Documenting daily life for the Windrush generation

A new exhibition by photographer Jim Grover marks 70 years since the first wave of many thousands of Caribbean migrants arrived in post-war Britain, showing a now mostly retired group of people in their homes, churches and community centres

Windrush is a word that has become embroiled in scandal over the last couple of months. Thanks to recent revelations about the government’s so-called hostile environment immigration policy, it has emerged that as many as 63 Caribbean migrants who came to the UK legally decades ago may have been wrongfully deported in recent years.

The Windrush scandal has taken the spotlight off what should in fact be a year of celebration, as this month marks the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks in Essex. The ageing merchant ship brought with it almost 500 young Caribbean workers to help with the post-war rebuilding effort – the first of many thousands of Windrushers who arrived between 1948 and 1971, and have gone on to help shape what Britain looks like today.

Alford Gardner, currently 92, is one of the tiny number (estimated at no more than 10) of survivors from Empire Windrush which arrived in Tilbury on 22 June 1948
A young Alford Gardner

A new exhibition of work by photographer Jim Grover at London’s Oxo Tower is celebrating the thriving Caribbean community in south London, where many of the Windrush generation first settled and still live today. Grover has compiled the series of photo-stories over the last ten months, following surviving Windrushers everywhere from their homes to their local churches.

The set of 60, predominantly black-and-white, photos highlight the everyday lives of people who are now in their late 60s to 90s, showing everything from the enduringly popular bingo night at the Stockwell Good Neighbours community centre, to rum being poured on a dead relative’s grave (along with whatever else they loved most) as part of a tradition often seen at Jamaican funerals.

Jamaican Funeral. Diane pours rum into her mother’s grave, ‘her final tot’, as part of a traditional Jamaican funeral
Dominoes: Three nights a week Caribbean men play dominoes in the West Indian Association of Service Personnel (WASP) club in Clapham, South London

Alongside the photos, the exhibition also includes the personal stories of Grover’s subjects, based on interviews that he carried out with them. A particular highlight is the tale of Alford Gardner, now 92, who is one of only around 10 survivors from the historic moment when that original, ageing merchant ship landed on our shores 70 years ago.

Windrush: Portrait of a Generation is open at gallery@Oxo until 10 June 2018. See Oxo Tower Wharf’s site for more details