Rush—A Windrush Anthem
S. A. Choir and Piano Version (2021)
Duration: c 3′ 57″
Rush—A Windrush Anthem was commissioned by Pegasus Opera Company and artistic director Alison Buchanan, for their World Community Chorus to commemorate Windrush Day, with funding from the Department of Communities, and was live-streamed on June 22 2021, in Brixton Village as part of the ‘I Am Here’ Windrush Day celebrations in Lambeth. The anthem was subsequently distributed and performed in schools across the Lambeth area.
The accompanying music video was produced by Black Apron Entertainment. Each individual voice and instrument were recorded via zoom (through laptops and smartphones). The additional subtitle ‘A Windrush Anthem’ was suggested by Pegasus project manager, Sheryl Malcolm.
The lyrics were inspired directly through a conversation with the community choir. What struck me most about this discussion is the dichotomy that lies at the heart of Windrush between the unrelenting sense of hopefulness, triumph, and positivity, against a history of struggle grounded in racism. Focus only on the former and we risk romanticising the story in a way that does not do justice to their achievements, focus on the latter and we risk presenting this history (and ourselves) always and only within the context of racism.
And so, both of these aspects needed to be represented in the music/lyrics, which gives rise to a somewhat humorous irony, ‘here are my dreams and ambitions and this is the reality’, but that humour too, is part of our identity!
The song refers to Ben Bousquet (referred to in the lyrics as ‘Mr Bousquet’) who went on to become a Labour party councillor for North Kensington and was a migrant from St Lucia who found paid employment with the BBC, as the subject of the first documentary about race on British television, when the BBC’s Tonight programme followed him around Brixton looking for a room to rent.
The final ‘here I am’ of the Windrush Anthem refers not to the Windrush generation but to their descendants, as our history is ongoing.
This piece is dedicated to the Windrush generation.