London statue unveiled in honour of Windrush NHS nurses

By Nadine White
Islington Council

A statue has been unveiled in north London to commemorate the efforts of Windrush and Commonwealth NHS nurses and midwives, following a successful crowd-funding campaign.

Commissioned by heritage organisation Nubian Jak, in collaboration with Islington Council and the Whittington Health NHS Trust, the monument was unveiled to an audience that included Islington’s mayor councillor Troy Gallagher, the area’s MP Jeremy Corbyn, NHS staff and former nurses and midwives on Friday afternoon.

Around 40,000 nurses and midwives from around the Commonwealth came to the UK from 1948 to 1973to help the fledging NHS, which was facing problems recruiting enough staff. The dedication and service of these nurses was exemplary, and it has been said that the NHS would have collapsed without their contributions.

Dr Jak Beula, founder of Nubian Jak, said: “Unveiling this statue has been a culmination of three years of hard work and a dedicated team effort. Thank you to Whittington Health NHS Trust, Islington Council, and those who supported this commemoration through donations and sponsorship

“But above all, everyone at Nubian Jak and our project partners would like to express our thanks and gratitude to the dedicated Windrush and Commonwealth NHS staff who have served Britain’s health services before and since the foundation of the NHS, and to whom this statue is dedicated.”

This is just the third public sculpture dedicated to Black females in London.

The statue, which represents a stylised nurse, was created using the proceeds of Nubian Jak fundraising campaign that raised nearly £100,000. As part of its commitment to celebrating the contribution of Windrush and Commonwealth nurses, and to challenging inequality, the council contributed more than £16,000 to the fundraiser through the Local Initiatives Fund.

.“I hope that the memorial will encourage everyone to find out about the history of nursing and to give a sense of pride to the nurses and midwives who work at our Trust as well as those across the country,” Michelle Johnson, Chief Nurse at Whittington Health NHS Trust said (PA)

Cllr Una O’Halloran, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Community Development, said: “The contribution of this generation of nurses and midwives to this country and our health system cannot be overstated, and it’s vitally important that they are commemorated appropriately.

“There are far too few monuments to this extraordinary generation, and we are proud, as part of our ambition to tackle inequality in our borough, to have supported the creation of this statue outside the Whittington Health”.

Michelle Johnson, Chief Nurse at Whittington Health NHS Trust said:  “We are delighted to be able to symbolise our gratitude for Windrush and Commonwealth nurses and midwives and the immeasurable way they have contributed to the NHS.

"I hope that the memorial will encourage everyone to find out about the history of nursing and to give a sense of pride to the nurses and midwives who work at our Trust as well as those across the country.”

In addition to the statue, a book by Jak Beula titled ‘Nursing a Nation’ was also launched on Friday. The book tells the stories and lived experiences of this generation of nurses and midwives.

This comes after an exhibition set up to commemmorate the Windrush generation was vandalised this week, in what has been described as a “hate crime”, at the Port of Tilbury in Essex.

Tilbury Bridge’s ‘Walkway of Memories’ is the only public artwork dedicated to the Windrush arrival in 1948.


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