Since the Windrush Scandalemerged in 2017, the British public has learned a bit more about Commonwealth immigration particularly from Jamaica. But of course Afro-Caribbean people did not arrive for the very first time on these shores in the 1950s. Black Britons have formed part of our society for hundreds of years, even if there has previously been less cultural and historical evidence of their lives in our museums. However if you walk through the quintessentially British Tate Britain, in the middle of the height of English art in the 1840s gallery, you will see a Jamaican face. It’s the (partially obscured) face of Fanny Eaton, a muse to the Pre-Raphelite painters. In this episode I speak to textile artist Marina Elphick about what we know about Fanny Eaton’s life.
Lubaina Himid CBE is one of the UK’s leading contemporary artists, as well as a curator, writer and Professor of Painting. In this episode we explore the history of Zanzibar and the cultural context which sets the scene for Himid’s work.
The history of Zanzibar is of course much more complex than I outline in this podcast, but Wikipedia does an okay job of a historical overview, with the footnotes of course being first port of call for futher reading.
Professor Ansari was born in 1947 – the year when 300 years of British rule over India ended with the partition of the country and millions of deaths. He now lives in the UK and focusses his academic work on the experiences of British Muslims.
Francois came to the UK as a refugee from the Rwandan Genocide and now lives in Ipswich where he is a husband, social worker, educator and volunteer.
Speaking about being an essential worker during the Covid-19 pandemic, Francois said to East Anglian Daily Times “I felt a sense of responsibility to make sure that those I am supporting are safe and have all the support they need… Some of them live alone in the community and I always understand that I might be the only person who will speak to them the whole day… I feel so happy that I have been able to give my contribution to my community during this time of crisis.”
Sinelai is a fa’afafine Samoan who comes to London to make it on the West End. She encounters transphobic violence, makes friends and rivals. Her fictional story is central to Sinelai and the Kava Girls a “play with songs” that toured Britain in 2016.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie came to the UK with his parents from Malawi to seek education, and has gone on to be one of the most prominent Muslim leaders in this country. In this minisode we learn a little more about his work.
Geraint Jones is an incredibly common name in this country and if you search it you’re likely to find professors, poets, personal tax accountants, but probably at the top of your search results will be the cricket player who has played for England and Papua New Guinea (the country of his birth). Jones has now retired from the sport and alongside his teaching career, has taken up a new role in the community of Sandwich, Kent…
Vanessa Mae was born in Singapore and moved to the UK at the age of four, with her mother and adopted father. She is one of the world’s most famous violin players and an Olympic skiier! In this minisode we learn about her accomplishments and also what her classical performances taught me as a child.
The TV show referenced is BBC1’s The Making of Me:
Roddy Grant is a part-Scottish-part-African professional coach for Ulster Rugby, in Northern Ireland. In this episode we speak about his upbringing in Botswana / South Africa and how rugby helped solidify his Scottish identity. Also, as a professional coach, he shares some tips from the field in front of thousands that we can all apply to our lives.
In this episode I have the pleasure of catching up with Lamin who runs The Gamby Shack in Hackney, where he makes the best jerk chicken you’ll ever eat. With resturants on lockdown for the minute, we catch up about how he’s coping with indoor life, and he shares his favourite cook at home recipe – ‘smoked’ mackerel.
Priti Patel’s parents Sushil & Anjana are an Indian couple who fled Uganda to the UK in the 1960s just before Idi Amin’s decision to deport all Asians.
In 1972 55,000 Asians were ordered to leave Uganda half of them had British passports and were re-housed in the UK by the Ugandan Resettlement Board.
In the UK, the Patels set up news agents in Hertforshire, London and East Anglia.
“My husband always says ‘you did not really live above the shop you lived under the till’ because I am obsessed with money and counting money. But seeing my mum and dad working the most incredible amount of hours … it was a great education. It is a hard life. I would always be filling the counters and helping at the cash and carry.
Both the Patel parents have been involved in politics, with Anjana serving for the Consvertive Party and Sushil standing for UKIP. This epiosde looks at the Patel family, as well as the effects Home Office policy on immigrants whose visas are in jerpody as a result of Covid-19.
Jannett’s story touches on the role of women of colour in the NHS. Her story is told in her book My Windward Side, and you can also read up on Our Migration Story. I first learned about her in Proffessor Kushner’s book The Battle of Britishness, you will hear his voice in this episode I and want to thank him again for speaking with me and everything I’ve learned from him.
110kg Taulupe (Toby) Faletau was born in Tonga in 1990, but as a child moved to Ebbw Vale with his rugby playing dad. Growing up with the sport it’s not hard to see how he’s become a hero of Welsh rugby.
Zambia-born Eddie Tembo is an international shinty player from Drumnadrochit, the village where the Loch Ness monster lurks. He is a proud-Scotsman exploring ways his young family can connect with their African heritage.
Claudia Jones was born in Trinidad, grew up in the States and ended up in Britain when she was deported for being a communist. In this episode we visit five spots around London where you can learn more about her enormous contributions to the city – which include starting Notting Hill Carnival.
Captain Robert Laurence Nairac GC was born in Mauritius, and served as a British Army officer in Northern Ireland where he was abducted and assassinated by the Provisional IRA. In this episode I speak to Geoff Knupfer, lead forensic investigator at the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains.
If you have any information which may be helpful with the case, you can anonymously contact ICLVR:
Britain and Ireland 00800 – 55585500 International +353 1 602 8655 firstname.lastname@example.org ICLVR, PO BOX 10827, Dublin 2, Ireland
The 2007 show ‘Meet the Natives’ brought five men, including Jimmy Joseph, from Vanuatu to learn about the native culture of… England.
But of course, what the show really teaches us is about their culture. And their religion! Villagers on Tanna believe that the son of god is Prince Philip. For more on that, check the ‘Prince Philip Movement’ Wikipedia entry.
Peter Lobengula to the UK from South Africa as part of Frank Fillis’ circus in 1889. Many centuries before Beyonce’s Lion King album this was considered the largest ever showing of “African culture”, and it was large with 16,000 visitors a day When the show opened, Peter said: ‘My first thought was that the whole world was white men, and that they had all come to England to meet me!’
Evana Morris shares her story of coming to England from Grenada as part of Evewright’s Caribbean Takeaway Takeover.
“The Caribbean takeaway is an important cultural meeting place in the Caribbean community. A home from home, the kitchen is where meals are prepared, but also where stories are exchanged and shared. Going back to African roots, cooking and the Dutch pot or cooking pot was the central place for the family activity. The takeaway has just as much cultural importance as the barbershop and the hairdressing salon for black communities living and working in the UK.
For one month, the Breathing Space Café at the Migration Museum will be taken over, repurposed and transformed into an art installation featuring limited-edition photo etchings of 12 Windrush generation elders produced by EVEWRIGHT, along with audio interviews and sound recordings of these Windrush Pioneers compiled by his team at Evewright Arts Foundation (EAF).”
Visit the exhibition at: Migration Museum at The Workshop, 26 Lambeth High Street, London, SE1 7AG 31 May– 28 July Admission: Free
I was introduced to Dulani’s work through her contribution to the Hidden Sussex Anthology. Her piece tells the story of the Chattri, a monument in Brighton to 53 Indian soldiers who died in WWI. In this episode she speaks about her family history, her work and the importance of teaching her daughters about belonging.
Dulani Kulasinghe was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico and now lives in Brighton with her family. She has a BA in English from Bryn Mawr College and an MA in Education from the University of New Mexico, where she wrote her MA dissertation on studying and writing poetry with young children.
While in Sri Lanka from 2006 to 2008, Dulani worked on the Law & Society Trust Annual Report on human rights, and Domains, the scholarly journal of the International Centre for Ethnic Studies. She also participated in field work in Sri Lanka, writing about human rights and reporting to the UN on human rights abuses related to the ethnic conflict in the country at that time.
In Brighton, Dulani earned a postgraduate diploma in law at the University of Sussex and worked in immigration law in London. She later co-founded Banyan Tree Theatre Group and helped adapt old and new folktales for children’s theatre, performing in Brighton Fringe, Black History Month and other local events since 2009.
Across teaching, law, activism and theatre making, storytelling has been at the heart of Dulani’s work.
Sam Martinez was born 10 February 1918 in Honduras, now known as Belize. He came to Scotland in 1942 to help with the war effort as a lumberjack. He lived until the age of 106 having many careers and children, and becoming a dedicated fan of local football team the Hibs.
Chao is a digital heritage specialist and overall history geek. After starting a history blog in 2012, she realised that the history she was taught growing up had significant gaps, was impersonal and had no room for personal stories and memories. Since then, she been doing various projects to document history/ culture through digital media.
You can find her project preserving Kenya’s antique railway stations at savetherailway.com
Hulda Kamboi Ngatjikare (married name Shipanga) was born on 28 October 1926 in Aminuis, South-West Africa (now known as Namibia). She came to the UK to study and qualifed as a theatre nurse and specialising in paediatrics and orthopaedics.
Altab Ali was a textiles worker who moved to London from Bangladesh, with his uncle in 1969. When he was murdered by racists on May the 4th 1978 his death sparked a protest of thousands of Bengali people and supporters. In this episode I speak to Rafique Ullah, who was a teenager at the time, about life before and after this murder.
You can listen to more of Ullah’s story on the Ideas Store website, including a harrowing account of his first day at school which I couldn’t fit in this episode.
Wake earned the nickname “White Mouse” for her ability to evade capture, and was at one time the Gestapo’s most wanted person. She flirted with border guards, slipped poison into enemy drinks and smuggled many jews and allied airman out of France.
And finally, I had the great pleasure of speaking to Sumitra Tikaram, who served in the FANY Corps. Sumi was a personal friend of Nancy Wake, and hosted her when she moved to London.
For a Hollywood version of this story you could watch Charlotte Grey (I haven’t). If you really want the real story, the best thing to read is Nancy Wake’s own account, The White Mouse, there is a documentary of the same name which includes interviews with her:
Bryon Chan considers himself a citizen of the world, and of nowhere. The first third of his life was spent in Malaysia, the second third in New Zealand, he now lives in London where he works as a software developer and volunteers with Good Gym.
Fatmata came to the UK to further her education, with the intention of eventually going back to Sierra Leone to develop her nation of birth. But while living here she’s actively involved in many initiatives developing Tower Hamlets, where she lives.
At the time of writing this, there are three countries that sit both in the Commonwealth and the European Union – United Kingdom, Malta and Cyrpus. On the week Brexit is supposed to be delivered Cyprus-born Maria Skarlatou talks about how this intersection has impacted her identity and home country.
Maria moved to the UK to study at the University of Lincoln and now works as a junior creative at Havas London (with me). You can follow her on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
25 March 2019 marks the 212 year anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act being passed by British parliament, which led the way for the slave trade to be completely abolished years later. In light of this important date, I wanted to tell the story of one of the freed slaves who fought for the abolishment of slavery in Britain and the British Empire. I’ve found since living here than the British can be very proud that they outlawed slavery before the Americans. So this story, although about an abolitionist, is not going to focus on his role in that victory, but instead on Britain’s role in him ending up here.
Suliana is mother to three and “Island Mum” to many more. Her house in Alton has become a second home for many of her children’s Palangi (British) friends, who come in and out as they please, eating the food and learning about Tuvaluan culture by osmosis.
I was lucky to spend a day full of kata and kai (laughter and food) with Suliana, this episode reveals some of that conversation.
Eliza Anyangwe is a journalist, editor, and moderator born in Cameroon, raised across Africa and based in London. She is also the founder of The Nzinga Effect, a media project focused on telling the stories of African and Afro-descendant women and The Nzinga StoryLab, which works with other organisations to tell better stories about Africa and African peoples. Nzinga’s current project Not Yet Satisfied tells the stories of women in Accra and Johannesburg who, despite taboos, patriarchy, repressive traditions and laws, are using blogs, podcasts, poetry and art to talk about sex and sexuality. The upcoming film is with director Adeyemi Michael who’s also featured on the British Subjects podcast!
Before going freelance, Eliza worked for seven years for The Guardian in various roles, including editor of the Global Development Professionals Network, a Guardian site for humanitarians and aid workers. As a freelance journalist, she has written for CNN International, The Independent,The Guardian, The FT, Al Jazeera and Open Democracy, and has appeared on Newsnight, BBC World Service, PRI’s The World, and TRT World, among others.
As an international speaker and moderator Eliza’s worked for clients ranging from Dell to the Royal African Society and various United Nations agencies. She’s spoken at a range of media, international development, and tech events including SXSW, the Next Einstein Forum, IAM Weekend, D&AD Festival, the International Journalism Festival, Africa Utopia, The Global Media Forum, The Web We Want Festival and TED Global. In 2018 she was a mentor for YouTube’s Creator for Change programme.
Eliza works part-time with the award-winning independent media organisation, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as a community organiser, and is a guest lecturer at IULM in Milan. You can sign up to Eliza’s newsletter, Griot Girl, or follow her on Twitter and instagram; The Nzinga Effect is also on Twitter and Instagram.
As the title suggests, this prisoner of war is fairly unknown to us, right now. But this is a very real story about a very real person, so we’ll talk about what we do know. We do know they were captured in St Lucia during the 1793 war between Britain and France in the Caribbean. And they were transported to Portchester Castle, England where they were imprisoned.
We also know their name, or rather we know the names of 2,500 of these unknown prisoners of war. And that is thanks to the research and work of Abigail Coppins. Please go read more of her research on the English Heritage website. There are further interviews about her work on The Guardian,The BBC & The Independent.
On 23rd of February 1927 (164 years to the day since the Berbice Slave Uprising) a new revolutionary is born in Guyana, Jessica Huntley. In this episode I speak to her friend Maureen Roberts at the London Metropolitan Archives about her life and work in the UK.
In Huntley Archives at the LMA include photographs, records and personal letters documenting the London-Caribbean community, the Black Power movement of the 1970s and the Huntley family.
It also includes books from the Huntley’s publishing business Bogle L’ouverture. If you want to buy any of these books, some can still be found at New Beacon Books.
Alma Rattenbury (nee Packenham, nee Dolling, nee Radcliffe Clarke) was a talented musician, whose loving of men led to her ultimate demise.
She was born in British Columbia, Canada and played piano and violin as well as writing her own music. Here she is playing a composition she wrote:
Alma was shunned from Victoria after she married the architect of the city’s famous Empress Hotel (who happened to be 30 years her senior).
The couple left Canada and settled in Bournemouth, England. Where she would meet the fourth great love of her life, George Stoner, their eighteen year old chauffeur. Jealous of the marriage, Alma’s young lover kills her husband with a mallet. The trial at London’s Old Bailey is one of the most sensational trials of the 1930s, and while she is found innocent, Stoner is sentenced to hang.
In the 1960s Her Majesty’s Armed Forces recruited 12 women, and 200 men from Fiji, Naibuka Qarau was one of them. In this episode we learn how he’s made Hackney home and he’s completed the circle of early Methodist missionaries.
Communities Fiji Britain is the charity through which Naibuka welcomes Fijians of all races and walks of life into the UK.
You can also find him every Sunday at Welsey’s Chapel near Old Street station. The service begins at 11am, and hung inside this very historically important building you’ll find flags from all over the Commonwealth. Each one represents members of the congregation and their diverse hometowns.
This episode was the work of many. Thank you of course to Naibuka for your generosity, and your service to country and church. To Chris to inviting me to the PISUKI event where we met, and to Mo who introduced us. For Saane Sunshine and Emily for being so warm and welcoming, and Beatrice for the cake we ate while recording this.
Somewhere in rural Wales you’ll find the Kiribati Honorary Consulate, and there you’ll find Rotee Walsh. In this episode we learn about her life, and how she’s raised her family with an appreciation of both cultures.
A correction from Michael:
We did not in fact visit Waikiki beach on our honeymoon (we went to Samoa, Tonga and New Caledonia, and then to Australia and Singapore on the way back to Ireland). We went to Hawaii on a later trip back (although still before Cordelia was born).
Two books which I highly recommend reading on the topic of Britishness, and which helped me to form this episode are The Battle of Britishness: Migrant Journeys, 1685 to the Present by Tony Kushner and Britishness: Perspectives on the British Question edited by Andrew Gamble and Tony Wright.