Things have been pretty Windrush focussed at GCF HQ over the past couple of weeks, and the participants of our Windrush: an Influential Force on British Culture project have been hard at work developing their new production celebrating the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush.
As today is World Book Day, we thought that there’s no better time to take a step back and think about the books that have inspired this project. After all, this weather is perfect for wrapping up inside and enjoying a day of reading. So we’ve put together a list (with lots of help from our wonderful project partner, Peepal Tree Press) of books that have helped inform the project so far, shaped the new production, and generally inspired us.
Novels, Poetry & Plays
A delicately wrought and profoundly moving novel about empire, prejudice, war and love, Small Island was the unique winner of both the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Whitbread book of the Year, in addition to the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and the Orange Prize ‘Best of the Best’.
Andrea Levy was born in England to Jamaican parents who came to Britain in 1948. After attending writing workshops when she was in her mid-thirties, Levy began to write the novels that she, as a young woman, had always wanted to read – entertaining novels that reflect the experiences of black Britons, which look at Britain and its changing population and at the intimacies that bind British history with that of the Caribbean.
After false starts in teaching and social work, Melda Hayley finds her mission in fostering the damaged children of the first generation of black settlers in a deeply racist Britain.
Born in what was then British Guiana, Beryl Gilroy moved to the UK in the1950s. She was the author of six novels, two autobiographical books, and she was a pioneering teacher and psychotherapist, becoming London’s first black headteacher. She is considered “one of Britain’s most significant post-war Caribbean migrants”.
Both devastating and funny, The Lonely Londoners is an unforgettable account of immigrant experience – and one of the great twentieth-century London novels.
In 1950, Sam Selvon left Trinidad for the UK where, after several hard years, he established himself as a writer.
These seven one act plays bring to dramatic life some of the characters who first appeared in Selvon’s classic novels of exile, The Lonely Londoners and Moses Ascending. Dreams, schemes, summer gaiety and winter disappointments: the experiences of the parents and grandparents of the Black British children of today are portrayed with Selvon’s characteristic humour and poignancy.
Born into colonial Trinidad in 1922 as Aldwyn Roberts, ‘Kitch’ emerged in the 1950s, at the forefront of multicultural Britain, acting as an intermediary between the growing Caribbean community, the islands they had left behind, and the often hostile conditions of life in post War Britain. In the process, Kitch, as he was affectionally called, single-handedly popularised the calypso in Britain, with recordings such as ‘London is the Place for Me’, ‘The Underground Train’ and ‘Ghana’.
Anthony Joseph is a musician and writer. He is the author of four poetry collections: Desafinado, Teragaton, Bird Head Son and Rubber Orchestras, and a novel, The African Origins of UFOs.
Johnnie Sobert is a brown Jamaican who earns his living as a barman in a Soho club. Sobert is a man divided: between Black and White; between class identities; between heterosexual and homosexual desires; between being an exiled Jamaican and an incipient Black Londoner.
Andrew Salkey was born in Colon, Panama in 1928 of Jamaican parents. He was brought up in Jamaica by his mother and grandparents. He left to attend the University of London in 1952, where he did a BA in English. He taught in school and worked as a broadcaster for the BBC on the Caribbean Voices programme. He was deeply involved in the Caribbean Artists Movement.
Another Crossing is a marvellous collection of poems that tell the stories of an individual life, of a family, of the communities of Chapeltown and Harehills, and of crucial moments in the making of Leeds as a place where cultures meet.
Khadijah was born in Leeds of Jamaican parentage. She is a poet and theatre maker, and a GCF Creative Associate Artist. She is also a project producer on this project.
Broadcaster Trevor Phillips and his novelist brother Mike retell the very human story of Britain’s first West Indian immigrants and their descendants from the first wave of immigration in 1948 to the present day.
Telling the story of Black British Music and the people who made it, from Tudor times to the mid ‘60s.
Kevin Le Gendre is a journalist and broadcaster and writer with a special interest in black music.
The memoir of poet, playwright, novelist and academic, E.A. (Archie) Markham. When he came to London in 1956 from his native Montserrat, Markham’s ambitions were to make it as a writer or pop singer, and at the same time, fulfil family expectations to become a scholar and academic. Unfortunately the young Archie’s attempts to combine elements of Little Richard and the now forgotten Jim Dale never found the success he was convinced they deserved and it has been in less lucrative fields that Markham established his reputation as a ‘nimble-footed, silver-tongued’ poet, critic and fiction writer.
The Front Room is a unique study by author Michael McMillan of the position of the home in different migrant groups. McMillan draws upon memories of his relatives’ homes in the 1960s and 1970s to show a representation of his vision of the traditional West Indian front room and the symbolism of particular objects.
Do you have any book recommendations on Windrush? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More details on our Windrush production coming very soon! Keep your eyes peeled on our social media pages and website.