Windrush 75 - Reporting team

The Guardian

Reporting Team: Geneva Abdul, Tobi Thomas, Amelia Gentleman and Elena MorresiPortraits by Antonio Olmos and Chris Thomond Design Team: Chris Clarke, Harry Fischer, Ellen Wishart, Alessia Amitrano and Tara Herman

The Guardian showcased the immense significance of the Windrush generation in the UK by tracing four generations of people descended from those who arrived on the Empire Windrush in Britain on June 21 1948. The Guardian broke the Windrush scandal in 2018, exposing how the Home Office misclassified thousands of people as illegal immigrants, and has this year continued to break exclusives about the Home Office’s slow progress towards compensating those affected and backtracking from its commitments to reform.

For this series, prompted by the 75th anniversary of the ship’s arrival, we wanted to step away from the Home Office’s mistakes, and mark this cohort of migrants’ huge impact on Britain. We interviewed Alford Gardner, 97, who in this powerful and sometimes upsetting piece of oral history describes what it was like to build a new life in a country where landlords’ windows displayed “No Irish, no blacks, no dogs” and where he struggled to find employment, despite impressive qualifications. When he went to ask his white girlfriend’s parents for her hand in marriage, her father said: “What’s he doing here, get him out.” Gardner overcame these obstacles and now has 16 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren. This was a sensitively written piece, capturing one of the last remaining voices able to describe this hugely significant journey.

We spent months tracking down 12 children whose parents arrived on Empire Windrush, to interview them in depth about growing up as a Windrush child in the often hostile, racist environment of 1960s and 1970s Britain. These children, who have become barristers, headteachers, carers, civil servants, musicians, social workers, bankers, actors and surgeons, spoke movingly about their fathers’ arrival in Britain with a few shillings and a cardboard suitcase. They reflected on their own lives, achievements and challenges and how their parents advised them on combating racist attitudes and nurtured their ambitions. “If there are barriers in the way, leap over them,” one father told his daughters.

Reporters organised for four grandchildren of Windrush arrivals to meet and discuss how their grandfathers’ legacy has changed Britain. This was an emotional event, causing all participants to reflect on how attitudes to race and integration have improved as a result of the Windrush arrivals. The aim of these pieces was to capture the experiences of key figures in Britain’s immigration story before their voices disappear. We also discovered that one of the Windrush children was still struggling with the government’s misclassification of him as an immigration offender, 60 years after arriving in the UK as a baby and five years after the government promised to fix the scandal. When the Guardian highlighted his difficulties to the Home Office he was quickly issued with a passport. This series was accompanied by specially commissioned portraits and beautifully presented by the Guardian’s design team who built an interactive display from interviewees’ family photographs, powerfully charting how the Windrush arrivals made Britain a more welcoming, inclusive country.