Tag Archives: Ridleians of Distinction

Charting New Territory: Winston Godwin ’08

Winston Godwin talks resiliency, going global—and how he’s making waves in his home of Bermuda

If you’re new to Ridley and find yourself poking around the stories of its various members, you’ll hear time and again how grateful Ridleians are to be part of a truly global community. Each year, international students from over 60 countries flock to the school to study, soon discovering a second family, forming lifelong connections and learning, not only from classrooms, but each other. The result? A broad worldview which helps inform each journey, lighting paths that take them far beyond the Marriott gates. For Winston Godwin ’08, his years spent on campus were some of the best of his life. “It’s certainly beautiful,” he smiles. “but it’s the people who make it special. When I go back to visit, it all comes rushing back.”

Winston grew up in Sandys, Bermuda, where he’s known widely not only for his work in the marine field, but as an important voice from Bermuda’s LGBTQ community. For years, the aquarist and his Canadian husband, Greg led the fight on same-sex marriage—a battle which still continues to this day. Winston’s clear articulation of the argument for equal rights, along with his perseverance and resilience, led to his being named Bermudian of the Year in 2017, and a Ridleian of Distinction the year that followed.

Born of hardworking parents, Winston’s father worked for years at the Bermuda Telephone Company, his mother a housekeeper at the Elbow Beach Hotel. “My dad always felt education was the biggest investment he could make for his children,” remembers the alumnus, who attended Saltus Grammar School before coming to Ridley. “He had always wanted us to go to Canada and believed sending us away to school would help broaden our horizons, our minds—ultimately the world.”

“My dad always felt education was the biggest investment he could make for his children. He had always wanted us to go to Canada and believed sending us away to school would help broaden our horizons, our minds—ultimately the world.”

After high school, Winston studied at the University of Guelph, graduating with degrees in Geography and Environmental Analysis and Geographic Information Systems. As someone who now works in the marine field, having joined researchers from around the world on The Turtle Project and clean-up crews on plastics research vessel, the Sea Dragon, he’s long been passionate about marine life, and has seen firsthand the human impact on our oceans. He now works as an aquarist, caring for animals at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo.

A British territory settled by the English in the early seventeenth-century, Bermuda is self-governing, a parliamentary dependency which sits under a constitutional monarchy. Its small population—around 70,000 people—lean toward conservative views. Shortly after the amendment of its Human Rights Act in 2009, which ruled it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation, Bermuda held a referendum to see where the public stood on same-sex marriage. Only 45 per cent voted, leaving the question officially unanswered, but of the voters, more than 60 per cent were opposed. “Bermuda’s LGBTQ community is only a small part of the population,” Winston explains. “And when you have the majority voting on the rights of the minority? It’s…problematic.”

Winston and Greg found themselves at the centre of an historic case when the newly engaged couple answered the call to challenge Bermudian law. At the time, living in Canada, they were largely out of the fray, far away from what was playing out in Bermuda’s courts. But when his post-graduate permit expired, Winston left his job at Toronto’s Ripley’s Aquarium and took a position back home. Suddenly, he was in the thick of politics, finding himself alternately challenged and supported, and moving awkwardly through the world on defence.

By May 2017, the court found with the couple, concluding that marriage is a right which all citizens are owed by law. The legal success was short-lived, however; Parliament put forth a bill (a challenge rooted in religion), which soon evolved into The Domestic Partnership Act. Though other LGBTQ couples had married by then—including Winston and Greg—the bill passed into law and, once more, same-sex marriage was illegal.

Since then, as other couples have come forward to appeal the decision and same-sex marriage has, again, been deemed legal by the Bermudian courts; the government has, again, stepped forward, taking its appeal all the way to Bermuda’s Supreme Court. After three separate cases, same-sex marriage is still legal, though Parliament continues to fight it. The final challenge, which will be heard December 2020 by the U.K.’s Privy Council, will be their final appeal, the fate of same-sex marriage in Bermuda decided once and for all.

Winston and Greg have now lived together in Bermuda for three years, Winston loving his work at the aquarium, Greg an occupational therapist at the mental health hospital nearby. Both miss the freedom they had in Canada, where it wasn’t such a challenge to simply be themselves, to simply be together. As Winston put it in an interview with The Royal Gazette, “My being gay: I have as much choice in that as I do being black. In being left- or right-handed. In being a woman or a man.”

“It’s all about being visible. Just showing who you are, speaking about what’s important to you, allowing others to see you. It shows people they can be themselves too—that’s a fight in itself.”

Change may be slow to come to the conservative islands of Bermuda, but it is coming. Like anywhere, the members of its LGBTQ community work hard to be recognized and accepted. Bermuda celebrated its first Pride this past August, hosting the largest parade the islands have ever seen. “We expected a couple of hundred people,” Winston reports, thrilled with the event’s success, “but 5,000 showed up. It was a celebration of everything that’s come before it.”

Winston, who was in his twenties when he first came out, losing the support of family and friends, found its other forms of strength where he least expected. Support can often come quietly, he’s learned over the years—a like on social media, a photo, an article shared by someone he didn’t know supports the same cause as he. “It’s all about being visible,” he imparts. “Just showing who you are, speaking about what’s important to you, allowing others to see you. It shows people they can be themselves too—that’s a fight in itself.”

Winston doesn’t know where life will take him, but he does know it’s getting easier. “It’s woefully optimistic to expect everyone to love you for who you are,” he admits. “And that’s ok too.” For the young couple, their lives together reaching out ahead of them, there’s still plenty of work to be done to ensure everyone’s rights are recognized—whether in the courts or on the streets. But for now, on the islands of Bermuda, they’re learning though the water’s surface may look still, there’s always movement underneath, and sometimes farther below that, common ground.

This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from our summer issue.

All That’s Real: Jane Lewis ’90

With her new album recently released, singer-songwriter, Jane Lewis shares how she found her voice—and is helping others find their own.

The chapel light travels warmly along the pews, coming to rest on the rich curves of the piano. A woman sits at its keys. She’s slight, fair, her face framed by a riot of silver curls. Her eyes are closed, fingers moving deftly along the instrument as she sings, softly at first, then with increasing emotion: “Here we are at the end, here we are, no regrets, just gotta take that one last step off the edge.” Above her, the stained-glass beckons, a reminder of things beyond the chapel space.

Jane Lewis Piano

The singer in the video is Jane Lewis ’90, and the song, Carry You Home, is dedicated to her late father, Paul, a teacher, coach and historian whose name many Ridleians will recognize. For the daughter of two long-time faculty members—her mother, Janet was the first housemaster of Dean’s house the year girls started boarding and eventual Assistant Head of Upper School—it was the perfect place to be. “I started writing it when he was sick, and we knew his time was limited,” Jane responds, when asked about the song. “It was really special to be able to film it in the chapel.”

The girl who once wrote poetry and was one of Ridley’s first environmental activists is now a musician based in Guelph, Ontario. Her passionate vocals and piano accompaniment have been compared to legendary singer Carole King, her songs described as “intelligent, poetic and cinematic.” (You’ll want to get to know her playful Beatles cover of Come Together—it won the Independent Music Award for Best Cover Song in 2015.)

All That's Real Album

“It might not be the way you initially imagined, but if you have a passion for something, if it’s authentic to you, you’ll find a way to manifest it.”

Speaking to her, it’s easy to see why. She’s thoughtful, reflective, empathetic—and if you read through the yearbooks, you’ll see that early writer’s voice slowly take shape; listen to her lyrics now and you’ll still find those echoes. It’s unsurprising that she finds inspiration in confessional songwriters like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, and perhaps even less so when she says she’ll often choose silence, as it gives space for the ideas to come. When she’s not busy writing, singing solo, or teaching vocals in the popular workshops she runs, Jane is half of award-winning folk duo Gathering Sparks. Their compelling new album, All That’s Real was just released this fall.

For Jane, the road to music was a winding one. A philosophy major in university, she was already working in publishing when the opportunities to perform started popping up. And, by 2009, Jane found herself wandering a different, surprisingly natural path—“a decision that came out of what was already happening,” she eloquently puts it.

As someone who herself was at first shy to perform, Jane kept hearing from people who wished they could sing. She soon realized she could fill a need. “If you don’t go to church or aren’t a musician yourself, if you don’t have a family that sits around the piano, then where’s your outlet for singing?” she asks.

Jane founded All Together Now, a singing workshop series in Guelph. There’s no pressure to attend, no public performance; it’s simply about being in the moment, about embodying music. “It can be a powerful thing to get in touch with your voice, or the reason you’ve felt blocked,” she says. “But to share your authentic voice as a human being can be an act of courage. That really motivated me.” For some, these workshops have become a place where they learn to use that voice; for others, it’s a place to stop in and just let it all out. “I’ve had people say this is better than therapy,” she laughs. “And cheaper.”

Jane is also co-founder of the Women’s Music Weekend, an annual retreat where women of all musical abilities can perform in a supportive, inclusive community. There are powerful moments at these events, moments where a woman gains confidence, where she feels brave enough to step out front and sing on her own.

Jane Lewis Headshot

“It can be a powerful thing to get in touch with your voice, or the reason you’ve felt blocked. But to share your authentic voice as a human being can be an act of courage.”

The Women’s Music Weekend also has a bursary programme, now in its third season, where women can apply for financial aid. Having herself received assistance for a workshop she’d once found challenging to attend, the musician quickly saw an opportunity to pay it forward. “That definitely ties back to my time at Ridley,” she recognizes. “The motto, ‘may I be consumed in service’—that’s important.”

Ridley feels those ties pulling right back. Last year, Gathering Sparks performed as part of an artistic lineup at the Toronto Branch Reception at the AGO. “It was a celebration of the arts,” remembers Jane, “and felt like a recognition that this is an important career path a lot of people are taking.”  

When asked what advice she has for Ridley’s budding musicians, she takes a moment to reflect. On where she came from. On the work she puts in now. On the new album that’s taken years to come together—and the recognition that’s already trickling in. “It might not be the way you initially imagined,” she muses, “but if you have a passion for something, if it’s authentic to you, you’ll find a way to manifest it.”

And, if she’s learned anything, it’s that you never know what’s next. Looking back at the road which led her to this point, in some ways not where she thought she’d be, in others right back here at home, Jane seems content.

“Maybe the road is still winding.”


This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from our winter issue.