Caribbean Memorial for National Arboretum by Joy Roxborough

A Caribbean memorial is to be erected at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire, in recognition of the contributions that the Caribbean Island Nations have made to Britain and the global community. The memorial will also commemorate the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush, which landed at Tilbury Docks in Essex, in June 1948, carrying the first significant number of the Caribbean Islands community to Britain in the post-war period. An investment of half a million pounds is needed to realise the goal. The Caribbean Legacy Project, a taskforce set up specifically to spearhead the campaign, is working assiduously to engage the Caribbean Islands community and friends of the Caribbean to be an integral part of the adventure to have the Caribbean acknowledgment memorial completed and installed by 2021.

Dave Smith, Lead Coordinator of the project, said: “The historical archives are replete with the contributions that the Caribbean Islands have made to Britain and the global community in areas such as music, art, engineering and science, and it is time for us as a community to take the initiative to do something tangible to celebrate those contributions. The National Arboretum is home to a Commonwealth memorial that pays tribute to the soldiers who fought in World War II, but there is nothing there that specifically mentions or recognises people from the Caribbean. So, erecting this memorial will be a monumental achievement in terms of recognising and celebrating Caribbean people on a wider scale, and it is a journey that we want the whole community to be engaged with.”

The Caribbean Legacy Project is working closely with Birmingham-based silver and goldsmith, Norma Jean Banton, on the ideas she submitted for what the memorial could be. “I felt that God inspired me with the idea of legacy trees,” Norma said. “The vision is to have an angel of peace that represents the spirit of unity as the central piece of the memorial. Twelve legacy trees, each bearing 1,000 legacy leaves, will surround the angel. Each leaf will be constructed from copper, in the shape of an olive leaf, because the olive leaf is a symbol of love, unity and peace, and these are the attributes that we stand for as a community. Even more significantly, we are giving people the opportunity to have their names engraved on a leaf, and this will be a way for each person to be indelibly written into the fabric of our history in this country. They can have their own names engraved, or the name of a family member, or they can even choose to sponsor a deceased legend, like Bob Marley. Over time, the leaves will oxidise to a green colour, so that they will even more closely resemble olive leaves, but the names will always stand out clearly.

“We aim to sell the leaves at £25 each to raise the funds needed to have the memorial installed at the Arboretum. Twelve thousand leaves will be needed for the memorial itself, but people can also purchase a leaf and have it made into a piece of functional jewellery. We are inviting organisations and churches to sponsor an entire tree for £20,000 (discounted by £5,000), and individual leaves can then be sold on. Sponsoring organisations will have a special plaque installed on their tree at the Arboretum.”

Norma, who established Silverfish Jewellery in 2002 and makes Christian-themed jewellery from her Birmingham-based location in the Jewellery Quarter, said the vision of the project goes beyond the installation of the memorial. “The idea is that it will bring the community together and that, even after the memorial segment of the project is completed, people will be inspired to commission legacy trees and have them installed in community buildings and spaces. This will be a way of creating long-term jobs and apprenticeships for the young people who will be involved in making the trees.”

Legacy leaves may be purchased from the Silverfish website at www.silverfishjewellery.com or through the charity arm of Silverfish at www.treasuredfoundation.org.

Beej Smith, one of the project coordinators, said: “This is a team effort, and we are inviting other artists, as well as the wider community, to be a part of this celebratory journey. There will be several opportunities to be involved, and we are starting with the Art Science Expo in May and June 2018 at the Medicine Bakery and Gallery in Birmingham City Centre. From 1st to 30th June, the legacy leaves will be a part of the display at the Medicine Bakery, and the Expo will also include a Windrush Play scheduled for 16th June at the ACE Dance and Music Theatre, ACE Space, Ground Floor, 54-57 Floodgate Street, Birmingham. We want the project to be something that unites present and future generations in an all-embracing tribute to people of Caribbean origin.”

For further information on any aspect of the project, telephone Dave, Beej or Norma on 07984 582238, 07415 502303 and 07882 980730, respectively.

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