‘Angels and heroes’: TV star Jay Blades leads tributes to Windrush generation at Islington community lunch

Repair Shop star Jay Blades (front) joined locals to mark Windrush day. Photograph: Julia Gregory

“There are so many wonderful things that the Windrush generation brought here,” Roulin Khondoker told residents at a celebration of Windrush pioneers.

Islington Council’s executive member for equalities, culture and inclusion joined the special lunch for elders and schoolchildren at the Brickworks community centre on Crouch Hill.

She added: “It was not an easy journey. That’s why it’s important to recognise the Windrush generation.”

People from the Caribbean came to the UK to help Britain recover from the war, and their generation is named after the first ship, the Empire Windrush, that brought them to these shores in 1948.

They answered a call to do key work in manufacturing and in public services such as health and transport.

In 2017, it emerged that the government was deporting people – many of whom arrived as children and had made their lives here – because it said they did not have paperwork.

Local MP Emily Thornberry, who is shadow attorney general, described the shocking cases of people who were suddenly told by the Home Office that they were at risk of deportation.

One constituent was living under a bridge and waited 15 months for compensation from the government.

“During that time, he was not entitled to any benefits or any help,” said Thornberry. “I am ashamed that we have been treating people in this way and I apologise.”

Migrants champion Cllr Heather Small said: “Windrush is not just a journey, it’s about lives and about human history.”

Guests at Brickworks enjoyed a Caribbean lunch, music, performances, and an exhibition about children of the Windrush.

Hanover School and Central Boys Foundation pupils met elders to share stories.

Beverley Gibbs and her husband Lenford, who is a former middleweight boxer, said Windrush celebrations are important as “everybody comes together to meet each other and connect”.

Age UK Islington held a celebration at Caledonian Park with a special Windrush edition of their weekly reminiscence sessions at Cally Clock Tower Centre.

Islington’s libraries have also made books from The 100 Caribbean Books that Made Us available to borrow. The book list was drawn up by the Bocas Lit Fest, a literary arts development organisation based in Trinidad and Tobago.

TV’s Jay Blades, who stars in BBC series The Repair Shop, told people it was important to celebrate community.

He said places like the Brickworks community centre are “where the real work happens”.

He called on all the staff who run the kitchens, gardens, advice clinics and food banks to take a bow for their contribution.

He said: “It’s about the people who contribute to society. These guys are the angels and heroes.”

Blades grew up in Hackney and went to school in Islington.

He told the Citizen that he was delighted to join the community on Windrush Day as “the elders helped me, they got me back on my feet”.

“I have learnt so much from the older generation,” he said.

They taught him upholstery skills when he set up a social enterprise teaching young people to mend furniture, which led to his TV show.

He said it is important that there was an apology for the racism suffered by Windrush pioneers to help with healing.

“I am all about the future,” he added. “We should be looking after each other.”