Dropping bombs on Downton Abbey

 

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I’m starting to research a piece on Black Londoners in 17th/18th century going up the start of the First World War. I want to capture the stories of Africans Indians and Chinese on these shores and in particular the capital.

Rationale:

 ‘We were brought to the docks and stately homes as flotsam and jetsam and chattel for the merchants and aristocrats as servants and playthings. Some broke free and survive and prosper on the streets of the city, some were broken…’

The explorers and entrepreneurs from Africa and Asia – telling the stories from their perspective rather than their experience just being a reaction to the West. Narrators describing London as they see it and giving voice to the invisible ones, written out of history and getting a sense of the sizeable black population of the city in the 18th century. What was it like on the streets of London in parts of Central and East London – black pubs and cafés? What was life like by the docks where the only trace of our presence is in the road and tube names?

Look at overlapping stories of our presence in London town – stories of African, Indian and the Malay and Chinese communities. Develop different angles and characters that profile and expose people’s journeys and intimate lives.Look to include a range of male and female characters as well as different backgrounds and occupations/roles and ages. Look at privilege and deficit models, eugenics and scientific racism – being taught white ways and traditions. Look at the role of Africans in challenging slavery and how they were viewed by the white anti-slavery movement. The vast majority of characters to be African and Asian and cover black on black and mixed relationships – let’s turn the tables and tell tales where we are not a minority. Populate it with rich world worn characters full of passion and despair trying to create a new life with one eye on their home countries.

Our take on McQueen 12 years a Slave film and the likes of Django with a more nuanced but still critical take that includes the experience of other colonised peoples and that looks at the impact of white supremacy and issues of collusion and ‘passing for white’

We need to write to remember Kelso Cochrane, Charles Wootton, Aftab Ali Baig and all the others who have lost their lives in previous times and who have no names and remain invisible to us all. Got to bring the presence of our communities centre stage and destroy the myth that we have only been here since post war days. Got to populate a perspective of the city with black and brown faces that show that we have been here for hundreds of years and restore our place in this country’s history. Create a cacophony of stories that will shatter the white mental mind state.

Got to drop bombs on Downton Abbey!

Saqib Deshmukh
April 2014

 

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