12th October 2023

The Windrush Generation Game

As part of Black History Month, Giles Speid examines the contribution of the African and Asian diaspora to Trading Standards.

By Giles Speid
Team Manager, North West Westminster
I decided that Trading Standards was the career that I wanted to pursue, as it would enable me to help others with their day to day problems

The National Windrush monument in the main hall of Waterloo Station

Life…it’s the name of the game and I wanna play the game with you.
Life…can be terribly tame, if you don’t play the game with two.

For many of us these lyrics will bring back memories of yesteryear when Bruce Forsyth and Anthea Redfern hosted a game show of family members across different generations.

Quite a few years before that, in 1948, the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury, bringing the first wave of migrants from the West Indies. Not that there weren’t any West Indians in Great Britain already – far from it. Many stayed on following their contribution to the war effort. However, the visual impact of Black people walking off the ship could not have escaped anyone in the country.

Those born here or arriving soon after are considered the first generation. They came here with the aim and wishes of having a better future for themselves and their children – not too dissimilar to those who wish to come here today.

Those who came on the Windrush were invited by the British Government to help rebuild society following the Second World War. The invitation was also necessary following the emigration of 1.5 million Britons from the UK to other Commonwealth countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

Whilst the invitation went out to the Commonwealth, recently released Government documents demonstrate that they anticipated that most of the applicants would come from countries like New Zealand, Australia and Canada. But it was mainly those from the Commonwealth Caribbean countries that answered the call and turned up at Tilbury Docks 75 years ago. What was their dream upon arrival and what was the aim? It is not unusual for parents from the African and Asian diaspora to guide their children into the professions they feel will give them the best life chances – was consumer protection part of the plan?

I asked a number of first generation Trading Standards Officers what their parents expected of them when they were growing up and whether being a TS Officer was on their radar…

Marcella Donegal, Trading Standards Team Manager, Hammersmith & Fulham
“My mum came to England to follow her partner from Kingston, Jamaica who went ahead of her to create a better life for them in England. They had two children and he left for England saying that he would send for her. Her passage was finally paid for by his aunt, for my mum to join him in England, leaving their two sons behind with the boys’ grandmother. My mum’s ambition for me was to do the best that I could.”

How did you come to work in Trading Standards?
“I had no knowledge of TS and found it when I was looking for a job. It attracted my interest because I knew I liked the law but did not want to be a solicitor. I believed TS would be a happy medium, as the focus was on consumer protection and compliance.”

Marcia Brown, Retired Chief Weights & Measures Officer
“My mother said that she wanted me to become a doctor. I do remember being the child that asked ‘why?’ a lot. Growing up I wanted to be a lawyer, as I wanted to help people who were being treated unfairly. My parents encouraged me to pursue this career.”

How did you come to work in Trading Standards?
“Whilst I was studying Business Studies at Coventry, local Trading Standards Officers came to talk to the group about their profession. During the talk, I decided that Trading Standards was the career that I wanted to pursue, as it would enable me to help others with their day to day problems. I actively looked for a position in the Trading Standards profession. I went on to train to become a qualified Trading Standards Officer.”

Karen Tillett, Head of Barnet Trading Standards
“My dad emigrated to England from Jamaica in the late 50s/early 60s and married my mum – a White English woman. My parents were both just keen for me to do my best at school and were proud of me for passing my O and A-Levels. They always wanted me to be in employment and have a strong work ethic.”

How did you come to work in Trading Standards?
“Towards the end of my time studying for a Chemistry degree, I attended a careers weekend where former students told us about their professions. One of the speakers was a TSO from East Sussex – he made the job sound varied, interesting and challenging. Once I had finished, there was a Trainee TSO post advertised in the local paper which made me remember the careers talk from a few months earlier. I applied for the job and the rest is history…”

Samuel Abdullahi, Regulatory Team Leader, Brent
“I was very much left to decide myself but the ambition was to be a teacher and even an architect at one point”.

How did you come to work in Trading Standards?
“I was working for IKEA, supervising customer service. We had officers from Brent and Harrow Trading Standards came in to do a talk on the Sale of Goods Act as part of their Home Authority duties. During the talk I started thinking, ‘You know what – I can do that and it sounds interesting.’ At the end of it, I went to Giles who was leading the group and told him that I was interested in joining Trading Standards. He said, ‘Well funnily enough, we’ve got a job coming up.’ I ended up applying for a trainee position and I got it.”

Fakir Osman, Head of Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service
“No ambition from my parents – they were just pleased I was the first from my family to attend university”

How did you come to work in Trading Standards?
“I studied Law and undertook a module in Consumer Protection. Whilst I was studying, I saw a job advertised in Trading Standards as an Operational Support Officer. I decided to apply and was interviewed whilst sitting my final exams in May. I was informed that I was successful in getting the role and they wanted me to start in June – there went my plans to travel the world!”

There are many examples of people from the African and Asian diaspora who have contributed to consumer protection and to the wellbeing of the nation in a variety of significant roles across the public sector and beyond.

Over the years, including recently, it has been alleged that multiculturalism isn’t working. This can be considered as a ‘performative utterance’, in which the person is describing the exact opposite of what they actually believe to be true. Other Anglo Saxon words are available to describe it too.

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