed speakers are author and journalist, Lainy Malkani, Jonathan Phang, celebrity chef and author of The Pepperpot Club Caribbean-inspired cookbook, community worker Sister Monica Tywang and Rod Westmaas, co-curator of Guyana Speaks, a monthly spoken word event about all things Guyanese, past and present.

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Notes for Editors:

For further information, please contact: Maureen McTaggart, Media and Public Relations Officer, School of Advanced Study, University of London +44 (0)20 7862 8653  / Maureen.mctaggart@sas.ac.uk.