The Royal Court theatre has announced a celebratory film festival to mark 70 years since the arrival of MV Empire Windrush in Essex in 1948.

On 22 June 1948, almost 500 Caribbean migrants left the MV Empire Windrush as it docked at Tilbury Docks in Essex. Having responded to a post-war labour shortage in the UK following the Second World War, immigrants were encouraged to join the post-war efforts to bring Britain back from the brink. With further arrivals from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Bermuda, the term ‘Windrush Generation’ now recognises all those who arrived between 1948 and 1971.

In recent months, the Windrush Scandal saw the resignation of former Home Secretary Amber Rudd following the revelations about the ‘hostile environment’ policy which led to wrongful deportations and improper treatment of legal migrants. In response to the scandal, the Royal Court has announced Passages: A Windrush Celebration. 

The celebration will screen seven films for the seven decades since the ship first arrived, featuring works from writers including Rikki Beadle-Blair, Natasha Gordon, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Lynette Linton, Jamael Westman and Roy Williams. Commissioned and curated by writer-director Lynette Linton, who is herself of Guyanese heritage, the films will portray seven monologues, presented by the Royal Court. She said:

“I always knew I wanted to create something around the Windrush generation. It’s a part of British history. Yet, I hadn’t been taught about it at school. Why? If it hadn’t been for my own personal connection, I wouldn’t have known much about this period at all. And then the scandal happened. And I wasn’t even surprised. I was and am still angry. Frustrated. Desperate to do something.

“I wanted to find a way of celebrating how much our parents and grandparents have contributed to this county while acknowledging the struggle too. So I spoke to those with West Indian heritage around me, as well as artists I respected, and asked for their opinion. How do we honour this anniversary? What did we want to say? How do we give a voice to our community in a time where we should be celebrating our legacy but instead we’re worrying for our grandparents’ safety?

“Passages: A Windrush Celebration is our contribution to this debate. I am thrilled to be working alongside so many artists from my community that I admire and respect. We wouldn’t be here without the Windrush generation. It is time for us to tell our story using our own words.”

Lynette Linton will produce Passages: A Windrush Celebration along with theatre director, Christopher Haydon, which will be supported by Black Apron Entertainment and Misfit Films. It will include a day of food, music and cinema at the Royal Court in Sloane Square, Chelsea. The films will subsequently be released online later in 2018.

Dates for Passages: A Windrush Celebration are yet to be announced.