Why Hackney's sharing of Windrush heroes’ stories stood out

By Martin Ford | 11 January 2021

In the wake of the emergence of the Windrush scandal in 2018, Hackney LBC hosted a Town Hall tea party for 350 elders as a gesture of support.

A year later, the relatively modest event had snowballed into a programme of events that would transform the council’s engagement with African-Caribbean communities, culminating in the council receiving the ‘delivering better outcomes’ award at The MJ Achievement Awards.

The Windrush Generations programme was designed by the council to celebrate, commemorate and educate people about the contribution of those who accepted the invitation to settle in Britain in the decades following the Second World War.

Following the success of the tea party, the council secured a £10,000 grant from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to fund a host of events delivered in local neighbourhoods.

They included street parties, tea parties, domino tournaments, school visits, cricket, baking, youth conversations and a Windrush Parade at the London New Year’s Parade and at Hackney Carnival.

An intergenerational baking project allowed elders to share traditional recipes and memories with young people, and led to the publication of a Windrush recipe book.

Finally, the council received a donation from the Genesis Foundation arts charity worth £150,000 in installation and construction costs for a permanent artwork in Hackney Town Hall Square as a ‘civic expression of the Windrush Generation’s contribution to the life of Hackney and the UK, and symbolise the ongoing commitment to welcome migration from all countries to the borough’.

The events celebrated Windrush heroes and shared their stories with as many people as possible.

The project team in the council was led by Windrush descendants to ensure the activities gave Black Caribbean older people a voice and purpose , but also included an international group of colleagues.

In all, the programme involved more than 70 partner organisations and directly engaged 3,500 Windrush elders and their descendants across 25 activities, unlocking 1,147 hours of volunteer time from staff, celebrities, politicians and residents.

Through media coverage, it is estimated the campaign reached an audience of two million.

Prior to the programme, some long-term residents of the borough had felt left behind and Hackney had found the elderly Black Caribbean community was one of, if not the hardest, group with which to engage.

However, the project provided new ways of communicating and engaging the community compared to more traditional channels and subsequent surveys found they felt more valued, celebrated, and connected to the council and its services.

All of the survey’s respondents said that they would share what they had learnt about the Windrush generation with another person and had gained a deeper appreciation of the challenges they faced

In addition, 100% of young people felt they had learnt something new about the Windrush generation, while 95% of older people who participated as community reporters felt less isolated.

Looking to the future, the council has been left with what it terms a ‘captive audience’ that was previously hard to engage and plans to seize upon the opportunity to consult with the community on important issues that will affect their lives over the coming years.

This has already begun with Windrush community groups having engaged with the production of Hackney’s older people’s strategy review last year.

The chief executive’s office has recently joined up its communications, consultation and cultural development, helping the council to break away from traditional engagement models and first building trust with the community.

Hackney has launched a new community catalyst fund and is planning an annual programme aligned to local policies, including replicating the Windrush recipe book for other cultures.

Using the experience gained from the Windrush programme, the council will commission smaller neighbourhood events that put communities in the lead, celebrate their achievements and create a renewed sense of pride.

Hackney’s ethos is to not only speak and listen, but also meaningfully engage with its community, by empowering residents.

Do you have a groundbreaking initiative for ‘delivering best outcomes’? Is your council excelling in other areas? The MJ Achievement Awards 2021 are now open. For details, go to https://awards.themj.co.uk/

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