This summer, 'Poems on the Underground’ commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Windrush's arrival in Britain and we’re supporting to ensure six fantastic poems are available to read on London Underground and Overground trains.
HMT Empire Windrush docked on 22 June 1948 and brought 492 people from islands in the Caribbean to help fill post-war labour shortages and aid in rebuilding a country devastated by the Second World War. The ship became a symbol of a migration movement of people arriving in the UK from the Caribbean in the post-war period up to 1971, when immigration laws changed.
Since then, British poetry has become even more vibrant and diverse thanks to the invaluable contributions of Caribbean and Black British voices. Demonstrating their eloquence, breadth and wide appeal, the contemporary poets chosen for this ‘Poems on the Underground’ season all have close Caribbean and British links. They are James Berry, John Agard, Benjamin Zephaniah, Louise Bennet, Kei Miller and Grace Nichols.
All six poems offer an insight into the stories and aspirations of those arriving on the Windrush and paint a vivid picture of the remarkable diversity that Caribbean culture has contributed to the UK.
The Windrush 75 poems can be seen in London Underground and Overground trains in June and July 2023.
- James Berry, ‘Sea-Song One’ from Windrush Songs, in The Story I Am In: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books 2011)
- John Agard, ‘Windrush Child’ (for Vince Reid, the youngest passenger on the Windrush, then aged 13), from Alternative Anthem (Bloodaxe Books 2009)
- Benjamin Zephaniah, ‘The London Breed’ from Too Black, Too Strong (Bloodaxe Books 2001)
- Louise Bennett, ‘Colonization in Reverse’ from Jamaica Labrish (1966)
- Kei Miller, ‘The only thing far away’ from There Is an Anger that Moves (Carcanet 2007)
- Grace Nichols, ‘Bourda’ from Passport to Here and There (Bloodaxe Books 2020).
British Council and 'Poems on the Underground' have collaborated for many years to share international poetry to UK audiences, and English-language work with international audiences. 'Poems on the Underground' is a highly regarded and well-renowned feature of the UK contemporary literature sector, and the model is one which continues to inspire replicas internationally, enabling further connection between the UK and international sectors at a professional level.