Mediating the Windrush Children

Caryl Phillips and Horace Ové

by Josiane Ranguin (Author)
©2020 Prompt VI, 78 Pages


Mediating the Windrush Children analyses three plays by St. Kitts-born British playwright Caryl Phillips: Strange Fruit (1981), Where There is Darkness (1982), The Shelter (1984), and a film by Trinidadian-British filmmaker Horace Ové, Pressure (1975), as artistic depictions of the experience of the Windrush generation, a term that refers to the Anglo-Caribbean islanders recruited to help rebuild Britain in the aftermath of World War II. These works are vibrant calls to resist visuality as an authoritarian medium, and tools of resilience. The revival of Caryl Phillips’s Strange Fruit at the Bush Theatre, and ‘Get Up, Stand Up Now’, the celebration of Black British artists, among whom Horace Ové, took place in London during the summer of 2019. Both events put into perspective the 2018 Windrush scandal that saw members of the Windrush generation denied their rights as British citizens.
Mediating the Windrush Children should appeal to students engaged in drama studies, film studies and postcolonial literature, as well as members of the general public interested in artistic works focusing on the Windrush generation.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Historical Context
  • 1 horace ové’s pressure (1975)
  • 2 strange fruit (1981)
  • The Genesis of Strange Fruit
  • Assimilationism versus Separatism
  • 3 where there is darkness (1982)
  • 4 the shelter (1984)
  • Doubles in The Shelter
  • 5 writing in spirals


The Shelter (1984) is the only one of Caryl Phillips’s first three plays to open on an introduction where he delineates his credo and motivations as a writer. He further notes that what made this play an arduous task was the ‘burden of responsibility’ it imposed:

I stopped, feeling I was shouldering an additional burden to those I was used to, such as form, characterisation, dialogue and so on—a burden that was making things difficult, and might ultimately make it impossible, for me, to continue this game. This supplementary burden I named ‘responsibility.’ (7)

The Shelter offers an insider’s view of a dysfunctional Anglo-Caribbean family at a time when social and racial tensions in Britain had reached a peak. For Phillips, then, writing is a ‘frightening’ game because of the worries it provokes and ‘the accustomed panic’ (7) that goes along with it. The possible consequences of literary representations are a cause for concern, while his first responsibility as a writer is to remain faithful to the truth of the material:

[…] but I, perhaps motivated by the luxury of inexperience, had always felt that my only responsibility was to locate the truth in whatever piece I was working on, live with it, sleep with it, and be responsible to that truth alone. After all, I could see no ←1 | 2→other way of surviving as a sane individual given the often cruel contradiction of the society I had chosen to live in. (7)

Phillips then quotes Langston Hughes on the ‘often cruel contradiction’ (7) of being a black writer who can, on the one hand, be subjected to the harsh criticism of members of his own ethnic group and, on the other hand, become the recipient of unsought favours from the white segment of the audience: ‘The Negro artist works against an undertow of sharp criticism and misunderstanding from his own group and unintentional bribes from the whites.’ (34) The following statement from Hughes’s ‘The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain’ (1926) was the founding principle of the Harlem Renaissance, a period revisited by Phillips in Dancing in the Dark (2005). It shares with Phillips’s texts one driving interest: the relationships between whites and blacks and, more particularly, between white women and black men.

Without going outside his race, and even among the better classes with their ‘white’ culture and conscious American manners, but still Negro enough to be different, there is sufficient matter to furnish a black artist with a lifetime of creative work. And when he chooses to touch on the relations between Negroes and whites in this country, with their innumerable overtones and undertones, surely, and especially for literature and the drama, there is an inexhaustible supply of themes at hand. (Hughes 1926)

Hughes was suggesting as early as 1920 that African-American artists should avoid working in anticipation of the white public interpretation of their creations and refrain from judging as ‘too Black’ those among them who propose to offer a real, truthful, and unalloyed image of fellow black people.


VI, 78
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (March)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. VI, 78 pp., 1. b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Josiane Ranguin (Author)

Josiane Ranguin was awarded her Ph.D. in English and postcolonial literature by Université Sorbonne Paris-Cité where she currently teaches English and postcolonial film as a Senior Lecturer.


Title: Mediating the Windrush Children
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86 pages