The London-based sculptor Thomas Price is among four artists shortlisted to create a new monument at Waterloo Station in London honouring the Windrush generation of workers who came to the UK from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1971.
All four artists shortlisted—including Basil Watson, Jeannette Ehlers and Valda Jackson—are of Caribbean descent. Ehlers, who is of Danish Trinidadian heritage, co-created the vast sculpture I Am Queen Mary (2018) with La Vaughn Belle which is located on the waterfront in Copenhagen. Ehlers responded on Instagram to the announcement by saying: “Yes man! More Black presence and manifestations in public space!”
Watson has created several large-scale sculptures including Emotional Cliff (2013) and stone carvings in marble and alabaster. Public art works by Jackson include the clay relief Uniform (2016) commissioned by the Peabody Trust in London for the first phase of the regeneration of the 1930s St John’s Hill estate close to Clapham Junction.
Price has also been commissioned to create a Windrush sculpture in the east London borough of Hackney along with artist Veronica Ryan. Price will use photo archives, observations and computer-modelled 3D scans of Hackney residents to create an amalgam bronze figure which will be sited outside Hackney Town Hall. The work is due to be unveiled Windrush Day 2022 (22 June).
In 1948, the HMT Empire Windrush ship arrived at Tilbury Docks in Essex with more than 500 immigrants on board seeking a new life in Britain. “The Hackney Windrush commission is specific to Hackney in that I will be incorporating [local] residents into the two sculptures that will be installed in Hackney Square,” Price tells The Art Newspaper.
“The National Windrush Monument [at Waterloo Station] will be looking at stories of those connected to Windrush across the entire nation. I would want to make something that spoke to everybody’s understandings of taking on new challenges and sense of belonging,” Price adds.
A long list of 16 artists was put forward to the Windrush Commemoration Committee, chaired by Baroness Floella Benjamin. The contemporary public art organisation, UP projects, was appointed by the government to manage the selection process and “ensure the views of the Caribbean community in the UK were sought on what would represent a meaningful legacy”.
The UK government says that the winning design is due to be revealed during Black History Month in October while the monument is expected to be unveiled on Windrush Day 2022. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced a £1m budget for the new sculpture.
But the non-profit Windrush Foundation, described as highlighting the contribution to the UK of African and Caribbean people, opposes the project.
“Why have a monument at Waterloo Station called Windrush when the Caribbean men and women who arrived on the Empire Windrush… did not travel to London via Waterloo?”, says a statement on the foundation website. Waterloo Station is nonetheless strongly associated with the stories of many members of the Windrush Generation, says the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.