This film is the outcome of a partnership project between the Caribbean Social Forum, the British Library and Chocolate Films, which took place in summer 2018.
It is inspired by the British Library’s exhibition Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land
Participants listened to original sound recordings held by the British Library ad made possible with the support of the HLF (Heritage Lottery Fund).
Members of the Caribbean Social Forum share their stories of journeying from the Caribbean to the UK and their experiences of settling in a new place to call home.
[Gilbert Clarke, RAF Veteran. Arrived from Jamaica in 1944] I came to England in 1944 after joining the Royal Air Force.
[Vincent Green, Retail Manager Export Department – John Lewis. Arrived from Jamaica in 1956] I came to the United Kingdom in 1956 in July.
[Anita Griffiths, NHS Registered Nurse. Arrived from Guyana in 1962] I came here in 1962, March.
[Velma McGregor, Director of English & Asst Head Teacher. Arrived from Grenada in 1961] I arrived in the United Kingdom in December of 1961.
[Sonia McIntosh MBE, Civil Servant – Houses of Parliament. Arrived from Jamaica in 1966] I came to England in 1966. That's the year that England last won the World Cup.
[Enid Simmons, Prison Officer. Arrived from Jamaica in 1961] I came to England in 1961. 7th of May to be exact.
[Keith Corbin, Transport for London & Royal Mail. Arrived from Barbados in 1965] 14th of February 1965.
[Kyungu Gordon-Walker, Senior Tutor (Student Support). Arrived from Jamaica in 1965] 16th of September 1965.
[Tony Durrant MBE JP, Director, Postive Action North-West. Arrived from St Vincent in 1967] 1967.
[Irma Reid, Cardiac NHS Nurse. Arrived from Trinidad in 1970] I came in 1970.
[Marie Bollers, Social Worker. Arrived from St Lucia in 1963] I came to England around the age of 10.
[Neville McGregor, Plasterer. Arrived from Jamaica in 1960] I arrived when I was 10, I'm now 70.
[Peggy Franklin, Auxiliary Nurse. Arrived from Barbados in 1959] 28th of December 1959, and it was rather cold.
(Anita) I thought “Oh, no this place is cold." I begin to shiver.
(Irma) I didn't have any boots, I was going around in sandals.
(Vincent) I saw all the buildings, so I says this place is full of nothing but factories!
(Tony) Windy, wet, and horrible. I had just left a sunny place to come to this 'mudder country' as we used to call it.
(Sonia) One of the things I remember was being bullied a little bit at school, because, I had this Jamaican accent.
(Velma) The children looked at us, and I remember being asked where was my tail. I said “What do you mean my tail?"
She said “Well, monkey's have tails." I must admit she did get a bunch of fives.
(Kyungu) I thought all the kids in England were stupid because they were doing things that I did when I was about 9 in Jamaica, and I just thought.
So initially, I learned nothing in secondary school in England until I left.
(Keith) When I came to Britain with the sponsorship from London Transport, so I actually came to a job.
I came to Britain, landed on the money, and on the Tuesday I was studying how to be a Bus Conductor.
(Gilbert) I wished to explore the world, Jamaica is lovely but it is limited. It was a chance to go to Europe or England, it is a big advantage.
I came over here to do nursing because there was not much work in my home town.
So I wrote to a hospital in Brighton.
And then the other one was somewhere in Hertfordshire.
And, I said to myself that the first hospital that answers me, that's the one I would work in.
The Matron answered me, in Brighton, within two weeks to date,
and she said to me there is a school starting on 1st April, and she would have me if I would come over, and I said yes.
I left school when I was about 15, and then I had small jobs.
I was working with an engineering firm, I learnt to weld, after I left that firm, I went to a pram factory.
My Dad says “I need someone to work with me." I start working with him, because my Dad was a self-employed Plasterer.
Every time my Mum said “How do you work with him?" I said “It's Dad innit."
I got me job. The first job was doing them smoke pipes.
I then went to peel onions, them little tiny onions that they bottle now. Pickled onions.
You had to do a whole lot before you could get one penny.
Anyway, the advert came in for nursing and the Civil Service.
So, I went to this interview with the City London Hospital, and they showed me around because I really like nursing. The dead bodies put me right off.
I couldn't handle that bit. So, anyway I popped it and went for the Civil Service.
I worked in Holloway Prison for twenty years as a Prison Officer.
In those days you could get a job. Walk out of one job and get into another job.
I bought the Evening News, and I see John Lewis has advertising for workers.
And, I worked for them for twenty- three years.
Sonia McIntosh MBE
My longest job was working at the Houses of Parliament.
I worked there for thirty-five years. That was quite interesting.
I went there and I thought “What a beautiful place!"
They took me for a little tour, and I thought it was really nice and I thought I would assimilate.
One of the things I did find, at that time there were very few black people working in the Houses of Parliament.
And, if they were they were usually in the kitchens, doing the mopping, doing the cleaning, whatever.
There wasn't very many role models for you to, kind of, look to.
Tony Durrant MBE JP
I felt that there was a lack of equality and diversity within the British Civil Service.
So I started activating and getting other black people together to ask the question:
Why aren't black people being promoted?
Why are they concentrated in the lower grades?
) My career was built on hard work,
and it was finally recognised a few years back when the speaker recommended me for an MBE.
Which I got, and went to Buckingham Palace and collected my little gong.
) I ended up being given the MBE in 2008, and the citation says:
in recognition to the contribution to the voluntary sector in the North-West of England.
So my experience in education, on the one hand when I first came as a youngster it wasn't particularly good.
On the other hand, I think I had the opportunity to go to university without getting a grant because I had worked.
and I had some very good people supporting me.
I was teaching for thirty-two years, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I think England is somewhere that has actually given me that opportunity to explore and to be the person I am today.
Coming to England, you thought you'll go back home or whatever the case might be but it never worked that way.
You get married, and then other things fall into place.
My plan was to stay five years, and then go back home.
Then I met boyfriend, then, that you know, have children, well my daughter.
So I have been here ever since, and I haven't regretted coming.
I see England as my home. St Lucia is home, but I think England is where I have been brought up.
I've worked, I've got friends, I've socialised.
So, I find when I go back, which is often - I still do that, I don't really fit in really.
They see you as a foreigner.
) I don't know if it's right or wrong, but I've never really had the feeling that I want to go back to Jamaica to live.
I love visiting, I love the country, but I'm not sure I could live there now.
Because having been brought up here as a child, this is my home.
And, if it means fighting for what I need to be recognised here, this is where I am going to fight for it.
Marie Bollers, Keith Corbin, Gilbert Clarke, Tony Durrant MBE JP, Peggy Franklin, Kyungu Gordon-Walker, Vincent Green, Anita Griffiths, Neville McGregor, Velmar McGregor, Sonia McIntosh MBE, Irma Reid, Enid Simmons.
Special thanks to:
Caribbean Social Forum and Pamela Franklin
Chocolate Films Project Team
Sinead Loftus, Daniel Onyia, Aisha Antwi