In celebration of 75 years since the Windrush docked, Royal Mail commissioned five Black British artists of Caribbean descent, to create eight commemorative stamps. I was tasked with creating two of these stamps.
The themes that I was given were ‘The Arrival’ and food in a market-place setting. These are my interpretations of these subjects.
The Windrush Generation
The HMS Empire Windrush Belfast arrived at Tilbury Docks on 22 June 1948. It carried hundreds of passengers from the Caribbean in response to the ‘motherland’ calling out to the commonwealth countries for aid after the second World War. Over the ensuing years, people came in their thousands. Arrivals between 1948 and 1971 are termed the Windrush Generation.
My mum originates from St Lucia and my dad from Barbados and they both came over in the 1960s. Housing was difficult to come by as well as decent paying jobs. At one point my mum held down three jobs so that she could make ends meet and give her children more than the bare minimum. I’m a 70s girl. I think it’s important to mention that I never went hungry, I was clothed (although I wore my sister’s hand-me-downs) I had a BMX bike and a fabulous Wendy House which still resides in the family home. I grew up on a Council estate in Islington where everyone knew each other and friends went in and out of each other’s houses. My mum was close friends with other, mainly St Lucian, families and loved speaking Patois to them. I have never understood it and sadly don’t speak it.
When the email dropped into my inbox in mid 2022, I was sceptical. I didn’t believe that it was real but I started googling the sender and the company – a creative agency called The Chase. When I realised that this was indeed real, I shed a few tears which came about as this was going to be huge for me and my family. Little ole me was going national. All the struggles that my mum had to endure ran through my mind in those five minutes before I composed myself to call the agency.
‘From Small Island Life to Big Island Dreams’ celebrates the arrival of the Caribbean people to the UK shores. Most of the original black and white photos of their arrival, showcase the men in their fine suits and hats. I was keen to illustrate that this wasn’t the entire manifest. Whilst researching, I was pleased to read that there were quite a few females and children on board. Entire families made the trip! The second stamp, ‘Taste the Caribbean’, shows a bustling market and commemorates the Caribbean influence on British food.
The stamps were launched on 15 June 2023 at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton. Most of the artists attended as well as Levi Roots and Floella Benjamin who is an absolute force of nature. Her speech had everyone nodding, clapping and shouting out affirmations.
National Maritime Museum
To add to this amazing news, I saw a call out on instagram at the beginning of June, that The Collective Makers in assocation with The National Maritime Museum, were looking for two artists to submit Windrush art. After seeking permission from The Royal Mail to enter my two stamps, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. Well the best happened. These are now displayed in the reception area of the museum and will be up for a few weeks.
What the client/public said
“Fantastic seeing them in stamp form finally! It was an absolute pleasure working with you on this project. Your illustrations really brought the subjects of Arrivals and Markets to life.” The Chase Creative Agency
“I sat on the Royal Mail Stamp Advisory Committee over 30yrs ago and got them to change the criteria for artists to submit work that reflects British society. That paved the way for these #Windrush75 stamps to be commissioned.” Floella Benjamin
“Woweee Kareen what an achievement for all your family to admire in years to come. You star!” Facebook user