Descendant Talks is a series of podcast interviews celebrating the descendants of the Windrush generation who are helping to shape Britain today.
The latest series was hosted by Nya’lay Amoah, Yasmin Balogun, Emma Nkanta and Nathaniel Stevens, members of the youth group, Gen Z Collective.
The Gen Z Collective talk to poets and artists who participated in 'Speak Pon Dem', a live music jam to mark the 75th anniversary of the Empire Windrush's arrival in Britain.
The Collective quiz the creatives on everything from personal identity and heritage to artistic inspiration and their experience as children of the diaspora.
Episode One: Their Spoken Words
Kareem Parkins-Brown is a writer, visual artist and proud northwest Londoner. In 2019, he was shortlisted for Young People’s Laureate for London and the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship.
Maia Watkins is an actress, poet, author and dedicated youth worker from west London. Her upcoming collection The Dressing Gown Poet: Life. Loss. Love was written during her recovery from a brain haemorrhage.
Here, Nya’lay and Nathaniel speak to Kareem and Maia about how their Caribbean heritage has influenced them creatively. Kareem and Maia talk about their experience at 'Speak Pon Dem' and share some of their poetry.
Episode Two: Speaking through Stanzas
Nathaniel Cole is a poet, DJ and workshop facilitator from East London working with young people across mental wellbeing, relationships and sex education and masculinity. He is also the co-founder of swimming collective, Swim Dem Crew that uses water to change the lives and minds of its swimmers.
Zena Edwards is a professional writer/poet performer, curator, creative educator, mentor and project developer. Her writing and performance teaching is rooted in identifying the connection to the body, the imagination and the Earth.
In this episode, Yasmin and Emma speak to Nathaniel and Zena about their identity and heritage, youth mentoring and the empowering legacy of the Windrush generation.
The first series of the podcast was interviewed and recorded by Nya’lay Amoah, Yasmin Balogun, Emma Nkanta and Coco Shi, members of the youth group, Gen Z Collective:
"The first Windrush generation moved from the Caribbean to the UK by invitation between 1945-1960. We hope the personal stories and memories of Windrush provide a unique window into the history and impact of Windrush.
"Over three episodes, you will hear fascinating conversations with artists, designers, and writers, where they share how Windrush has influenced their work and shaped their identity."
Episode One: Threading Through my Past
Rachelle Romeo (pictured below right) is a multi medium artist and social activist based in North London who uses embroidery, paint and print to express stories of trauma, belonging, and heritage.
Here, Emma and Yasmin talk to Rachelle about her life and work.
Emma says: "In this episode, Rachelle gives a glimpse into her artistic expression and the profound meaning underlying her amazing artwork.
"She explains that while she leaves her work open to interpretation, it has its own special significance. She discusses how viewers of her artwork may react differently if they are made aware that she is a black woman; allowing us to delve deeper into her status as a black British artist."
Episode Two: Making Britain Kinder
Designer Tihara Smith (pictured below right) talks about her fashion, accessories and lifestyle brand, which pays homage to her ancestors and takes inspiration from the Caribbean.
In 2018, Tihara's Windrush-inspired collection was showcased at the University of the Creative Arts' Graduate Fashion Week.
In this episode, Yasmin and Coco speak to Tihara about the messages in her work.
Coco says: "I particularly enjoyed discovering more about her collection and how people reacted to her products. I learnt a lot more about the context of her collection and the references she made, for example, the phrase “Keep Britain Kind” is a twist on the phrase “Keep Britain White”, a graffiti documented by famous photographer Neil Kenlock in Balham.
"While Tihara’s designs are colourful and perfect for gifting, they carry important and active messages, commemorating and reflecting on the history of Windrush."
Episode Three: Chronicles of a Journalist
Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff (pictured below centre) is an award-winning writer, editor and columnist of Jamaican-Cuban heritage, who focuses on issues surrounding race, feminism, social justice and media.
For Nya'lay and Emma, speaking to Charlie was particularly thought-provoking.
"Through this podcast and her book Mother Country, Charlie showed me that those who came here from the Caribbean between 1945-1960 paved a way for the next generations to shine, amongst those who are considered the elite of society," Nya’lay says.
Nya’lay Amoah, Series One and Two
"I have always been aware of the implications and struggles that the Windrush generation has been through and also gifted us with, due the fortunate circumstances of my surroundings. Yet was unable to understand, as many, the political involvement with the Home Office eliminating a generation of people who worked hard to build this country after the war and also brought nothing but culture and bright colour with them.
"Being able to engage in conversation with the likes of Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, as well as many other amazing influential creatives was an eye-opening experience to see what this issue had meant to them and the impact of how their parent/grandparents has inspired them."
Yasmin Balogun, Series One and Two
"Learning about the Windrush generation and its legacy has made me more culturally aware of the Black diaspora being a Nigerian myself, and also about the different contributions Black people have made in the UK as a whole. The most important thing is recognizing that London is cultivated from different identities.
"Meeting both Zena and Nathaniel was a great experience as I was able to have genuine conversations with them both and to understand more about them as artists and people."
Emma Nkanta, Series One and Two
"Interviewing descendants of those who were part of the Windrush generation, I learned how their ancestors were affected by being denied legal rights and threatened with deportation, as well as how this impacted them personally and revealed their perspective on being black and British."
Nathaniel Stevens, Series Two
"I was very inspired to gauge a deeper understanding of poetry and its relationship to Windrush.
"I also loved the flow of the conversation with Kareem and Maia and the ability to get a deeper understanding of being a descendant. This has motivated and revived my passion for singing."
Coco Shi – PhD student in Art, Design and Museology, Series One
"Prior to this podcast project, I had very little knowledge of the Windrush other than reading about the Windrush scandal in the news. Through research, talking with experts, and having conversations with the Windrush descendants, I now realise that Windrush is multifaceted, and everyone’s experiences vary.
"It is so important to understand the Windrush from an oral history perspective and recognise the contributions people from the Caribbean made to Britain and British culture."