Windrush & Diversity: Stories of a Hackney Generation
A collection of booklets and podcasts from Hackney CVS have helped to record and celebrate the diversity of Hackney.
Matt Bray of Hackney Council for Voluntary Service introduces two projects that have amplified the voices and experiences of older people in the London borough.
“I got the life I wanted in London, very much so. London is just London. And Hackney, more than all, is lovely. I love Hackney so much – it’s the people.” Olive Johnson
Connect Hackney is one of 14 programmes across England funded by The National Lottery Community Fund’s ‘Fulfilling Lives, Ageing Better programme.
Within Connect Hackney we run a media group where Hackney residents aged 50+ receive training in computers, photography, interviewing and writing skills. Many of the participants in the group are aged in their 70s and 80s and many are learning to use digital technology for the very first time.
As well as learning, members produce stories, photography, and audio for the Connect Hackney website and for our quarterly Hackney Senior magazine. They also produced the content for two stand alone media projects – Windrush and Diversity.
The media group has been running for almost six years now.
“When I first see London I say ‘Oh, this is London, the Queen’s country?’ I find it very dirty. But I didn’t find it hard to adjust, because when I come, I come with the sunshine in my bones still, so I wasn’t feeling cold you know!” Janet Nickie
In 2018 we ran a media project about Windrush, to record and celebrate the stories and contribution to UK society of the Windrush generation who had arrived between the late 1940s and the early 1970s, invited by the government to help rebuild Britain after the Second World War.
Members of the media group brought in photos of themselves and their families from over the years which got everyone talking and reminiscing. Many common themes came up through storytelling, including places of work, in particular the many clothes factories in Hackney at the time and the NHS, how dirty and smoggy London was in earlier years, and the hostility and racism that was experienced over the years up until and including the recent Windrush scandal.
The stories were recorded in a commemorative booklet which you can download here. They were also recorded as a series of podcasts.
The project was launched in partnership with Hackney Council at a Carribean Tea Party at Hackney Town Hall. There was an evident sense of pride and enjoyment from the group in documenting their stories and seeing them launched to a live audience.
In a foreword to the publication, Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, wrote: “Economically, socially and culturally the Windrush generation have made their contributions, for which they will be cherished.”
"I trained at Homerton Hospital and I lived in the nurses’ home. I loved it. I met different girls... from the Philippines, from Malaysia – and that was lovely too... One or two of them I still see, and we phone and talk to each other about old times in the nurses’ home.” Anita Ceesay
Following the success of the Windrush project, we ran a media project to record and celebrate Hackney’s Diversity in 2019.
Participants from a range of communities including Nigerian, Ghanaian, Turkish, American, Jewish, Vietnamese and Chinese all told their stories through a commemorative booklet and a series of short films. We also documented the lives of adults with learning disabilities and the experiences of members of LGBTQ+ communities.
Diversity, like the Windrush project, celebrates the experience and contribution that older people have made and continue to make to our borough.
Harold Rubin, aged 92 and originally from New York, has been a Hackney resident since 1970. Reflecting on a life lived to the full including a career as an interior and architectural designer, art gallery owner and part-time journalist, he comments: “You can do quite a lot if you start at 17 and reach 92.”
In a foreword to the publication, Jennette Arnold OBE AM, comments: “It is vital that in Hackney we reach out to hear the voices of older residents and let their experiences and wisdom inform our understanding of the world.”
Diversity was launched with panel discussions, film screenings, the launch of the booklet and dancing at a Hackney community hall in the autumn of 2019.
To read more about the Diversity Project, click here.
Contact: Matt Bray, Communications Director, [email protected]
Photo credit for thumbnail image: Wikimedia Commons published under the Creative Commons licence.