'Ridiculous' that the UK doesn't have a Windrush museum to celebrate Caribbean immigrants, Levi Roots says

22 June 2023, 12:56 | Updated: 22 June 2023, 16:52

Levi Roots said there should be a Windrush museum
Levi Roots said there should be a Windrush museum. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Levi Roots, the celebrity chef who came to the UK from Jamaica with his parents in the 1960s, has described the UK's lack of a Windrush museum as "ridiculous".

Roots was speaking on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush ship in Tilbury, bringing hundreds of people from Jamaica to the UK.

The Windrush gave its name to the 'Windrush generation', the first wave of Caribbean immigrants to the UK, which lasted roughly from the 1940s to the 1960s.

The UK has a Windrush monument at Waterloo Station, and a square in Brixton was also renamed after the ship, while a series of portraits was commissioned for the anniverary - but Roots said that more should be done to commemorate the generation of Caribbean immigrants.

Roots, most famous for his Reggae Reggae sauce, told LBC that he spoke to King Charles about his campaign for a national Windrush Museum at a recent Buckingham Palace reception for the 75th anniversary of the ship's arrival.

Queen Camilla speaks with Levi Roots during a reception at Buckingham Palace in London to celebrate the Windrush Generation
Queen Camilla speaks with Levi Roots during a reception at Buckingham Palace in London to celebrate the Windrush Generation. Picture: Alamy

Roots, 64, said: "You know the King, he’ll always listen very carefully but speak very candidly. But I made sure I mentioned this was the next step.

"He knew that I was there for the monument, and I’m there now for the paintings and supporting that….because it doesn’t stop there. It continues.

"And the next thing is to have our history being told in the right way in a national museum."

He described a future museum as "a place where our history can be told, which is the most valuable thing."

Jamaican immigrants arrive on the Empire Windrush in 1948
Jamaican immigrants arrive on the Empire Windrush in 1948. Picture: Getty

Roots added: "And that's why there is so much museums in this country to be able to tell this story of Winston Churchill and all the great heroes that we have here that fought for this country...

"We have, we have museums about birds and fishes and dogs and cats and everything, but we don't have one that chronicled these heroes... that came over and helped to fix this country after the war.

"And that is ridiculous."

Mr Roots came to the UK aged 11 in 1969, after his parents had moved earlier. He said that his mother, who died in 2020, was a "hero" who had "never been recognised for what she has done".

"She loved this country, my mother, and that's why she worked three, four jobs at a time to send for her children, to unite them in this country so they can play a part as well too."

Britain would be a less 'cheerful and talented' place without Windrush, says Trevor Phillips

It comes after Sir Trevor Phillips, who is co-author of the new book Windrush: 75 Years of Modern Britain, told LBC's Nick Ferrari that because of Windrush "by comparison with pretty much anywhere else in the world" the UK is "comfortable" in racial harmony.

When describing where Britain would be without Windrush he told Nick: "A less cheerful place, probably a less talented place and a less winning place. The Windrush voyages themselves were an extraordinary group of people."

Sir Trevor Phillips, who was Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission between 2007 and 2012, continued: "One of the things that we often forget about immigration is that the people who actually get on a boat and travel 5000 miles into, they quite don't know what, these are different people.

"These are the adventurous ones, the ones with talent and confidence because they reckon that wherever they go they will make a life."

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Meanwhile Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told Nick earlier in the show that "the UK is an immeasurably better place," because of Windrush.

Mr Cleverly said it is: "A more vibrant and more diverse and more exciting place because of those pioneering people from the Windrush generation. I'm very proud of the fact the UK is a comfortably multi-racial, multicultural country."

Sir Trevor Phillips agreed with the government minister, saying: "He's absolutely right. Of course not everything is perfect. Of course, there are still idiots here as there are anywhere else. But I think that the important thing is that what is considered normal in this country is very different to elsewhere."

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"I mean, the great success perhaps of the Windrush generation and their legacy is to make the idea of being black and British ordinary," he said.