LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s most prestigious flower show, a celebration of the genteel world of gardening, opens this week with a tribute to the “Windrush” generation of Caribbean migrants whose recent treatment has provoked a political scandal.
The floral tribute at the Chelsea Flower Show is designed to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush ship, bringing the first in a wave of immigrants who were invited to Britain after World War Two to plug job shortages.
Although fully entitled to live and work in Britain, an unknown number of Windrush descendants have been wrongly identified as illegal immigrants and denied basic rights such as healthcare.
Some have been detained and up to 63 immigrants wrongly deported to the Caribbean in a scandal that engulfed the government and led to the resignation of the government’s Home Secretary, the interior minister.
The exhibit at the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual Chelsea Flower Show depicts the moment that the HMT Empire Windrush arrived in Essex, southeast England, in 1948. It features a model of the ship and its passengers and includes flowers and plants from both sides of the Atlantic.
It was designed by the former television presenter and now life peer Baroness Floella Benjamin, who arrived in Britain from Trinidad and Tobago in 1960 aged 11 and worked on the project with the Windrush Foundation and the Birmingham City Council gardening team.
Prime Minister Theresa May was one of the guests to the show in the grounds of London’s Royal Hospital Chelsea on Monday ahead of its official opening on Tuesday with Queen Elizabeth also expected to attend.
Reporting by Ana de Liz; Editing by Hugh Lawson