By Harry Mottram: In the past readers of other publications I’ve written for have complained about Black History Month being covered. Why not a white history month they would say – without realising that white history is covered 12 months of the year. Since those early days back in the late 1980s and early 1990s of the initiative to bring one of histories forgotten stories to life attitudes have changed. Now in Bath at the RUH there is a new exhibition celebrating the Windrush generation and contributions they made to the National Health Service.
The Bath Windrush: Past, Present and Future exhibition was initially created for the 75th anniversary of HMT Windrush, the landmark voyage from the Caribbean, earlier this summer. It has been loaned to the RUH by the Bath Ethnic Minority Senior Citizens Association (BEMSCA) at Fairfield House for the whole of October, where it has been displayed by the hospital’s art programme Art at the Heart of the RUH in a ground floor corridor near the main atrium.
The fabric panels celebrate the contribution of the Windrush generation and their descendants, while highlighting some of the challenges faced too.
Deputy Chief Executive Libby Walters said: “We are thankful for the commitment and contribution that the Windrush generation has made to our community, and to their descendants too.
“It’s true to say that the NHS simply wouldn’t exist without the hard work and dedication of a diverse and talented workforce. “We know there’s still work to do to ensure that every single person knows and feels that they matter at the RUH, and we are committed to making that a reality.”
Just two weeks after HMT Windrush docked in 1948 the NHS was born, and many of those arriving from the Caribbean helped to fill the 54,000 nursing vacancies across England. That generation, and those that have followed, have gone on to support the RUH and the wider NHS in a huge variety of roles including care, leadership and research.
The exhibition celebrates many local figures, including Beryl Dixon who arrived in Britain from Jamaica in 1959. Beryl trained as a nurse, and worked for the NHS in Bath for 29 years. Alongside this, she held important community roles including campaigning for better care for sickle cell disease and developing services for young people – roles which saw Beryl made an MBE in 2003.
Norma Sobers is another nurse recognised in the exhibition for her service to the NHS and people in the community. Norma came to England from Barbados in 1962 and her nursing career included time at the RUH. She devoted herself to supporting BEMSCA until she died earlier this year. The exhibition provides an insight into other aspects of local life too, such as the challenges Caribbean people faced in finding work and housing, and how Caribbean music, sport and leisure has influenced our culture today.
Ras Benji, BEMSCA Windrush Project Manager said: “We are so happy to see this exhibition on display at the RUH – an important landmark of Caribbean contributions in Bath.
“To explore more about the Windrush generation and also the history of Emperor Haile Selassie I and the Ethiopian Royal family in Bath, Fairfield House is open to visitors each Sunday during Black History Month, offering guided tours and Caribbean lunches.”
Visit www.fairfieldhousebath.co.uk for more information about visiting.
You can also hear more from people from the Windrush generation and their descendants in the short film created in July for the 75th anniversary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FXq0SWyvZU&feature=youtu.be
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