Yorkshire’s Windrush generation to share their stories in new film

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A new documentary is to capture the experiences of Windrush families who settled in Yorkshire – with filmmakers now looking for people to take part. Chris Burn reports.

The Windrush scandal has dominated headlines this year and led to the resignation of Home Secretary Amber Rudd after Commonwealth immigrants – largely from Caribbean countries – who arrived in the UK before 1973 were threatened with deportation if they could not prove their right to remain in this country.

The arrival of the Empire Windrush in 1948 is associated with the Caribbean migration to the UK.

The arrival of the Empire Windrush in 1948 is associated with the Caribbean migration to the UK.

The scandal, largely uncovered by Guardian reporter Amelia Gentleman, revealed many of those affected had been wrongly detained, denied legal rights and in dozens of cases, wrongly deported from the UK as part of a “hostile environment” strategy against illegal immigrants. But many of the Windrush generation who had a legal right to stay in the country were caught up in a bureaucratic nightmare that led to people being wrongly removed from this country.

Even those who weren’t directly affected were left questioning their sense of belonging and the fallout from the scandal is now to form part of a new film being made in West Yorkshire.

Made possible by money raised from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project from Kirklees Local TV, entitled Windrush: The Years After – A Community Legacy on Film will tell the story of people who migrated from Commonwealth countries to Britain/Huddersfield during the mid-20th century, shown through the lens of some of those whose families came to settle here during that period.

Thousands of people from West Indian islands such as Jamaica, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago took up the British Government’s offer to come in to the country as “citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies”.

Many came to live in West Yorkshire, becoming an integral part of the social fabric of today’s local communities in Huddersfield and beyond.

Kirklees Local TV, which is a Huddersfield-based social enterprise, will support local people of African-Caribbean descent to explore their journey, personal identity and heritage as part of the programme.

Volunteers from the local community will be trained in filmmaking and interviewing, before conducting a series of interviews that will represent important voices in the community that often remain unheard.

Milton Brown, chief executive of Kirklees Local TV, says: “Windrush: The Years After is a project that finally puts the African-Caribbean descent community on the map after 70 years.

“Those community activists in Huddersfield, those brave mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who had to fight against racism and adversity; and those people who’ve prospered and made it through the malaise of discrimination. This is a watershed moment that will set a foundation for the next 150 years, we hope, with regards to telling the story of the African-Caribbean descent community here in Huddersfield.”

The project will be done in partnership with the University of Huddersfield and academics Dr Heather Norris Nicholson and Professor Barry Doyle.

Dr Nicholson, visiting researcher at the University of Huddersfield, says: “For too long, the local histories of West Yorkshire’s diverse Caribbean descent neighbourhoods have been neglected. This opportunity to capture local memories, experiences and perspectives on film enables the legacy of Britain’s colonial past and more recent histories to be acknowledged as part of wider national and international narratives that are often misunderstood or simply unknown.”

Professor Doyle, head of the Department of English, Linguistics and History, adds: “This is a great opportunity to develop the history of people of African-Caribbean descent in Huddersfield, an overlooked area of study.”

For more information, or to take part in the project, email info@windrushyearsafter.com.