Windrush: Reggae in a Babylon


Elliot Leavy

On June 22nd, 1948, 492 migrants from the Caribbean arrived in London aboard the Empire Windrush, sparking up the beginning of waves of migration from Commonwealth countries. These migrants, their children and grandchildren, would soon become an integral and unforgettable piece of British society, transforming its cuisine, arts, sport and even language in incredible ways. 

Which makes what is happening all the more bizarre. Today, these British citizens are being struck by the most Kafkian, callous and calamitous case of bureaucracy known to date. Never mind the fact that all Commonwealth migrants were granted permanent residence in 1971,  many of this generation haven't stepped foot to where they are being threatened to be deported to in over half a century, many others were born here, and more still are being denied basic rights such as healthcare and access to work. 

In the midst of this scandal, and on the 70th anniversary of the voyage itself, we thought it would be nice to shed light on a little-known film, Reggae in a Babylon (1978); a glimpse into how the Windrush generation has spiced up this Isle from the get-go. The film serves as a reminder of how important this generation was in shaping our society today.

The documentary is a behind-the-scenes look at how the young, gifted and black generation of the 70's started the British Reggae movement. Jam-packed full of Jah, joints and Reggae, the documentary gives a poignant look at the problems of integrating into British society, how segregation was basically the norm and how the music helped to change that. 

There's some Jimmy Lindsay, Alton Ellis, Matumbi, and even the youthful 15/16/17 in this vibey viewing – so why wouldn't you watch it?