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Mediating the Windrush Children

Caryl Phillips and Horace Ové

Josiane Ranguin

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.

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2 strange fruit (1981)

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· 2 ·strange fruit (1981)

Strange Fruit, written by Caryl Phillips when he was twenty-one years old, is the first of three plays published over four successive years in the early 1980s. All three are concerned with parenthood and family relations in the context of Caribbean migrations to Britain during what has become known as the Windrush years. On a formal level, Phillips focuses progressively on a psychological exploration of the Anglo-Caribbean experience in its broadly defined sociopolitical context. Ledent (2014) observes that the three plays have been relatively unstudied even though they clearly announce the direction of the novels that will follow. Zulfikar Abbany (2001) provocatively links the critical silence about Phillips’s plays to a strategy that tends to sanitise their content and downplay their radicalism and performative challenges which directly address the here and now of their sociopolitical discourse.

By 1991, as Phillips confided to Rosalind Bell, he had decided to let his writing reveal his ideological stance at a more sedate pace:

So, as a writer, you begin to have to develop a temporary blindness and a temporary deafness to your surroundings, knowing that you’re doing something about righting some wrongs but being patient and letting your message come out at its own pace. You mustn’t jump up immediately and start shouting. Yours is a different job, an invisible job in some way, a slower and more frustrating job.

In these early plays, however, we hear the rage of the...

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