'Windrush is not just about a boat' stresses Sheffield community leader who fears residents are being forgotten about

A community leader in Sheffield believes elderly West Indian residents have been ‘forgotten about’ and has raised concerns over some of the organisations involved in the city’s Windrush funding debate.

Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 1:51 pm

Beverley Bennett has spent the last few years organising, or helping to organise, events to celebrate the lives of those who arrived from the Carribean, which she has funded mostly herself.

As Windrush Day is marked, she has raised concerns about the lack of events happening in Sheffield - a city in which the council has allocated funding to various organisations to undertake such projects.

Beverley said: “The first arrivals, the first African Caribbeans into Sheffield are in Sharrow. The Sharrow community has not been thought about, nobody’s offered to do anything, they’ve been forgotten about.

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Picture from 22nd June 1948 of Jamaicans reading a newspaper whilst on board the ex-troopship 'Empire Windrush' bound for Tilbury docks in Essex. (Photo by Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images)

"It’s awful. Nobody does anything for them. It’s upsetting, really sad.”

She explained how she tried to apply for funding in December 2019, but on being advised how to fill out the form, she was informed that a sum of £250 would be required.

“There is something not right about it,” she concluded.

The allocation of funding for Windrush projects from the council had been criticised recently on the basis of racism, however, Beverley believes those criticising could be argued to be doing the same.

She suspects that some who were successful in getting funding may not be using the money to undertake Windrush projects, however, she reiterated that it was not about money.

Beverley explained: “I have family, friends, an aunty in Sharrow. She is 92 years old and from the original Windrush generation. Some are in their 90s, they’re dying of old age, Covid, cancer and other health related issues. They’re going to fizzle out soon.”

She believes that the stories need to be told but there is a right way of doing so.

Beverley told how people have been “used” to get stories, some of which have been archived without permission, including the story of her father, who is also of the Windrush generation but did not arrive on the Windrush ship.

She believes there is a common assumption about people’s stories on the mention of Windrush and it is something that she is keen to address, which is why she now uses the term West Indian-rush instead of Windrush.

Beverley said: “Windrush is not just about a boat, it’s about the lives, the lives of those in Sheffield. The community needs some recognition.”

She is planning a reunion event in Sharrow this August to celebrate both West Indian-rush and Jamaican independence.

It will be “a big celebration” that hopes to bring everyone together and it will be open to all communities.

Beverley encourages anyone who can contribute a stall or funding to get in touch but in the absence of help, she insists they will still “do their own thing”.

If she was awarded funding, she would give it to an organisaton such as Nyara Art School, as she believes the younger generation “need to know the stories”.

She told how the real West Indian-rush generation “just got on with their lives” despite the challenges of racism, and she fears that such challenges are moving backwards today, which may make it more difficult for young people to achieve without the right tools.