Windrush 5 “Icon”

80cms x 80cms Mounted on canvas. Stitched and painted portrait, free hand machine stitch using Benjamin’s words (with kind permission of Benjamin Zephaniah)

27th April 2024

Benjamin Zephaniah is one of Britain’s most influential contemporary poets. I wanted this first of two pieces, to be a visual celebration and continue the theme of the Windrush series of quilts, all of which will be on show in Leamington in 2025, with their themes of settlement, identity and transformation. Benjamin, and the wider Caribbean migration of Windrush, has shaped the cultural fabric of the UK.

The private image I’ve used for this stitched and painted portrait was provided by Benjamin’s wife Qian, and captures a moment of pure joy – he looks so happy – and it’s been a terrific challenge to capture this happiness requiring some technical skill both in stitching and painting and a hope that I’ve managed to justice in to such a significant moment in his life.

The background will be 24ct gold leaf and I hope this makes it a little like an icon, and that it also brings luxury and significance. The words stitched on the quilt, with kind permission of Benjamin himself, will be from the poem “The Men From Jamaica Are Settling Down” and are a direct reference to Windrush and the problems and joys of migration, settlement and integration. Being a portrait taken from Qian and Benjamin’s marriage, I hope it also hints and love and partnership that is beyond cultural and national boundaries.

I think it’s important to show more than an image to the world which is why I quilt. It allows me to add value in text to my art (if it is that) and becomes storytelling too. My quilts hopefully provide a visual and tactile representation of all sorts of cultural narratives that are often overlooked. I am driven by an emotional response.

I will continue with the second one with the images of Brum in the background but at this stage, I’m not sure it’ll be finished in time. I’m working as hard as I can but there’s a lot to do.

13th February 2023

The wonderful Benjamin Zephaniah will be Windrush 5.

I have started on Benjamin Zephaniah against a backdrop of Birmingham drawings, and using his words (with kind permission)……

“Spread the love, show compassion, and wherever you are, don’t trust your government.


Benjamin Zephaniah”


24th September 2023

Benjamin Zephaniah has very kindly given me permission to use some of his poetry in this next piece of work. I have been reading his autobiography and poems and making notes of wonderful words I could use. In the end I thought his portrait which is one of the Windrush series, should feature his poem about Windrush, “The Men from Jamaica Are Settling Down”.

I felt it was important that these words were readable, and not knocked back to become part of the piece so was wondering how I could do this. My background which is a collection of sketches/painting I’d made of Brum were too strong and the words wouldn’t show, so wondered what I could do about that. I decided on a layer of gesso with the words then written on top. I said to G, “the background’s too strong, it needs to be whiter” and the title was born.