Meet one of the artists behind new stamp designs celebrating Windrush 75.

In June 2023, Royal Mail released a collection of new stamps commemorating the 75th year since the arrival of the hundreds of passengers from Caribbean countries to the UK, on the passenger liner and cruise ship named the Empire Windrush.

We spoke to Kareen Cox, one of the five artists commissioned to create these special stamps.

Black British artist Kareen Cox stands in front of enlarged images if her two stamps. The stamps are bright and colourful. One depicts Men, Women and Children departing from the HMT Empire Windrush, and the other shows people selling and buying food at a market stall.

Hi Kareen, can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

I class myself as a multi-disciplinary creative. I don’t like to be pigeon-holed with one label as I’m so much more than that. I’m a graphic designer by trade and have been doing this for almost three decades! But I’m also a photographer. I do a fair amount of events (not weddings) and portrait photography. I love illustration and for the past five years have been enjoying the illustrative projects that have come my way. I’m really embracing this.

How did you get involved working on the commemorative Windrush 75 stamps?

I received an email from The Chase creative agency and honestly didn’t believe it when it hit my inbox. I Googled like crazy to check that it wasn’t a spam email. Thankfully it wasn’t. I’m not fully sure how they found me. Apparently, the other agency went into the initial Royal Mail meeting with a mind to using me but, as The Chase had their meeting first, they got to use me. Pretty chuffed at that!

How important do you feel it is to mark the 75th anniversary of Windrush through these stamps?

The arrival of the West Indians to the UK is a positive thing and should be celebrated. Growing up, I wasn’t aware of the facts about  Commonwealth countries being invited to help the UK out after the Second World War. I’m really pleased to hear that this information is now being taught in schools and fully recognised. We’re not a people who arrived unannounced and without permission. We came to help. And help we did. The NHS is also celebrating its 75 year anniversary in July. It reinforces the fact that the Windrush generation were instrumental in building the NHS. With Royal Mail commissioning these stamps, it means that this celebration can travel internationally.

It’s unfortunate that there is such a thing called ‘The Windrush Scandal’. We can’t forget it and we shouldn’t. But we also need to look at the positives that the Windrush Generation has brought to the UK.

Can you talk us through your process of designing the stamps? Is it different to how you usually work? 

I worked in a similar fashion to how I normally work but there was a tremendous amount of research. More than I’d usually do. And I sketched and sketched and sketched way more than I’d usually do. Most of my art is digital and produced on the tablet in Procreate which has a limit to how many layers can be used. So instead of producing the art in one document like I generally do, I instead had a separate art document for each element of the stamp. For example, in the ‘Taste the Caribbean’ stamp, the sweetcorn was its own document, the lady with the shopping bag was another document, the people in the background were separate and so on. I saved each element and then merged them into the one document to produce the scene. I guess it’s almost like creating a collage, but you’d never realise that this is the case as it looks like one image.

I queried why we needed so much detail for something so small…I’m so pleased that the detail was encouraged as it wouldn’t have look so good enlarged otherwise – especially to the size that The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich have used it at.

The stamp is bright and bold. In it we can see a Black man buying fruit and vegetables from a market stall. On the stall we can see sweet potatoes, Mangos and Sweetcorn, to name a few items.

Kareen’s ‘Taste the Caribbean’ stamp

What was the inspiration for your stamps?

The inspiration was from my own experience of growing up in a family of St Lucian and Bajan (Barbados) origin. Being aware of the colourful Caribbean and the hopes and dreams of its people. Stories from my Mum about how it was when she came here. How difficult it was. But I also wanted the art to be celebratory. Despite the difficulties, my parents came here to help the UK, make a difference to their lives and to their children.

Kareen stands in front of one of her stamp designs with a smile on her face.

Kareen in front of the ‘From Small Island Life to Big Island Dreams’ stamp

Were there any ideas for your stamps that you didn’t end up using? 

Yes. There were a few other sketches. One of the ideas that I was asked to do (before the food one was decided) was to produce a stamp pre 1948 – acknowledging that there were Black people living in the UK before the Empire Windrush docked in Tilbury.

Royal Mail were keen to have an employment-based art piece – something to illustrate the type of work that West Indians did. I spent hours researching and came up with a few ideas which were a bus driver, factory worker and then army personnel. On reflection they thought it wasn’t celebratory enough so decided to go down the food route instead which worked out really well due to it’s vibrancy.

Your stamps will be seen by people around the UK. What do you want them to take from these designs?

Knowledge and conversation. You can learn a lot just by looking at the stamps (especially as a collection), acknowledging their titles and seeing the detail.

You can find out more about Kareen’s work on her website: