BBC Arts works with King Charles on Windrush documentary

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BBC Arts today announced Windrush: Portraits Of A Generation, a 75-minute documentary to commemorate National Windrush Day on 22 June 2023.

Marking the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush to British shores in 1948, the documentary follows a remarkable project spearheaded by King Charles who has commissioned ten leading artists, from Britain and abroad, to create portraits of ten pioneering members of the so-called ‘Windrush Generation’.

Windrush portraits

The completed portraits will become part of the Royal Collection and stand as a lasting memorial to all the men, women and children who came to Britain from the Caribbean and gave so much of themselves to rebuild a nation devastated by war.

The sitters, selected from across the UK, have been chosen by The Windrush Portraits Committee, a sub-committee of the Windrush Commemoration Committee, comprising Baroness Floella Benjamin, OM, DBE , the Right Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, MBE, Mr Rudolph Walker, CBE and Ms Paulette Simpson, CBE.

Introducing the documentary, His Majesty The King, said: “It is, I believe, crucially important that we should truly see and hear these pioneers who stepped off the Empire Windrush at Tilbury in June 1948 – only a few months before I was born – and those who followed over the decades, to recognise and celebrate the immeasurable difference that they, their children and their grandchildren have made to this country.”

The sitters and artists are:

  • Delisser Bernard painted by Honor Titus
  • Alford Gardner painted by Chloe Cox
  • Linda Haye painted by Shannon Bono
  • Edna Henry painted by Amy Sherald
  • Carmen Munroe painted by Sonia Boyce
  • Gilda Oliver painted by Clifton Powell
  • Sir Geoff Palmer painted by Derek Fordjour
  • Laceta Reid painted by Serge Attukwei Clottey
  • Big’ John Richards painted by Deanio X
  • Jessie Stephens painted by Sahara Longe

Audiences will hear first person testimony from the sitters, many of whom are in their 90s, as they speak frankly about their experiences of arriving in Britain, making lives for themselves and the overwhelming contribution they have made to their communities, and the nation as a whole.

The film also follows the making of the portraits, as artist and sitter come together, with the artists reflecting on their own experience of undertaking this special commission, as well as offering insights into their own unique creative approach.

Windrush: Portraits Of A Generation is made by BBC Studios Productions for BBC Two and BBC iPlayer. The Executive Producer is Tanya Hudson and is directed and produced by Suniti Somaiya, commissioned by Emma Cahusac for BBC Two and BBC Arts.

The programme is produced in partnership with The Open University.

The ten portraits will go on display at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh from 22 June to 16 October 2023, and The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace from 10 November 2023 to 14 April 2024 in an exhibition entitled Windrush: Portraits Of A Pioneering Generation.

More information can be found here.

The Royal Collection Trust, Royal Drawing School and The Open University are collaborating to design an education programme to celebrate the contribution of the Windrush Generation, including downloadable teaching resources for schools and live drawing workshops. Further details on this are yet to be announced.

Throughout June, the BBC is broadcasting a range of programmes on BBC One and BBC Two to mark the 75th Anniversary of Windrush, including The Repair Shop Windrush Special, The Richard Dimbleby Lecture: David Harewood, Hero: The Extraordinary Life of Mr Ulric Cross.

BBC Four will broadcast a range of previously shown programmes including Lenny Henry’s Caribbean Britain, Windrush, Black Firsts, Eye to Eye: Mr. Magic Feet, Una Marson: Our Lost Caribbean Voice; and Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle and Sitting In Limbo which will be available on BBC iPlayer.

BBC Radio marks the 75th anniversary by exploring the different generational attitudes towards Windrush through factual programming and drama on Radio 4 including Windrush: A Family Divided and Faith, Hope and Glory.

Listeners will also hear first-hand accounts from passengers and the impact the legacy of Windrush has had on their lives on BBC World Service with The Voyage Of The Empire Windrush and Heart And Soul: Windrush at 75: Barbara Blake-Hannah.