Mother and daughter launch podcast bringing Caribbean culture to new generation
A mother/daughter duo launching a podcast celebrating Caribbean heritage and culture through objects and memories have said the 75th anniversary of Windrush is a chance learn about Britain and the Caribbean’s shared history.
Catherine Ross, 71, told the PA news agency that she arrived in the UK from St Kitts in 1958, age seven, and that she had passed on her memories of growing up as a member of the Windrush generation to her daughter, Lynda-Louise Burrell, 45.
The pair are launching their new podcast, Objeks & Tings, in time for the 75th anniversary of the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush to the UK’s shores on June 22 1948.
The podcast is a chance “to reminisce, to retell and reshare Caribbean stories in a really fun and positive way,” Ms Burrell said.
Objeks & Tings features guests across generations discussing objects with a connection to their Caribbean heritage, from old photographs to a suitcase and a Dutch pot.
The pair hope to introduce Caribbean history and culture to a “whole different generation of people”, Ms Burrell said.
Ms Ross said that young Windrush descendants “may not have had the Caribbean side of their heritage explained to them”, adding: “I think we have a role to play in that.”
Ms Ross, founder and director of Museumand, the National Caribbean Heritage Museum, has made it part of her life’s mission to educate descendants of the Windrush generation and other British people about Caribbean history and heritage.
She remembers having to “leave the island shores and walk across a pier” on the day her family left St Kitts for the UK, and encountering an English apple and a baguette for the first time on the ship.
She said: “I thought that Europeans were a bit backward because they bit into the apple. They didn’t peel it. Back in the Caribbean it was different, you have to peel them.”
She remembers being “excited” as a young child to move to the UK, “because I heard Britain had a queen and we didn’t have a queen”, but suffered the “indignity” of racism from her peers growing up as a black child in a majority-white Britain.
She said: “For the first year, 18 months, people would insist that nobody could be this black and so they would spit on their fingers and rub my face, rub my arm or whatever, trying to get the black off.
“Caribbean children didn’t want to bother their parents with their tales of woe at school, you know, because we could see our parents were struggling to do other things.”
When she was growing up, she said: “Britain expected the Windrush arrivals to assimilate, to blend in, and not to do any of the things that we do culturally back in the Caribbean.
“Because we were a family of means, we felt it was quite okay – ‘let’s adopt the British way of life’ – but the thing is, it meant that parents didn’t tell us too much about back home, because they wanted you to adopt wholesale what life was like in Britain.”
She said that her family did “put their foot down at times” and discouraged them from adopting certain British norms.
She said: “For instance, they wouldn’t let you eat fish and chips on the street, which a lot of your friends did, you know, eat chips from an open packet.
“That was frowned on. That was not good manners, so we weren’t able to do things like that.”
Ms Ross has passed down her memories and Caribbean heritage to her daughter, Ms Burrell, who is the creative director of Museumand, the Caribbean heritage museum her mother founded.
Ms Burrell shares her mother’s belief in the importance of learning about one’s heritage and using the anniversary of Windrush to educate others about Caribbean culture.
She said: “Black history is British history. Once we were taken from Africa to the Caribbean, our histories were entwined since then.”
The 75th anniversary of Windrush on June 22 was “a chance for us all to learn about that shared history”, she said.
Ms Ross added that the anniversary was a chance to reflect on her generation’s achievements and contribution to British society, despite the discrimination they faced.
She said: “Britain wouldn’t have got as far as it had if we hadn’t applied our skills and knowledge in those early years to make sure that Britain was a better place.”