Wednesday, October 17, 2007


As a second generation West Indian (my mum came over from St. Lucia in the 1960s), I crave anything documenting that period when shiploads of Caribbean men and women were summoned over to the 'mother country' by the British government, only to be told once they arrived that, actually, they weren't really that welcome. Sorry.

Books like 'The Lonely Londoners', 'Windrush', 'The Final Passage' and more recently 'Small Island' all help to capture what it was like back then: the struggle for money, the overcrowded houses, the racism (the classic sign on a landlord's front door reading 'No blacks, no Irish, no dogs.'). But there were also good times: the blues dances, the style (boy, them cats looked shaaaarp - mad style and flavour!) and the general sense of community and knowing how to have a good time that no trip across the Atlantic could supress. Well no voluntary trip across the Atlantic anyways.

Reading fiction and non-fiction works like those mentioned above is one thing, but when you actually get to see pictures and film footage of the period it just brings that whole shit to life.

A couple of years back we interviewed my mum about her experience of travelling over for a project my niece was working on. We all sat around her on the floor mesmerised as she told us about the big ship she'd come on with her girlfriends. They were all so excited about going to England and would dress up for dinner and dances every night of the two-week journey just having bare fun. She wasn't quite sure what the ship was called but she thought it may have been something like The Askenia. I'd only really heard of The SS Empire Windrush ship but a couple of weeks later, I went to the V&A Museum for an exhibition on Black British Style and lo and behold, on the archive Pathe Newsreel being shown, there was a ship docking called The Askenia! I was so fucking happy and jumped about the exhibition like an Olympic pole vaulter on crack. I like to think that mum was the little dot coming down the stairs, cold, but waving happily at me from the past.

A new book called 'Black Britain: A Photographic History' has just been published containing some previously unseen still images from the time. It's written by Paul Gilroy, the bad boy sociologist, with an intro by Stuart Hall, the don dada of cultural studies (Sharmadean knows!!!). Check it out if you're on an old school flex like me.


The Answer said...

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The Answer said...

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SHAR WAH! said...

how FRESH is that front cover?!?! i had my lecture and presentation on Paul Gilroy TODAY blud! cant wait to go to the talk!!!

Anonymous said...

My program @ school is all Stuart Hall. Love the spice of intellect mixed in w/ some street. Keep up ladies!
-Sarah frm L.A. =]