Carribean elders led the dancing after an emotionally powerful Windrush 70th anniversary commemoration held Sunday 24 June at Christ Church Julian Road.
Conceived by Revd Lore Chumbley the event – planned together with BEMSCA and Bath Quakers from the Bath Interfaith Group, and complete with music and Caribbean BBQ – was an important chance to reflect on how our community has welcomed newcomers, what living in Bath means to all of us and the implications of the “hostile environment”.
“How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” The Elders jumped to their feet when DJ Marick Baxter put on the classic Rivers of Babylon.
After the regular Sunday service the Rainbow Steel Orchestra – claimed as Europe’s longest running steel band – played in the church, before a series of recollections and readings. We heard stories of Caribbean people invited to help the “mother country”, about the lives they had built – professions, music, sport – and how they had not always been well received ot treated.
Started in 1957, the Bath-based Rainbow Steel band (formerly Barbados All Stars) is the longest enduring steel band in Europe.
Benjamin Zephaniah’s poem The Death of Joy Gardner reminded us about dysfunctional enforcement in the hostile environment, before we took comfort in Bishop Michael Curry’s recent words from his royal wedding sermon about the redemptive power of love.
Afterwards churchgoers, Caribbean elders, visitors and curious passers-by joined in a celebration in Christ Church’s hidden garden. A sound system and barbeques serving up curried goat and jerk chicken created a miniature carnival in the hot sunshine.
The Christ Church event proved, 70 years ago and again now, that Bath can welcome immigrants. The celebration was a joyous reminder how much Caribbean immigrants – despite the difficulties they have faced and continue to face – have contributed and continue to contribute to our community professionally, culturally and in spirit.
Pauline Swaby Wallace of BEMSCA gave emotional thanks to all who had helped organise the event.
Christ Church vicar Revd Lore Chumbley conceived and planned the event; she spoke of the close ties of Christ Church and the first Caribbean immigrants to Bath.