A Windrush story: Neville and Daphne

  • 26
  • Sep

Windrush Day is about celebrating and honouring the enormous contribution of the Windrush Generation and their descendants. It is more important than ever that we celebrate our residents of Caribbean heritage as well as educate ourselves on the rich history and impact they have made on the UK.

Colin Adams, director of Brickworks Community Centre in Crouch Hill is a major community figure in Islington. He has run the centre for 11 years and chairs a network of 14 community centres across the borough known as the Octopus Community network. He also chairs the Hate Crime Forum and sits on the Islington Safer Neighbourhood committee.

His parents, Neville and Daphne, came to London from Guyana in South America in the 1960s. They were attracted by the promise of a good life, jobs and money and the plan was to stay for five years and accumulate enough money to go back home and prosper, but they found the reality quite different.

Colin said: “The first thing they noticed was the cold. They had never experienced cold before. They were sold an image of London being bright and sunny. They genuinely thought the streets were paved with gold.

“At the time, cinema was huge and every picture house in the region was showing adverts about coming to live in the UK saying, ‘we want you,’ ‘we need you’. So when they arrived they were genuinely bemused that some people did not welcome them.”

Childhood sweethearts, Neville sailed first to London docking in Southampton with just a piece of paper and instructions to go to Victoria Station where someone would meet him. They didn’t, but luckily his godfather was living in London and offered him a place to stay while he found his feet.

He was a trained electrical engineer and found a job with Decca Electrics and a place to live in Islington. Accommodation for migrants at the time was poor quality and seriously overcrowded. Families would often be forced to share rooms and could be evicted on a whim.

Colin said: “One day he went to work and came back to find all their things left out on the street. They had been evicted and had to find somewhere else to live. It was common to be evicted, you had to move around.”

It took Neville two years to save enough money to bring Daphne over. The couple were finally able to marry at Islington Town Hall in 1962. They had six children, three boys and three girls, who all still live in London.

Colin is close to his family and now has a much wider community family, working with lots of different organisations supporting people living in Islington.

Colin said: “For me, Windrush Day is a celebration to the thousands of young men and women who took the brave decision to leave their homeland to seek a better life here. They endured rejection and racism on a scale that I have not witnessed and paved the way for me and others to have a better life and for that I will be truly grateful… we all are.”

Find out more about Brickworks at https://hanleycrouch.org.uk/

For Windrush Day this year we have put together a page of resources to learn more about the history of the Windrush generation. Read more!

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