Bringing the British Library’s Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land exhibition to life in Leeds

‘Help the West Indies to work for Victory' Dock Workers © British Library
The Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land exhibition marked 70 years since the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks in Essex carrying over a thousand Caribbean migrants to Britain. The exhibition also marked the anniversary of the British Nationality Act, which established common citizenship and granted all British subjects the right to settle permanently in Britain. Through literature, music, personal correspondence and official publications – from a 1940s suppressed report detailing labour protests and rebellions across the Caribbean to E.R. Braithwaite’s annotated typescript of To Sir, With Love – this free exhibition sheds new light on the significance of the arrival of the Empire Windrush, and tells a story of Caribbean people’s struggles for social recognition, self-expression and belonging throughout history.

To bring the exhibition to life in Leeds, we commissioned three celebrated Leeds-based poets of Caribbean descent – Khadijah Ibrahiim, Malika Booker and Vahni Capildeo – to create new poetry responding to the exhibition and the legacy of Windrush in Leeds today. Working with communities at three library branches – Compton Road, Dewsbury Road and Chapeltown – to embed local stories and experiences into their work, we are presenting a range of creative and ambitious events from library takeovers to roundtables, creative workshops, poetry busking and public installations at Leeds Libraries and partner venues across the city.

The Poets

Malika Booker is researching the impact of Windrush women on the textiles industry in Yorkshire.


Khadijah Ibrahiim is exploring African Caribbean folklore and music traditions and its place in the UK – pre-Windrush and after.


Vahni Capildeo is investigating the way internal migration was normalized as a way of life within the British Empire, and the multiple senses of ‘home’ this created.


The Events