Hackney Council’s Windrush Generations programme has transformed the Council’s engagement with elders, and others, from our African-Caribbean communities. The programme directly engaged 3000 Windrush elders and their descendants across 25 activities.
Through celebration and sharing traditions, the community has felt valued and more connected to local services. We have established ways into and trust with an audience that was previously hard to engage, allowing us to consult them on important issues that will affect their lives. Our Windrush activities have given Black Caribbean elders a voice, reconnected them with the Council, and made a genuine impact on tackling social isolation.
Hackney Council’s vision is to ‘make Hackney a place for everyone… a place where everyone feels valued, and can make their voice heard.’ Hackney has undergone rapid change in recent years as wealthier families have moved into the borough and population growth has intensified. Research shows that some long-term residents feel left behind and are less likely to be content with where they live (Ipsos MORI 2018). The same survey showed that one of the key drivers of place satisfaction is community cohesion. The older African-Caribbean community in Hackney is one of the most isolated and hardest to engage. 42 percent of older people in the borough live alone and are more likely to feel socially isolated.
The aim of the programme was to find new ways of engaging with Windrush communities and involving them in the life of the borough.
- To celebrate and commemorate Windrush history across Hackney
- To engage young and old in intergenerational activities around food, arts, culture, sports, economic and wellbeing conversations
- To reduce isolation in African-Caribbean older people
- To engage a wide range of partners and share learning
- To engage older people with Council services
Windrush Generations provided a wide range of cultural activities, appealing to different age groups. The project team was led by Windrush descendants on the Council’s staff team and involved 70 partners across education and the VCS with a steering group chaired by national campaigner Patrick Vernon. Windrush Generations combined council-led events with a programme of micro-grants for community-led activity. From parades to cricket matches and baking, every event celebrated African-Caribbean culture, with an emphasis on bringing generations together. Elders visited schools to share migration stories and traditions. We involved Council services, including adult social care, housing, and the Hackney Museum in the events, enabling them to interact with residents in an environment of trust.
We wanted to inspire others and celebrate our Windrush heroes and their stories as widely as possible. The programme directly engaged 3000 Windrush elders and their descendants across 25 activities. With more than 70 partner organisations and a media campaign involving the BBC, The Voice, and Jamaican title, the Gleaner, Hackney’s Windrush story reached a much broader audience of around 2 million.
The programme delivered neighbourhood events, connecting older and younger people, including street parties, tea parties, domino tournaments, school visits, cricket, baking, youth conversations and a Windrush Parade at the London New Year’s Parade and at Hackney Carnival.
Our intergenerational baking project allowed elders to share traditional recipes and memories with young people, and we produced a Windrush cookbook, distributed through estates, schools and libraries, and for sale in local bookshops. Requests for copies have come from Windrush descendants across the UK and internationally.
The programme inspired a philanthropic donation towards a permanent site-specific art installation in the Town Hall Square to celebrate the contribution of the Windrush generation to Hackney. Our newly engaged community are helping to shape this, and that legacy will be enjoyed for generations to come.
Evaluation: Understanding, Involvement, Legacy
Direct engagement with 3,000 people
100 percent of participants said that they would share something they learnt about the Windrush generation with another person
80 percent said they would get more involved with the organisation that ran the event they attended - we unlocked 1147 hours of volunteer time
70 percent of participants at the 2019 tea party event had never attended a Council event before.
100 percent of young people felt they had learnt something new about the Windrush generation and their own culture and identity.
95 percent of older people who participated felt less isolated, and more confident.
The permanent Windrush artwork commission, recipe book, and BBC/Hackney Windrush archive leave a permanent cultural legacy.
The Windrush events programme has successfully connected a range of council services with residents who had never approached them before. We now have established trust with an audience that was previously hard to engage, allowing us to consult them on important issues that will affect their lives, such as our Older People’s Strategy review.
The Council is launching a community catalyst fund to commission neighbourhood cultural events, putting communities in the lead.
Hackney became the first Council to pass a motion pledging support for the Windrush generation, and to campaign for their rights and also to appoint a Cabinet lead for Windrush.
The learning from Windrush Generations has already had a huge impact on the work of Hackney’s Communications, Culture, and Engagement division. We have learned how an authentic and co-produced cultural programme can enrich community engagement and connect the Council with the people it serves. We have learned that through celebrating the heritage of our communities we can build understanding between generations and tackle entrenched issues around identity, brought to the fore by Hackney’s Improving Outcomes for Young Black Men programme. We plan to replicate the recipe book for other cultural groups in Hackney, whilst sales of the book will help fund next year’s Windrush Day celebrations. The programme has deepened the connection between cultural development, consultation, and core council services, leading to a new and dynamic council-wide approach to engagement.
Hackney Council won Best Arts Project – Community Cohesion in the 2019 National Campaign for the Arts ‘Hearts for the Arts’ Awards, supported by the LGA.
Petra Roberts, Cultural Development Manager, [email protected]