23 August 2018

Exploring Windrush Roots

Urban Muhammad in 'Sorrel & Black Cake'. Photo by Tim Smith.
Urban Muhammad in ‘Sorrel & Black Cake’. Photo by Tim Smith

June 2018 marked the 70th anniversary of Windrush. Bringing the first wave of Caribbean migrants to Britain in 1948, this momentous historical event was the beginning of the mass immigration movement in the UK that resulted in an estimated 172,000 West Indian born people living in the UK by 1961; the ‘Windrush Generation’.

We decided to celebrate this important anniversary by creating a new theatre production. The project, entitled Windrush: An Influential Force on British Culture, was made possible through funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund Young Roots programme, which aims help young people explore their heritage through a variety of events and activities.

Although our Windrush project focused on engaging young people with their heritage, we were delighted when Black History buff, Urban Muhammad, got involved with the project after being invited to share his expansive knowledge of Caribbean history and the Windrush story with the project’s young participants.

Urban teaches Black History in Leeds, Huddersfield and Birmingham. The project’s coordinators, writer and poet Khadijah Ibrahiim and musician/composer Christella Litras, asked Urban to contribute to the development of script for this new Windrush inspired production.

When Khadijah mentioned to Urban that there was a role in the script that would be a perfect fit for him, he was slightly taken aback. “I’d never done anything like this before,” said Urban. “But I thought, why not? I’ll give this a try.”

And so he did! The script was finished and the final piece, called Sorrel & Black Cake: A Windrush Story, had its premiere in Leeds on ‘Windrush Day’, Friday 22nd June 2018. Urban played the part of Belford, the pastor son of the recently deceased Windrush passenger, Miss Letty.

“It was nerve-wracking,” said Urban. “But after we’d finished performing, I was filled with exhilaration. It was emotional.”

We asked Urban what guidance he’d give to older people who have never acted on stage before but would be interested in giving it a go. Urban’s advice? “Just do it! Go for it. As they say, life’s too short.”

We are delighted that Sorrel & Black Cake will be appearing at the Ilkley Literature Festival on Friday 5th October 2018. Join the production’s visionary creatives, poet and theatre-maker Khadijah Ibrahiim and composer/musician Christella Litras, as they discuss their inspiration, perform extracts and present never-before seen footage of interviews which inspired the production. This event begins at 7.15pm in the Wharfeside Theatre at Ilkley Playhouse. Tickets can be purchased here.

Urban and the cast of Sorrel & Black Cake. Photo by Tim Smith
Urban and the cast of Sorrel & Black Cake. Photo by Tim Smith
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