Displacement utopia: How the Windrush generation revived Brixton’s cultural roots

In the aftermath of the Windrush scandal and ongoing gentrification, Genéa Saunders speaks to three generations of settlers who are united in keeping the area’s rich, vibrant culture alive

A police car blazes at the corner of Atlantic and Brixton Road during the 1981 riots
A police car blazes at the corner of Atlantic and Brixton Road during the 1981 riots

I have seen many changes around here throughout my time,” says Horace, known as Driver, 75. “The closing of shops, the changes to the market, the pubs – there’s no Blackman pub left, Atlantic Pub, George Berry, they’re all gone.”

Driver arrived from St Catherine, Jamaica, in 1961, to stay with his serviceman uncle who had returned to England in 1948 on HMT Empire Windrush after serving with the British forces in the Second World War. Living in Westbourne Park for a year, the then-17-year-old swapped the west London streets for Norwood, before settling in Brixton, which he has called home ever since.

In recent years, the terms gentrification and regeneration have become synonymous with south London suburbs such as Brixton. Known today for its farmers’ markets, pop-up restaurants, art galleries, delis, bars, cafes and vintage clothing stores, the area’s rich, cultural – and often chequered – history, has been all but forgotten. This is, after all, the hub of West Indian culture in the capital, with the Windrush generation right at its heart.

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