Students are delving into a period of history notorious for intolerance, discrimination and oppression as they help a mayor recognise the impact of the Windrush generation on their town.

Darlington College art and design students have been commissioned by Mayor Jan Cossins to produce a range of arts materials to promote the annual charity ball in April.

It will be used on poster designs and on social media posts, as well as being showcased and auctioned at the glittering event, which will take place on April 12 at the Dolphin Centre.

Cllr Cossins briefed level one to three first year students at the college. She was accompanied by Shaun Campbell, whose family were of the Windrush generation and invited to Britain 75 years ago to help rebuild the nation after the Second World War.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Darlington College art and design students join Mayor Jan Cossins and founder of the Arthur Wharton

Sadly, they were met with a wave of racism and bigotry. Mr Campbell founded the Arthur Wharton Foundation to champion the achievements of the world’s first black professional footballer, who arrived in the UK from Ghana in 1883.

The ball artwork will promote the charitable event which will raise much-needed money for the Man Health and the The Listening Post mental health charities.

Cllr Cossins said: “The contribution of the Windrush Generation has been absolutely marvellous and I thought it was time we officially recognised them, which is why my ball is going to be based on their many achievements.”

Darlington and Stockton Times: Darlington College art and design students join Mayor Jan Cossins and founder of the Arthur Wharton

She said Mr Campbell had commissioned a mural for the Arthur Wharton Foundation building, a former scout hut in Widdowfield Road, which showed the Windrush people arriving at Darlington Station with their suitcases. “In the background is a bus marked ‘Special’ and these people certainly were.”

Cllr Cossins said the artwork needed to highlight the rich, diverse and positive contribution the people from the Caribbean brought to the town such as the food, culture and music.

Mr Campbell said: “When we look back to see how we were welcomed it is clear that words hurt. We were invited to help rebuild the country after the war. We arrived in hats and sharp suits to be met with signs that said ‘No Blacks’.

“But this project is not just to champion race it is to celebrate diversity including gender, sexuality, disability. Barbados was the first ever slave colony and the most brutal. My family line goes back 400 years to that time, I don’t know how it survived and I feel privileged even to be here today.

“This town has never celebrated the Windrush generation and Jan is the first mayor who has made it her mantra.”

Darlington College lecturer Pippa Eeles said: “Students benefit so much from tackling professional briefs like the mayor’s charity ball but this one definitely feels extra special and I can tell they can’t wait to get started.”