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  • Chynna Rhooms

Take the Windrush, then change on to the Suffy G: Is London ready for a history lesson?

Updated: Mar 1

This past month, Sadiq Khan revealed that the London Overground was undergoing a rebrand to ‘reflect London’s rich local culture and history’ and to bring more clarity for travelling Londoners. This announcement has been nothing short of controversial, especially given that the UK officially entered a recession in December last year, and these changes to the Overground cost an eye-watering £6 million. The following TikTok gives a glimpse into the polarised views of the changes to the Overground:


When we dissect why this revamp has caused such a controversy, there are two sides, as always. For some Londoners, this rebrand is a lazy attempt to accelerate inclusion and is even insulting to communities that still feel excluded, mainly from Britain today. Eyebrows have particularly been raised at Windrush Line, as this commemoration glosses over the fact that the Windrush generation has been been failed time and time again – especially after the infamous Windrush scandal.


This frustrated X user put it eloquently: 




The frustration amongst the West Indian community is justified as it was revealed that a record number of Windrush compensation claims were rejected last year, which makes the line seem like a hollow gesture even more. 


On the contrary, one person in our feeds was thrilled to see lines which were representative of her family heritage and the contribution her grandparents made to Britain today: 




The other lens is something that we know all too well here at The Unmistakables, which is the backlash from the conservative critics in the continued ‘war on the woke’. This initiative has been slated for its hefty price tag – a waste of taxpayers' money and counted as nothing more than ‘virtue signalling’. While some Londoners feel other issues are more pressing, such as knife crime and ULEZ, Historian Simon Webb has even suggested that naming a tube line after the Suffragettes is ‘grossly offensive’ and signals the endorsement of a terrorist group. If we ponder on this perspective, it begs the question, is it wrong to remember the hospital to treat the first HIV patients or West Indian arrivals who often worked on the buses and tubes?


While both sides are critiquing this rebrand from different angles, both groups are questioning the same thing: who is it really serving? If we think about who gets to be memorialised in public spaces, there seems to be a common theme: British figures that have some involvement in the transatlantic Slave Trade or colonialism. Public spaces represent collective memory and a sense of belonging – and there’s a level of power at play in who remembers and who’s forgotten. Many people disagree with Sadiq Khan’s political stance, but can we fault him for trying to change the narrative in the city that was reportedly paved with gold for the migrants that came here from the Empire?


Let’s face it: whether we complain about tube strikes every other weekend or our trains being cancelled, Transport for London is a sacred entity for all Londoners – it’s a luxury. When we think about public space, whether it be tube names or street names, they all mean something, and historically, they’ve represented a Britain where diversity wasn’t given a thought. It’s certainly true that thousands of the Windrush generation are yet to be compensated, and the glass ceiling still exists, but is it so wrong to try and weave underrepresented voices into the fabric of London?


Could this move come across as performative? 


Yes. 


But can this spark conversations about the hidden histories of Londoners which have made London what it is today? 


Also yes. 


Subsequent actions to uplift and invest in underrepresented communities should be the next course of action, but that’s at the hands of the government. It may take Londoners a while to get used to hopping on the ‘Windrush’ and then taking the ‘Suffy G’,  in this fast paced city, I’m sure we’ll be fine in a few months.


To end this month’s Memo-Round-Up, here are the top three stories that have caused headlines and social media traction this month:

  1. Google is facing backlash for its new AI-powered tool, which is under fire for overcorrecting against the risk of being racist. Initially, a viral post showed this recently launched AI image generator creating an image of the US Founding Fathers, which inaccurately included a black man.

  2. 89% of British companies that took part in the world’s largest trial of a four day working week in 2022 said the policy was still in place and 51% have permanently implemented a shorter working week. 

  3. Rishi Sunak claims that he is living proof that the UK isn’t racist amid a row after suspended MP Lee Anderson's claims that Sadiq Khan is 'controlled by Islamists'. Our CEO, Asad Dhunna, has provided a perspective here.


What’s the memo?:


The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall - Nelson Mandela

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