Tilbury Is The Place For Me

On 22nd June 1948, HMT Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury, bringing 492 people from Jamaica to live and work in Britain. Working with Kinetika, Anthony Joseph, Kinetika Bloco band and the Migration Museum, this project is about exploring Tilbury’s migration history and sense of place, by creating a new calypso song inspired by our own history and heritage.

Group of young people with steel drums being conducted

After the Second World War the government in Britain invited people from the commonwealth countries to come and help ‘rebuild’ Britain, working to help fill staffing shortages in the NHS and transport industries. So on 22nd June 1948, a ship called the HMT Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury, bringing 492 people from Jamaica to live and work in Britain.

When the Windrush docked, a calypso singer called Lord Kitchener performed a song especially written for them called ‘London Is The Place For Me’. Their arrival was the first of many and by 1961 there were over 170,000 Caribbean-born people living in Britain. They are often referred to as the ‘Windrush Generation’.

Gun at Tilbury Fort overlooking the Thames

In May 2021 the Migration Museum ran workshops for us about the story of the HMT Empire Windrush arriving at Tilbury Docks, and the general history of migration to the UK. Living close to a place that has a huge part to play in England’s story of migrant communities, this was a great chance to reflect on our own identities and the heritage of the local area.

Throughout May 2021 we held workshops with artist and musician Anthony Joseph to explore the role that Calypso music has had for people arriving to the UK from the Caribbean – namely the story of Lord Kitchener’s performance upon arrival at Tilbury of ‘London is the Place for Me’. Anthony worked imaginatively with us to explore local landmarks, history, personal reflections and heritage connections. The work was put together as lyrics for a new song, ‘Tilbury is the Place for Me’.

In early June 2021 young musicians from the Kinetika Bloco band met with Anthony to explore the new lyrics and they then devised a Calypso music score for the song. Kinetika Bloco leaders then met up with Gateway Learning Academy students again to teach the singing elements of the song as well as drumming workshops to get everyone involved in performing the new piece as an ensemble!

The 10th June was the first time we were able to get-together in person for a rehearsal in the sunshine at Tilbury Fort. English Heritage staff welcomed everyone to the site and we were finally able to playing together.

On the 1st August we hosted (with Kinetika) an event at Tilbury Fort, where we performed our song live! The acoustics at the fort were brilliant for the beats of the drums and the echoes of the pans, and the community came together to celebrate Tilbury’s diverse history and heritage, and the young people exploring it.

This tied into the official end of T100 Dreaming Festival – Kinetika’s community walking festival – as local people finished their epic walk at the Fort all the way from Lowestoft, having collected 500 ‘dreams’ of what they imagined our communities will be like in the future.

Musical instruments

Kinetika are a renowned arts company, specialising in creating large-scale hand-painted silks. They combine arts and design with community projects to produce outdoor commissions that engage diverse audiences.

The Kinetika Bloco is a performance group with a mix of young brass and woodwind players, drummers, steel pan and dynamic dancers all in costume creating a “unique new British Carnival sound with a decidedly London edge” that draws on influences from the Caribbean, Brazil, Africa and New Orleans.

Anthony Joseph is an award-winning Trinidad-born poet, novelist, academic and musician (and author of Kitchener’s biography). He is the author of four poetry collections and three novels and holds a PhD in Creative and Life Writing.

Gareth Marsh is a musician and sound engineer based in Thurrock. He has over 18 years experience working in music and in 2002 began working at Riverside Music Studio in Tilbury for Thurrock Youth Service where he works to engage young people of all backgrounds and abilities with music and music production.

The Migration Museum explores how the movement of people to and from Britain across the ages has shaped who we are. From their current home in Lewisham Shopping Centre, they stage engaging exhibitions and dynamic events, alongside an education programme for primary, secondary, university and adult learners.