Uk News 'I love the Windrush generation. But they also did a lot wrong' United Kingdom news
PremierLeague-News.Com - On Windrush Day 2022, Roy Williams writes about exploring the legacy of racism in his new play The Fellowship - and making peace with the actions of his parents and their peers
PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! In The Fellowship, the play I’ve just written for London’s Hampstead Theatre, there are three generations of British West Indians at war.Fifty-something sisters Marcia and Dawn are struggling to keep the bond between them intact, let alone maintain their relationship with their mother. All the while, Dawn’s student son Jermaine is drifting away from her. What was behind this? I wanted to explore how experiences of racial injustice vary between the Windrush generation and their descendants – and how that can be a source of tension between different age groups.The Windrush generation, striking out from their small islands for a better future in Britain, were as dynamic as the name of that first Empire Windrush ship they came on implies. They sacrificed much to be accepted in the mother country. After them comes the “second generation”, their children, who are fighting back against a system that makes them feel second class, despite the fact they were born in this country. And now the third, who are far more diverse than their forebears, and making massive strides towards changing this country for the good. But it is also hard work for all of them. The overall fight – to be accepted, to feel this country is as much ours as everyone else’s – is ongoing. We have no choice and it’s exhausting, and one of the questions the play asks is, why is it still like this? As a child of parents who came to the UK from Jamaica in the 50s, I love the Windrush generation. I thank them. I honour them. But they also did a lot of things wrong. The play revolves around fifty-something sisters Marcia and Dawn, who are struggling to keep the bond between them intact (Photo: Robert Day) My father, for example, Roy Samuel Williams Senior, arrived in this country in 1957 looking for work. Once he’d found something and somewhere to live, he sent for my mother, Gloria, who arrived a year later. That was standard practice for most West Indians coming here during those times. So my dad, living in London alone for an entire year, had plenty of time to play around – and play he did. He met a young white woman named Evelyn at the old Odeon cinema in Chelsea, and one thing led to another. By the time Evelyn was heavily pregnant, my mother had arrived in the UK, and Dad dropped Evelyn like a bag of yams. She didn’t see him again until one day when she was out pushing a pram carrying her mixed-raced child and trying to ignore the scornful looks and vicious comments from white passers-by. She spotted him walking towards her on the King’s Road, but as he approached he didn’t give her a second look. Related StoriesGiles Terera confronts toxic masculinity in the dazzling Death of England: Face to Face23 November, 2021“Father unknown” was written on the child’s birth certificate. My mother never knew about Evelyn. Until this time last year, I had no idea I had a secret mixed-race older brother named Robert. It was thanks to Ancestry.com and the amazing science of DNA that I became aware of his existence. We have met several times now. We get on very well. Robert is very much a part of my family and I love him dearly. Here’s another story. My eldest brother, Mark, was a talented cricketer, so much so that a professional team wanted him to try out. This was when I was aged two. There was no phone in our flat, then. Everything was done by letter and the invitation to Mark was sent by post. Only Mark never got to see that letter. My dad had intercepted it and burned it. His sick thinking was: “Why should my son get a break in this country when I still can’t?” In ‘The Fellowship’, Brexit heightens the characters’ concerns about how British they feel they are (Photo: Robert Day)A lot worse went on but that act put the final nail in the coffin of my parents’ failing marriage. They soon divorced and my father went to live in America. I never saw or heard from him again until I turned 40. He died four years ago; none of his children attended the funeral.
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. “My dad used a belt” – “my mum had a slipper” – “my parents would cut down a whole tree to beat me with it”. Any parent now, black or white would surely be arrested and locked up if they did that now and rightly so. So why does my generation look back on those times and laugh about it? I was often on the receiving end of some painful licks from my mum, and it wasn’t funny at the time. In The Fellowship, through Dawn’s complicated relationship with her dying mother as she cares for her, I wanted to examine this sort of behaviour in light of the abuse that generation faced when they arrived in this country. The writer in me can forgive as well as understand many of their actions. I only grew up hearing about the signs in the windows, No blacks, no Irish, no dogs, but they actually saw them. They had doors slammed in their faces. They were spat at in the street, called vile racist names and told to go back to where they came from. In a country they believed they would be made to feel welcome. “Their queen is our queen”, my mum would often say. The second generation are almost twice as old the Windrush generation were when they first arrived. We have children now, some even have grandchildren. We didn’t have signs saying No blacks, no Irish. What we had were the “sus laws”. Which, back in the good days of the 70s and 80s, allowed the police to arrest any black youth they did not like the look of, who in their mind was “giving the impression that something was questionable or dishonest about them”. The cast of ‘The Fellowship’ in rehearsals (Photo: Robert Day)To the millennials who might be reading this, yes, sus was real, and it was legal. Look it up.And now we have a third generation. How imperfect and frustrating we must seem to them sometimes. I believe they are the most exciting generation this country has ever seen. They live to learn, they learn to live. But they exist in the world of social media. Where very sick minds will post the most revolting racist online abuse at young black footballers and all because three of them missed penalties in a football match. The more things change, the more they stay the same, right? Brexit and the Windrush scandal certainly helped to shape my writing of The Fellowship, which is why it is set in 2019, that time of anxious uncertainty about where this country was going following the Leave vote. On top of that, the disgusting, shameful, truly evil Windrush scandal that began in 2018 was gaining pace. Countless West Indian Britons who had worked hard and made lives for themselves in the UK were threatened with deportation by this British Government – you know the story. In 1948, this country was on its knees begging the Commonwealth to come to the UK and help rebuild after the Second World War. In hindsight, given what happened, they secretly meant countries of the commonwealth that were white, such as New Zealand, perhaps? But my dad, my mum and thousands of others came anyway. Prop up the NHS in its infancy? Done! Keep your trains running? Sorted! Clean your streets? Not a problem, pass me a broom! Almost 75 years have elapsed since then. My parents have passed away now. The loss of a loved one always makes us take stock of our own lives: who are we really, where are we going? More from ArtsBaz Luhrmann and Austin Butler: ‘Elvis is the reason my movies look like they do’18 June, 2022From The Car Man to Henry Moore: the best of the week's live reviews17 June, 2022Vivian Maier: the post-war nanny whose extraordinary photos were only discovered after she died15 June, 2022As my main character in The Fellowship, Dawn says, “we are the old farts now.” Writing this play was almost like therapy. Accepting the realisation that I am not as young as I was and owning that. Reaffirming to myself that to be black is not limited but limitless. Accepting that, as Dawn must do in the play, the next generation may feel as perplexed by some of our actions as I have been about those of the men and women who came before us.But there are also things that unite us: music, culture as well as mutual grief for the injustices that are woven into our history in this country.Then there are the unending questions about identity and belonging. In The Fellowship, Brexit heightens the characters’ concerns about how British they feel they are. How British am I? What does that question even mean now for people of my generation, for the one after mine and generations to come? But we are all here now, and we are here because the Windrush generation was here before us. The Fellowship is at Hampstead Theatre to 23 July (020 7722 9301, hampsteadtheatre.com)
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