Hackney sculpture to celebrate the Windrush generation

2:12 PM 20 June 2022

“I want people to recognize themselves and feel valued,” said artist Thomas J Price as he prepares to unveil the sculpture he created to celebrate the Windrush generation.

Anyone passing by Hackney Town Hall over the next few days will be able to witness the installation of the grand work of art.

While full details remain under wraps, Price revealed the sculpture features two large figures cast in bronze.

“I hope they are silent pieces that resonate with power and a real presence that people can feel and feel connected to,” he said.

Price worked with the people of Hackney to learn their stories about Windrush and create a tribute to the generation that came to Britain to take up key posts after the war.

Both characters will be unveiled on Windrush Day next Wednesday, where they will be seen by generations to come, including politicians.

The sculpture is Hackney Council’s second Windrush commission.

Veronica Ryan has been shortlisted for this year’s Turner Prize for her sculpture Custard Apple, Breadfruit and Soursop, unveiled on the Narrow Way last summer.

Speaking about his work, Price said: “It’s really about representation and visibility and a celebration of a very special generation of people who have been fearless and have really answered the call for help from the UK.

“They were pioneers who mustered that courage to come to a totally different place under the promise of a warm welcome.

“That’s where the Warm Shores title comes from, leaving a warm, safer home, warm climates and Caribbean waters and expecting a warm welcome – perhaps not finding that warm welcome.”

Thomas J Price, who created the Windrush sculpture which rises outside Hackney Town Hall
– Credit: Hackney Council

He added, “I really wanted to use the materials of power and celebration. I have used bronze to render representations of people in the community of Hackney.

“It was really important for me to involve the residents in the process. I really wanted to meet people and hear their stories and used 3D scans to capture their visual information.

Rather than creating the likeness of individuals, he digitally scanned images and resculpted them using “digital clay” into “beacons of empathy and visibility that will become part of the very fabric of Hackney”.

“They’re not on baseboards,” he added. “They are on the ground we walk on.”

He spent “three really moving days” talking to people about their experiences.

Both sculptures are nine feet tall and deliberately stray from images of individual people – rather they come from imagination and observation.

Once he had “digitally sculpted” them, the pieces were cast in a foundry, sanded, welded together and “colored using a thermal and chemical process” – a four-month effort.

“My work looks for the common qualities that we all share,” said Price, who explained that they celebrate people’s “everyday”.

“If it creates a moment for people to think and reflect, that’s a very important mental space for people,” he said.

“When people connected to Windrush see them, I want them to recognize themselves and feel valued and present.

“These black bodies that occupy public space, I think that’s a statement, and at the same time, I feel like these sculptures are for everyone.

He deliberately avoided any direct reference to the past.

He said: “These are contemporary works that speak to what it means to be part of the UK, to be a citizen of the UK, and more specifically people of Hackney.”

He hopes the pieces will encourage people to celebrate the things that bring us together rather than dwelling on the racism experienced by many people and the pain of a scandal that saw the government attempt to deport people because they had no papers.

Price added: “I hope that as the nation wakes up to seeing these sculptures installed and the stories told on the Windrush, the people who live here now will receive much better treatment in the future.”

Residents are invited to attend a free event outside Hackney Town Hall from 5.00pm to 7.00pm on Wednesday June 22. It will be hosted by TV and radio presenter Eddie Nestor and will feature performances by award-winning poets Mr. Gee and Raymond Antrobus, a reggae choir, the Morningside Youth Steel Pan Band and the Kingsmead Dynamics Drumming and Dance Group.

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