Linton Kwesi Johnson

Linton is one of a triumvirate of poets that opened my eyes to poetry and made me see that it was not all Keats, Shelley, and Byron and that it could connect and resonate with me. In his case, he was aided by the fact that he put his poetry to a dub reggae backing track, and when I found him back in 1979 and the release of Forces of Victory, I saw poetry no longer as the realm of the white aristocracy. You can find out lost more about him on his website.

It was many years before I got to see him perform live, and he still had that magical captivation. A few years back, before the Windrush scandal broke in the UK, I wrote to him with a poem I had written about that enriching emigration that caused those travellers to suffer so much wrongdoing.  He wrote back, telling me how much he liked a particular line and gave me some great advice – I can still feel the smile on my face as I read his words.


When them set sail on Empire Windrush

Them leave behind sun, sea and sand

Yes, them set forth upon Windrush,

Them a tropical collection of hands,

When all them set foot on Windrush;

Next stop, the promised Motherland

So, them all on board Empire Windrush

All four hundred and ninety-two folk

Them find plenty of space aboard Windrush

That cruise ship, she was a big boat

And them all nice and safe on Windrush

German built, through war she did float

Twenty-eight pounds them pay on Windrush

For a ticket, to a new world to see

From May 24th on board Windrush

Them sail on the wide-open sea

30 days them did sailing with Windrush

British citizens, happy and free

At Tilbury men moor Empire Windrush

But them could not leave for one day

For the men who tried to sink Windrush

Really did not, want them, to stay,

But they let down the gangplank of Windrush,

And on England, a new colour them spray

They feared a tide coming in with Windrush

A tide that would never turn back

Though they wanted the skills on the Windrush

They feared they were under attack

So, when them left them beds on Windrush

The hotels said no Irish, no dogs and no Blacks

There were stars and heroes on Windrush

Lord Kitchener, Mona Baptiste and Sam Beaver King

Them were willing to work aboard Windrush

But in Blighty that were a frightening thing

Them sang Calypsos in sunshine on Windrush

In England, in rain, blues they would sing

Some paid, some stowaway on Empire Windrush

Them seek a new life to arrange

A generation debarked from Windrush

In zoot suits and bright ties, them look strange

And the black that was carried on Windrush

The red, white and blue it would change

At the time of the docking of Windrush

Back in, nineteen, forty-eight

They wanted them to board Windrush

O’l England was a terrible state

But the grandchildren of generation Windrush

To this day, every day, them face hate

It’s seventy long years since Windrush

For some, a lifetime has passed

There’s a legacy that came with Windrush

And every one of its incredible cast

Though them struggled who came on Windrush

Them contribution, like black granite, will last

Them were fighters that walked offa Windrush

Them came to make a home of them own

Those brave men and women of Windrush

Them refused to ever bow down

That bulldog spirit on Empire Windrush

Should be welcome in every city and town

To the poets and musicians on Windrush

To the cooks, barbers and tailors too

I say to the generations of Windrush

Whatever life lead you to do

I’m glad you came over on Windrush

Them enriched my life, to them, I pay tribute

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