King says celebration of Windrush arrivals crucial ahead of portrait documentary

The 75-minute BBC programme marks the arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush in the UK.
The 75-minute BBC programme marks the arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush in the UK.

The King has said he believes it is “crucially important” to “recognise and celebrate the immeasurable difference” of Windrush arrivals and their descendants ahead of a BBC documentary.

Windrush: Portraits Of A Generation follows a project by Charles, who has commissioned 10 artists, from Britain and abroad, to create portraits of those who arrived to the UK from the Caribbean more than 70 years ago.

The 75-minute programme marks the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush to a dock in England and is being released on National Windrush Day this month.

The King
Ten artists were commissioned for the project (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The King said: “It is, I believe, crucially important that we should truly see and hear these pioneers who stepped off the Empire Windrush at Tilbury in June 1948 – only a few months before I was born –  and those who followed over the decades, to recognise and celebrate the immeasurable difference that they, their children and their grandchildren have made to this country.”

The first wave of hundreds of workers from countries such as Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago arrived in the UK on June 22 1948.

The Windrush Portraits Committee – a sub-committee of the Windrush Commemoration Committee – which has former children’s TV presenter Baroness Floella Benjamin and EastEnders actor Rudolph Walker as members – selected the sitters from across the UK.

The documentary will also focus on stories from the group – who include Sir Geoff Palmer, who is being painted by Derek Fordjour; Laceta Reid, who is being painted by Serge Attukwei Clottey; Jessie Stephens, who is being painted by Sahara Longe; and Carmen Munroe, who is being painted by Sonia Boyce – arriving in Britain and making their lives in the country.

Delisser Bernard, painted by Honor Titus; Alford Gardner, painted by Chloe Cox; Linda Haye, painted by Shannon Bono; Edna Henry, painted by Amy Sherald; and Gilda Oliver, painted by Clifton Powell are also among the sitters.

Directed and produced by Suniti Somaiya, the programme – which is made in partnership with The Open University – also follows the making of the portraits and the artists’ insights into their own unique creative approach.

The 10 portraits will become part of the Royal Collection and commemorate those “gave so much of themselves to rebuild a nation devastated by war”.

The portraits will also go on display at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh from June 22 to October 16.

Windrush: Portraits Of A Pioneering Generation will then be shown at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace in London from November 10 to April 14.

Windrush: Portraits Of A Generation airs on BBC Two on June 22.