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Windrush Day sees calls for Gravesend development to be named after nurse on 72nd anniversary of ship's arrival

Councillors have marked Windrush Day by calling for the development of a hospital to be named after a Gravesend nurse.

Gravesham's planning committee met last week to discuss plans to convert the former Gravesend and North Kent Hospital site in Bath Street, Gravesend - known as M-Block - into flats.

Retired nurse Ursilla Sullivan
Retired nurse Ursilla Sullivan

Approval of the plans has been deferred, pending further information, but the meeting prompted calls from the council's Conservative Group to name the site after Ursilla Sullivan - a retired Gravesham nurse and midwife who came to the UK as part of the Windrush generation in 1954 on the SS Antilles.

Now in her 90s Trinidad-born Ursilla is well known to the people of Gravesham as she helped deliver thousands of babies, and the group called her "probably the most prolific midwife this area has ever seen."

Cllr Diane Marsh, Conservative councillor for Singlewell and a fellow nurse, said: "Gravesham is a diverse borough and it is only right that we celebrate all of our communities. The Windrush generation is close to our hearts and it would be a fantastic tribute to a dedicated midwife who has served this area well if the proposed but not yet approved development and was named after her.

"It is important that new life is brought back to this site, but we cannot forget the important role that this building has played in the lives of many local people."

An artist's impression shows the proposed L-Block in the foreground, with the M-Block tower to the rear
An artist's impression shows the proposed L-Block in the foreground, with the M-Block tower to the rear
M-Block has lain disused since 2006. Picture by René Steuns
M-Block has lain disused since 2006. Picture by René Steuns

If approved the application would see the former maternity unit known as M-Block turned into 81 homes, alongside a new adjoining block dubbed L-Block, which would contain 34 homes.

This afternoon also brings a special online event in celebration of the Windrush generation organised by Cohesion Plus in partnership with the North Kent Caribbean Network and the Kent Equality Cohesion Council, supported by Arts Council England.

Members of the Gravesham community will be joined by civic guest including Deputy Lord Lieutenant Dr Bhagwara Vasudaven, KCC Leader, Mr Roger Gough, KCC Chairman Cllr Graham Gibbens and Mayor of Gravesham Cllr John Caller.

Ursilla Sulliva with one of many babies she delivered
Ursilla Sulliva with one of many babies she delivered

The event will see an afternoon of music, short films and speeches celebrating the positive contribution by the Caribbean community to the country and it will be hosted by the artistic

Director of Cohesion Plus, Gurvinder Sandher said: “Our main goal is to bring communities together regardless background and we have worked very hard to promote community cohesion for the last two decades. Sadly the last few months have shown us that our work is even more vital now than ever, and must continue in uplifting diverse communities and celebrate the historic contributions made by members from the Commonwealth. Our Windrush event may be taking place online this year but it will be no less celebratory, vibrant and special.”

Windrush Day celebrates the arrival of the SSE Empire Windrush on June 22 1948 and commemorates the vast contribution made by the migrant population towards the rebuilding of post-war Britain.

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