One of only a handful of Black female festival owners in London delivering large-scale outdoor events, Wendy holds a multi-year premises licence for one of the key parklands in the heart of South London. Wendy knows about the barriers and challenges in gaining and keeping access to outdoor places and spaces.
Born in London to Caribbean West Indian parents, both of Wendy’s parents arrived in England as part of what is now called the Windrush Era. One from Jamaica and the other from the smaller Island of Barbados. With a blended upbringing of British and twin-Caribbean cultures, Wendy knew that her layered identity made her special amongst her English peers.
Growing up, she knew it was necessary to create a separation from the culture of her ‘home life’ to fit in with how the education system saw and taught its children who were not from multi-heritage backgrounds. Throughout this journey of self-separation into adulthood, Wendy started to feel increasingly isolated and displaced from this country that she had always called home.
Hailing from a large, loud and colourful family in South London where food was plenty and belly laughter was the intoxication of the day. It was interesting to watch some older cousins carve out their identities in a way that would assimilate them into a form of Britishness and then watch others also struggle with the issues surrounding identity and where they belonged.
As a BRIT school alumni coming from performing arts & events, it felt like the most natural move to create a festival for Black British, Caribbean & Creole culture. A space where celebrations, conversation, expression and gatherings could happen whilst bringing the people together. She knew that creating a celebration would help others feel that sense of placement she had been longing for.
Looking back to 2017 when Wendy began to work on the idea of creating an event which could be fitting to join the annual British calendar she looked for dates that would be significant to her community.
She knew about the Windrush but never having learned about it in school she was not aware that it was or could be a part of her own family history. It appeared as though no one was consistently celebrating this period of time as something significant.
Through her research, she realised it was going to be 70 years since the 1948 arrival of the Empire Windrush when 492 passengers from the West Indies disembarked pioneering the beginnings of 20th-century mass migration & a major cultural shift.
Wendy wanted to make a big celebration of it in London and decided to plan a large scale festival.
The Radiate Windrush Festival was born and there was finally a celebration of her roots which brought her identity into existence beyond Carnival, giving her a place to celebrate this place she calls home.
Background Info on the Windrush Scandal:
2018 saw the Windrush Scandal make global headline news. Families were torn apart, relationships were destroyed, livelihoods were lost and even deaths occurred as a result of a targeted attack on the black largely Caribbean community of British Citizens who were not naturalised after the changes to immigration after 1971.
Latterly the hostile immigration policies of both the Labour and Conservative governments that followed focused on the vulnerable offspring of the Caribbean community who were now officially classified as undocumented having legally and permissibly travelled to Britain on the documents of their parents and relatives.
Leaders of the Caricom States and Labour MPs came together to petition the Central Government for answers and changes to the unjust treatment of its country’s migrants after many worrying cases of traumatic deportation came to light.
After successfully advocating for the rights of pre-1971 minors of the Windrush generation migrants, an official Windrush Day was marked and established to be celebrated across the UK.
The festival’s founder Wendy Cummins commented “I’m so thrilled to secure a home for our annual festival in a major regeneration area. Southwark has a rich history & cultural connection with our community since the Windrush, Sorrento & Mayflower arrivals in 1948.
Stability is more vital than ever for the legacy & presence of British Caribbean culture & the Windrush Generations across the capital. It’s a great location since it is so close to the capital’s centre yet deep in the heart of cultural London. Southwark has one of the largest
Black populations of all the 32 Boroughs & the late Sam King founder of the Windrush Foundation was the first mayor of Southwark. Therefore it is only fitting that there’s an acknowledgement & celebration here”
“”Black Wall St. MediaContributor