Review – Nina: A story about me and Nina Simone

Nins amd me jbm Page_Headers_ninapage_1Tuesday night (20th March 2018) in Hope Place, Liverpool at the Unity Theatre was where audiences witnessed Josette Bushell-Mingo channelling the revolutionary spirit of the immutable Nina Simone.

In an act of mesmerising alchemy Bushell-Mingo ensured that both women were present on the stage and weaved their personalities and sections of their individual life stories together.

Revolution, resistance and resilience were common threads in the performance that concluded with standing ovations for the live band and Bushell-Mingo.

Through seamless storytelling the audience discovered that Nina, as a young child, learnt an early lesson of the power of her musical presence in combination with her blackeness, and how she utilised that influence to ensure her parents could be present and seated in the front row of her first classical piano recital in the 1940s; in a similar way Josette Bushell-Mingo corralled her own musicality and Black presence on the stage to present a multi-disciplinary exposition of the reality of ‘living while Black’ in the 21st century.

The audience was captivated by the mixture of an emotionally charged spoken treatise aligned with the intense and powerful civil rights songs of Nina Simone.

The evening was filled with moments of laughter and audience participation along with the well-known songs of Nina Simone, as well and times of deep sorrow when a list of names and locations of many Black people who were murder were recited and remembered.

The essential silences of the performance were just as powerful as the liveliness of the music that continues to enchant listeners with its genius combination of classical, jazz, soul and blues melodies.

This complete stage performance invited the audience to think about the treatment of Black people in society and to start a new conversation on #BlackLivesMatter while celebrating the genius and skill of Nina Simone, and the amazing craft of Josette Bushell-Mingo who captivated the entire audience from the moment she walked in the auditorium, with typical Nina Simone style, and announced with aplomb, “I’m here now.”

Nina Simone would be proud.


© Marjorie H Morgan 2018


Legal Ghosts

the_terminal legal ghostsIn the previous blog I shared some thoughts, and facts on the situation facing British people who have been categorised as having ‘no status’. I mentioned that many older British people with Caribbeans backgrounds have been affected by this, but they’re not the only ones.

Younger people are also affected – depending on their date of birth and sometimes the relationship of their parents – I mean if the parents were married or not at the time of the child’s birth, and also the parents’ nationality at the time of the child’s birth.

Take for example the London middleweight boxing champion 29 year old Kelvin Bilal Fawaz. Fawaz has boxed and won matches for England six times and spent more than half of his life in this country.

He was head-hunted by Team GB for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, but he was unable to join the British Olympic sport endeavour on these occasions because he didn’t have a valid passport, and he has had numerous applications for a British passport rejected by the Home Office for more than a decade.

His first application for asylum, when he was eighteen, took over four years before he even received a response from the Home Office. More on that and Bilal Fawaz in a moment …

I also want to have a look at the case of Cynsha Best. She’s 31, born in Hammersmith and she’s lived in London all her life. You’d think that makes her British, but not so according to the Home Office and the changes in immigration laws.

Well, five generations of Cynsha Best’s family are British, yet when she went to register her impending marriage early in 2017, she was detailed by the Home Office and told she’s not a British citizen and that she had no right to stay in the country and that she should leave or she would be deported. Not exactly what you expect when you are planning a wedding, but that was just the start of her living nightmare. I’ll come back to Cynsha Best in a little while.

Right, now let’s go back to the case of  Bilal Fawaz, also known as Kelvin Bilal Fawaz.

Fawaz had travelled to the UK from Nigeria with his uncle when he was a teenager – he’d been told he was going to meet his father who was apparently in London, this was after he’d been raised by relatives in Nigeria for six years following the death of his mother.

Unfortunately, he was abandoned by his uncle and exploited for a couple of years where he was locked in a house and forced to work for the family he was left with.

This appears to be a straightforward case of human trafficking – when a person is forced to travel on false documents and then made to work against their will. 

Anyway, eventually Bilal Fawaz escaped from the place he was being held against his will and he was then taken into the care of Social Services – during the time he was in the care of Social Services Fawaz recalls that he mixed with the wrong crowd, and got into trouble with the law for the possession of cannabis and graffiti offences – then he discovered his skill at boxing, and he turned his life around and focused on making his new home country proud. He rose to the top of his profession as  an amateur boxer to such a degree that the boxing promotor Frank Warren offered Fawaz a three year contact worth £240,000 but he was unable to accept it because he doesn’t have a work permit – you see, the Home Office has refused to issue one to him.

This apparently great opportunity arose for this young man, but he couldn’t take it because if someone works in the UK without a valid work permit or citizenship they can be imprisoned – so, as mentioned in the last podcast –  he is another person in limbo: he can’t work even when he has  the skills and lucrative offers of work.

The Home Office has also attempted to deport Bilal Fawaz to Nigeria, but the Nigerian High Commission have refused to provide him with travel documents because they claim he’s not a Nigerian citizen, despite being born there. Fawaz’s mother – who  – as I mentioned earlier – died in Nigeria when Fawaz was eight – was from Benin, and his father was from Lebanon. This means that Kelvin Bilal Fawaz is effectively stateless – that means no country recognises him as a national citizen: he’s what’s known as one of many “legal ghosts”.

So, late last year, 2017, on the 29th November, Bilal Fawaz was training at his gym in Harlesden when he was snatched by undercover Home Office officials and held in a Tinsley House Immigration Centre – a detention and removal centre at Gatwick airport – he was held there for 34 days. He was only released following a public petition that collected over 115,000  signatures and appealed to the Home Office on his behalf.

He has now been released on bail from that Immigration Centre – sounds like prison conditions, doesn’t it? Anyway, he is yet still unable to work despite being back in the wider community.

For over 15 years Bilal Fawaz has been existing in a state of limbo.

Several unsuccessful appeals for British citizenship have been made to the Home Office on his behalf by England Boxing and John McDonnell, the MP for his constituency – Hayes and Harlington.

Bilal Fawaz, the no. 3 middleweight boxer in England, is seeking a judicial review of his case – as I mentioned in the previous podcast recent figures have shown that the Ombudsman has upheld 75% of complaints against the Home Office decisions. So, there is a fighting chance (forgive the pun!) that he will get his application for citizenship reviewed and possibly accepted – granting him a nationality, and a confirmed home, at last.

He was seen as good enough to compete and win titles for England against countries like Germany, Ireland and Nigeria, so it follows that he should be considered good enough to be classed as a citizen of the country that he’s represented so many times.

This reminds me of the case of Zola Budd, the South African runner, who had her citizenship application fast-tracked so that she could represent England in the 1984 Olympics. The outcome was different, of course.

17 year old Zola Budd registered as a British citizen on the 6th April 1984 – on the strength of the fact that her grandfather was British, then she moved to Guildford and soon after received her passport allowing her to run in the Los Angeles Olympics that summer.

Sounds improbable, but it’s a fact. Recently released files held in the National Archives, reveal the government row that arose over this case based on the fear that other immigration enquiries would be made from people with similar familial backgrounds and connections.

As you can see, the difference in treatment of these two Olympic standard athletes is stark.

In 1984 the Home Office justified their ‘special treatment’ of Zola Budd when they stated that her ’talent’ made her particular case a priority. Six time boxing champion Bilal Fawaz has not been viewed with the same care and sensitivity.

So, Budd competed for Great Britain in 1984 then reverted to her South African nationality to compete in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics after South Africa was re-admitted to international competition following a referendum vote to end apartheid and hold a fair and free national election – resulting in the landmark nomination of Nelson Mandela as the first Black South African President.

Bilal Fawaz has no other country or nationality to revert to. His home is London, England. He is not recognised anywhere else in the world. He has ‘no status’ anywhere else – this is his home, he has lived here for over half of his life and has represented the country on an international stage.

One’s nationality is such a minefield of emotions and shifting laws. There seems to be an endless list of people whose lives are devastatingly affected by citizenship and border regulations.

Right, now back to Cynsha Best who I mentioned at the start of this podcast. When Cynsha Best was born, her Barbadian and Guyanese parents were not registered as British, despite migrating to Britain under the British resettlement scheme that existed between 1955 and 1966 – in fact, around 27,000 Barbadians travelled from the Caribbean to Britain under this scheme. Her mother has Indefinite Leave to Remain in Britain and since her birth her father has been registered as a British citizen. However, Cynsha Best’s nationality status did not change when her father was naturalised as British.

The news that she wan’t British was obviously a shock and an unpleasant surprise to Cynsha Best.

This is because a change in the law meant that even though her migrant grandparents, who travelled to England in 1956, even though they were British citizens, the law had changed to specify that after 1983, even if you are born in the UK to British grandparents, you were not automatically British.

Cynsha Best fell in this grey area. So, after being detained and answering a few questions in the Home Office building in Croydon, she was told she wasn’t British – as she’d believed herself to be all her life – she was told that she was Barbadian and also that she was an illegal immigrant. Remember, she hadn’t migrated from anywhere, she was born in  Hammersmith and had lived in London her entire life. Strangely, all her siblings were still classified as British citizens, and her two children are British citizens – it’s just Cynsha Best who was identified as the only illegal immigrant in her family, and the Home Office were ready to detain her and immediately deport her to Barbados – in fact they only let her leave the Croydon office when she was initially detained and questioned because she became distressed and expressed safety concerns for her two young sons who had to be collected after school that day. At that interview she was told to leave the country voluntarily or apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain at a cost of £2,993 (without the extra addition of solicitor’s fees).

So, early in 2017 the Home Office told Cynsha Best that they would give her £2,000 each for her and both of her children (who are both British citizens remember) to leave the country voluntarily. According to the Home Office records she didn’t exist as a British citizen and therefore would have to be removed from what she has – for her 31 years of life – known as her home, family and country.

Fortunately, after nearly a year of uncertainty and turmoil, the Home Office granted Cynsha Best British citizenship. This was after yet another public campaign, and a collection of nearly 60,000 signatures that raised awareness of the trauma and distress that Cynsha Best and her family had to go through.

She was then told that the next step was to take the citizenship test – at the cost of £1,282.

Best’s MP, Sarah Jones, who lobbied the Home Office on her constituent’s behalf, stated last year – in 2017- that she was concerned that “this is not uncommon – only today another constituent has come to me who has been in the UK since she was 2 in 1961 and has just been told that she has no right to live here. This is not the commonsense, fair and managed immigration system we need.”

I agree with MP Sarah Jones’ assessment.

Kelvin Bilal Fawaz and Cynsha Best are just a couple of cases that have had some media coverage, others have not been as fortunate, despite being in the same or similar situations. Many British citizens have effectively been reclassified as illegal immigrants – because they are ‘lost’ in the system, and summarily deported to countries where they have little or no connections.

Every similar case shocks me as much as the first one that I uncovered. People are having their lives turned upside down and are not often given the chance to appeal or have their case humanely considered before they are detained and then deported from their homes.

These are individual people, like you or me, with family networks and cultural histories linked to their English roots and communities. They’re being torn from their homes and ejected from the only countries or settled environments that they’ve ever know.

I think it’s the responsibility of every British citizen to ensure that justice is done for each and every member of society. So, I’m asking you to share this information and help those in your local communities who may be inadvertently affected.

We all have to seek justice and equality of access and outcomes – it matters. These people and their lives matter.

So, once again I’m seriously asking you to reach out and make sure those you know are protected. Please, do it. Don’t just think about it. Do something to help someone – it could be you that needs help tomorrow.

On that sombre note, I’m going to end this part two of the ‘no status’ blog posts. I hope the information that I’ve shared has been useful to you, and that it’ll help to save someone you know or hear about from the potential distress and trauma of unwelcome Home Office intervention in their lives.

No Status

Settled statusYou may, or may not have recently become aware of the increasing plight of a certain section of British society.

There’s this group of people, many of them Caribbeans, but some from other backgrounds as well, that have been apparently targeted as suddenly having ‘no status’.

This phrase, ‘no status’ was new to me a short while ago, so I did a bit of research to find out more.

As an aside – by reading this blog post you will be partaking in a form of telepathy. It was Stephen King, the prolific author, who suggested that writing is an act of telepathy because someone somewhere has ideas and thoughts, writes them down and then they are transmitted via the form of a book to the mind of another person, in a different time and space.

Stephen King also said something like even though the writer and reader may not even be in the same year together, or the same room, they are still together. They’re close because the very words used are the means of telepathy – they have effectively engineered a meeting of minds. So, I’m hoping that in this blog, and others to come, there will be occasional meetings of my mind with yours.

So, back to the ‘no status’ situation.

Following the Brexit vote there’s been a recorded increase in overt racism.

There have been over 45,000 changes to immigration rules since Theresa May became Home Secretary on 12th May 2010 – and I’m positive many more are on the books now that she’s Prime Minister – a position she’s had since July 2016.

The point is, with all these changes my concern is how the people affected by them have been informed about the changes to their personal circumstances – or not, as the case may be. 

Many people only know that things have changed for them when they get a letter from their employer, as in the case of 64 year old Renford McIntyre who has been living in the UK for almost fifty years.

Little over a year ago he was told that he’s not British and consequently is no longer allowed to work or receive any government support in the form of any social benefit at all.

So, after arriving by plane in England in 1968 – and going through passport control and all the other legal requirements of entry into a country, he settle down to study and later work as a British Citizen – just as his parents had before him: his mother was a nurse and his father was a crane operator.

Anyway, in 2014 his employers asked him to update his paperwork and when it was discovered that he no longer had a valid passport or naturalisation papers, he was sacked. Of course, he couldn’t get a new job without the papers, so he became depressed, and eventually homeless because his local council, Dudley Council, in the West Midlands, said he was not eligible for emergency housing because according to official records from the Home Office he had no right to be in this country.

So, in an effort to prove his status as a British citizen, Renford McIntyre gathered 35 years of paperwork showing –  among other things – his National Insurance contributions, and sent an application to the Home Office for his retrospective citizenship. Despite this bundle of evidence of his life, his work, his contributions to society and the British infrastructure, the Home Office rejected and returned the application, requesting yet further evidence.

Renford McIntyre is part of a group of people who have lived and contributed to society as British citizens, yet now they are reaching retirement age, after being settled in this country for the majority of their lives, the Home Office is re-classifying them as illegal immigrants with ‘no status’.

The cost of making an application for a visa and citizenship continues to rise. It can now cost £2,297 to become a permanent resident and an additional £1,282 for citizenship – that’s where you have to take a citizenship test that has the most obscure questions that even the majority of people born and bred here would be hard pushed to answer without the use of Google!

Bear in mind, accord to a Freedom of Information request,  it costs just £264 to process an application that is currently charged at £2,297. Let the sink in for a moment.

The Home Office released their own figures in September 2017 that stated it costs £135 per citizenship application, yet they are charging up to 900 per cent more on many applications.

900 per cent profit on a single citizenship application!

In response to the FOI request the Home Office stated, “When setting fees, we also consider the benefits that a successful applicant is likely to gain and believe that it is right that those who use and benefit directly from the system make an appropriate contribution towards meeting associated costs.”

Remember that the people I’m discussing have already spent their lives paying into the British system through National Insurance contributions and taxes on their income.

Additionally the Home Office is now charging £5.48 (payable in advance) for each email it sends in response to customer service enquiries from overseas’ visa applicants. So applicants have to pay to enquire how to make an application! Confusing? I think so.

This is a result of the ‘hostile environment’ that Theresa May said she wanted to introduced for illegal migrants with the Immigration Act that became law on the 12th May 2016.

I understand the need to monitor illegal migrants, the problem I have with the cases I’m talking about today is that they are not illegal migrants, they are British citizens. People who have been born here in Britain, or who have come here legally and have somehow, by some mysterious bureaucratic shuffling behind the scenes, unbeknown to them, been reclassified from British Citizens to people with ‘no status’.

The Independent newspaper, summed it up quite well in an article published in … September 2017, when they stated, “The Tories’ immigration system is based on a reactionary agenda, not reason” … the paper goes on to note that Paul Blomfield, MP, has said that the failures of the Government is endless – examples of this assertion can be shown in the way the Government enforces inhumane mass deportations, and how they don’t assess asylum claims in a fair and timely manner.

Paul Blomfield also confirmed that the Ombudsman upholds more complaints against the Home Office than any other Government department.

In 2015-16 the Ombudsman upheld 75% of complaints against the Home Office, compared to 36% about the Ministry of Justice and 10% about HM Revenue & Customs. The 2015-16 figures represent a rise – from already high figures – it must be said– of 60% in 2013-14, and 69% of complaints against the Home Office in 2014-15.

Anyway, figures aside. Let’s talk about real people.

Renford McIntyre who I mentioned earlier – who had provided proof of his 35 years of National Insurance contributions and other information with his formal citizenship application – finally received a verbal acknowledgement from the Home Office that he has ‘settled status’ – but he’s still waiting for written confirmation and is therefore still in limbo because he’s still homeless, and unable to get another job because he doesn’t have the official paperwork in his possession. Of course, it’s natural that his stress continues to rise, and he’s afraid that he’ll remain vulnerable and may be forced to leave the country to go to and live in a country that is as strange to him as he is to it.

My concern about this situation is that many people will fall back on the stock phrase – too well used by politicians and others – that they are sending ‘thoughts and prayers’ for Renford McIntyre, Hubert Howard, Paulette Wilson, Albert Thompson and many others like them in similar situations, my point is that thoughts and prayers may well be useful for those offering them, but the people I’ve just named need reparative action not thoughts and prayers.

Take for example, Albert Thompson. Albert Thompson – not his real name – for legal purposes you understand – is a Londoner. He is 63 years old and was a teenager when he arrived in the UK in 1973. Albert Thompson has been diagnosed with cancer, but he has been refused continued treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London because they are not satisfied that he’s got  enough evidence that he has been ‘ordinarily resident and legally entitled to live in the UK’.

Well, they didn’t refuse him treatment outright, they offered him the option to pay for it. Upfront. In full. All of it before he could start to receive the chemotherapy for his diagnosed cancer. It’s just a small matter of paying £54,000 in advance they told him. I’ll leave that there for a moment so you can pick up your outrage of the floor.

So, there it is, pay £54,000 or bring your British passport to the hospital as proof of your status.

What if you don’t travel, have no intention to travel and have therefore have never held a British passport?

Is this information only required from Black people seeking NHS care, or from all people regardless of ethnic origin or skin colour?

Just some questions I’ve posed to myself after my research and reading.

Anyway, since this particular case was reported in the national press the Royal Marsden has issued an apology to Albert Thompson, but they haven’t started his chemotherapy treatment yet. They need take positive action, not send a mere apology – their apology is as much practical use as offering ‘thoughts and prayers’.

You see I think Albert Thompson needs life-saving treatment to start. It needs to start now. Not when the missing paperwork is correctly filed. The evidence that he’s been living and working in London for 44 years is there – we know it’s there. The government has records of his employment and national insurance contributions, and, of course, his tax payments.

This man needs to be treated properly, like the British citizen he is and has been for all the 44 years that he has been working and paying taxes.

My personal opinion is that Albert Thompson has effectively been used as free labour for over four decaded, and now that he’s ill and unable to work he has been discarded and denied assistance that is due to him. It makes me think that another form of slavery is alive and kicking, right here in the UK. I believe that we are still in chains after all these years. The system is still stacked against Black people.

It’s not news that there is institutional racism in establishments like the police force, health care, and schools – to name a few, but that doesn’t mean that we have to sit back and accept it.

Too many people like to say that racism is a thing of the past, it’s not. Ask the school boy in Bath this past week, who was allegedly chained to a lamppost and whipped in a ‘mock slave auction’. There’s no humour in this.

Being prodded with sticks and called extreme racist names is not funny no matter which way you look at it. It’s abuse. It’s racial prejudice – plain and simple.

As is the racist chanting as directed at a student at Nottingham Trent University, and a similar incident at the De Montfort University in Leicester. Experiencing racism is an everyday occurrence for many Black people, ranging from micro aggressions to death.

Yeah, death. It’s that serious. Ask Albert Thompson.

My point is, these ‘no status’ cases are predominantly affecting Black people, and especially people from the Caribbean – members of the Commonwealth, many of whom migrated to the UK to help rebuild the country after the devastation of the second World War. It’s affecting the health of those on the receiving end of this treatment – some of whom – like Albert Thompson – are already facing serious health issues.

This is not how we should be treating British citizens. There’s no other way to describe it except to say that it’s wrong. Commonwealth citizens who are also British citizens are being dumped by the British Government after a lifetime’s work – they are being treated like rubbish.

As I mentioned before, I think the use of the phrase ‘thoughts and prayers’ in terrible situations needs to be backed up with action. My part is to spread awareness of the situation that’s affecting this group of people.

I’d like to suggest that if you know any one who is in a similar situation, please reach out and help them to ensure that their paperwork is up to date so they don’t end up being deported to a country they have no current links with.

Feel free to contact me via this podcast and I will share all the information that I have to help those in need. I’ll signpost you and them to organisations like Praxis Community Projects, Southwark Law Centre, and the solicitors Duncan Lewis.

So, there we have it – serious talk.

No status. Settled status. British citizen. The last two should be synonymous. It’s a terrible and distressing situation that so many people are suddenly discovering themselves to be in. We’ve got to do something to change this unfair system.

Of all the few names I’ve mentioned remember there are hundreds more who go overlooked and are subject to the Tory Government policy of ‘deport first, appeal later’.

Think about it, how would you like your sibling, your Mum, Dad, Grandad, cousin … the list goes on, how would you like to have your only interaction with them via international social media? There’s even an official term for it, ‘Skype family’. It’s destructive and inhumane.

Let’s hope more coverage and awareness of this situation will make sure that people have their rights protected as the British citizens they’ve been for decades.

I could go on … but I’d better stop now. There’s lots for you – and me – to think about. And to do something about. Let’s not leave it at ‘thoughts and prayers’, let’s make a difference to the people we know in the communities we live in.

Seriously, reach out and make sure those you know are protected. Do it. Don’t just think about it. Do something.

Dawn Walton: Northern Star Changing the Narrative

“To define black British theatre in terms of race alone is to miss the point…. Black theatre is as rich, varied, complex and contradictory as any other theatrical form, but it is also able to engage regular theatre-goers at the same time as attracting a new audience. Who else can do that?” Dawn Walton, 2008

Dawn Walton - Eclipse

Dawn Walton is from Brockley, South London, where she grew up with very little personal exposure to the world of theatre. However, she is now the artist director of the Eclipse Theatre Company based in the Crucible, Sheffield. Eclipse was launched as a response to the Arts Council’s Consultation Report, ‘Whose Theatre?’ (2006) which clearly identified institutional racism in the theatre industry. Eclipse is a National Portfolio Funded Organisation (NPO) with Arts Council England, and is the only Black-led NPO to deliver an annual middle-scale tour to regional theatres: the Eclipse production of Black Men Walking is touring the country from January – April (2018).

Walton’s move from the south of England to the North has taken her across many stages and screens as a theatre and film director in the past 22 years. She began her theatrical career at the Royal Court Theatre following time in sales and marketing for Apple, where she said, “my soul wasn’t satisfied”. After time at Royal Court Theatre, Walton became the first winner of the Jerwood Young Director’s Award at the Young Vic. She spent 2006 at the National Theatre Studio as Head of Studio before her move to Sheffield and the creation of Eclipse.

As the Founder of Eclipse Theatre, Walton is passionate about further opening up the discussion regarding the definition of ‘black theatre’; she argues ‘black theatre’ is not a fixed idea within the immutable boundaries of a totally black cast, black directors, and themes and subjects that are ‘overtly black-issue led and contemporary’. For decades in Britain contemporary narratives in ‘black theatre’ were generally only allowed in the ‘three spaces’ of immigrant, slavery and teenage gang stories. Walton observes, to “ … define black British theatre in terms of race alone is to miss the point. Black practitioners are uniquely placed to deliver an incisive view of Britain today because we view it from two perspectives – black and white. We ask more questions, we challenge perceptions, we stimulate more debate. And this approach can only enrich the canon of British theatre…. Black theatre is as rich, varied, complex and contradictory as any other theatrical form, but it is also able to engage regular theatre-goers at the same time as attracting a new audience. Who else can do that?”

Eclipse uses a portion of the Arts Council England funding to support over 1,200 black artists and develop and sustain black theatre professionals – ‘Enablers’, working in the North of England; this programme is designed to create and maintain long-term careers in the independent sector. Eclipse, under the artistic direction of Walton, is keen on introducing change in the theatre. This involves commissioning and producing plays that she believes ‘should be reflective of the diversity’ of modern cities and thereby will challenge the unconscious prejudice that previous theatrical gatekeepers have ignored. Walton suggests that if ‘19 per cent of your population is BAME (as in Sheffield), at least 19 per cent of your programme should be by BAME authors,’ because it is her contention that the theatrical offerings of an area need to be aligned to the community in that particular area.

Walton’s goals include attracting more diverse audiences to the theatre with the increase of BAME representation both on and off the stage. Dawn Walton is a continually rising Northern Star who has contributed to steadily changing the national theatrical narrative since her appointment as Artistic Director with Eclipse in 2009.


Never Married? Oh!

I recently overheard these words that were part of an animated conversation. A third party was being described as ‘never married’ and the response came back, “Oh!”

It was this small word that signified so much.

“Oh – she’s a loser!”

“Oh – so she’ll be an old maid.”

“Oh – so no one wanted her, right?”

“Oh – what’s wrong with her?”

“Oh – she must be ugly.”

“Oh – if she is still single there must be some good reason or justification, something that is her fault.”

“Oh – she’s never known love.”

The list of assumptions did not need to be vocalised in this particular occasion as the three people in the conversation knew exactly – as was shown by the solemn acceptance of his response – what he was talking about. His meaning was crystal clear.

The stigma of never being married still persists in the 21st century. The person passing society’s judgement was not asking why the woman had stayed single, he presumed because … he could. His presumption was not questioned either.

As the conversation continued I wondered if this man had even paused to think that the woman in question may have chosen to stay single, may be waiting to get married, may be in a committed partnership that is not public knowledge, may be unable to marry … for legal or political reasons. Or did he just know – taking on the world view that women of a certain age should be married and those that weren’t were somehow drawing unnecessary attention to themselves and their ‘problems’.

As the conversation progressed it became more apparent that he would have been more comfortable if she had been married and then divorced rather than not married at all. This ‘always single’ status made him severely uncomfortable.

“Oh!” he said again. And immediately displaced the woman from the centre of society. She was highly visible because of her difference in status but there was also a need to make her invisible as well. Most societies signify marriage as a contract between a man and a woman that builds family relationships; these relationships are deemed the bedrock of society (just a casual look at statistics will prove this assumption to be based on sinking sand), however, the majority of people still hold on to the idea that all heterosexual marriages bring stability to society and communities as an unassailable truth (again, look at the facts). This woman was painted as a pariah in society – divorcees were more welcomed.

Although he was not talking about me – at some stage of my life he could have been. I guess many women who will never fit in to this man’s world view but that does not mean that they are or should be unhappy with their single status or that they have never had any wonderful relationships.

Never Married? Oh! … Just because a personal and social status does not fit into this narrow description does not mean that a single woman is any less a person than a married woman, and it especially does not mean that they have never known love …

Some ‘never married’ women:


Queen Elizabeth I

Mother Teresa

Emily Bronte

Christina Rossetti

Gertrude Bell

Oprah Winfrey

Jane Austen

Emily Dickinson

Octavia Butler

Coco (Gabrielle) Chanel

Big People Talk #Timesup

Big People Talk

WI front room

When I was a child I remember my parents used to go into the sacred ‘front room’ and close the door when we had certain visitors. Well, I mean when they had visitors. Their friends and relatives would be shown into the best room and we, as children would be left outside.

If we dared to venture in to the room while they were talking we would be shooed out again especially if we dared to speak. It paid to be like the embossed flowery wallpaper – obviously there, but after a while unnoticed.

When we spoke it was like being at a tennis match, all heads turned to us and a chorus of dissent reached our ears. This was sometime accompanied by a slap if the interruption was way out of place.

The words that were slapped into our bare legs were invariably some variation of, “Big people are talking!”

As we retreated to the dining room or garden I think we children wondered how the ‘big people’ always got their own way and got to make all the decisions.

It came to me the other day that all those people are now gone or going. A friend was talking about the death of her father’s best friend. I recently attended the funeral of another friend’s father, there is death all around and it has sadly become an intimate associate in recent times. All the ‘big people’ I knew have gone or are currently going.

It hurts. It really hurts.

The most recent departure of a loved one has made me realise that we are the big people now. We have to support and comfort each other as we journey on. We have to make the decisions.

It does hurt, but we will make it through. Together.


At social family gatherings there are natural divisions between the youngest and the more mature folk. I now fall above the division line, and it reinforces the fact that I am seen as an adult who has to do adult things. This is a responsibility I was hidden from as a child. I did not have a rite of passage where I was inducted into adulthood by my parents.

My mother left abruptly, as death snatched her from my teenage life. My father lived a secluded existence in the remnants of the family where he limited his communications to directions and corrections.

As with most of my siblings growing up was a DIY affair, we didn’t have the assistance of self help manuals from books stores, we were tutored by the scars of our own mistakes. Our aunts and uncles faded away from our lives when their visits were frequently curtailed by the cold front erected by my father.

The coin has now flipped, I am on the other side and I see things I didn’t notice or have the words to speak about when I was younger, and so it’s time for this big person to talk.

That uncle who drinks too much and still has wandering hands, that aunt who wears too much perfume, always gets a food hangover after a party and exposes herself on purpose, these are the people we need to talk about, these are the people I need to talk about and thereby smooth the path for the new big people who are in line behind me.

I am responsible for what I see, I have a responsibility to talk now and not to bury the family secrets for another generation, for the next group people to personally and painfully uncover.


© Marjorie H Morgan 2018

Black Panther


I am a black panther. I have always had an affinity to this animal. I sensed its majesty ever since I was a child reading the discarded National Geographic magazines that my mother would bring home from her office cleaning job.

This is odd for me because I have never had a close acquaintance with domestic cats. I am now able to be in the same room as them without flinching as I did as a teenager. I’ve even held a cat or two for hours, but they are not my first choice of a favourite feline.

The black panther spoke to me from the first day I set eyes on it. If anyone asks what animal I align myself with most closely, it is always a big cat. Because of the time of my birth some assume I would choose a lion, but I always choose a black panther, always.

And now many people around the globe are choosing to identify with the Black Panther.

I knew this day would come. It was foretold by the spirits.

The spirits are never wrong.

The Black Panthers of American history were a foreshadow of the recently released film of a similar name. They resonated with the souls of black folks who, with single consciousness, saw themselves through their own eyes (W.E.B DuBois), so it is with this film, the Black Panther movie is a joy, a happiness, a homecoming.

I know this, and I haven’t even seen it yet.

I sense it, the way you sense that someone is looking at you. You know. You always know.

When you see the essence of yourself anywhere, you smile in recognition.

These past few years of cinematic offers have had me grinning from ear  to ear like a Cheshire cat, no, more like a black panther. The choice of films that see me, people like me, has risen. The stories, like life, are not always singing and dancing in the rain themes, there are real moments of the darkest sadness and contrasting beautiful times of sublime joy.

I won’t review all of my favourite films here, but I will list a few of the most memorable ones for me in the last five years:

Fruitvale Station (2013)

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Selma (2014)

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

Creed (2015)

Fences (2016)

Loving (2016)

Birth of a Nation (2016)

A United Kingdom (2016)

Moonlight (2016)

I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

Queen of Katwe (2016)

Lion (2016)

Get Out (2017)

Kidnap (2017)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2017)

Girls Trip (2017)

Mudbound (2017)

Hidden Figures (2017)

Black Panther (2018)

I have seen myself, I have met myself and my family on the road as I watched these films. In the moments that have flashed across the screen I have recalled the whispered stories of relatives who have passed on, the proud chest-bursting tales of achievements that only a few will ever know about (until they are shared more widely), I have recalled the names and the lives of the others who were not othered by me. These stories have always been told, but not always in the public arena.

To this end I have watched most of the aforementioned films many times. I will watch Black Panther more than once. This much I already know. I will revel in it as if I was Queen Cleopatra bathing in milk and honey. Luxuriating in the blackness of it all, in the oneness of being continually visible to myself.

People who are ‘other’ than me may view these films as ‘other’ but to me they are normal, like me. My blackness is normal, and I do not need anyone’s permission to repeatedly view this normality or honour it.

“Wakanda. We are home. My son it is your time. You get to decide what kind of king you are going to be.” (Black Panther, 2018)

I’ve waited my whole life for this time. I knew it was coming, it had to.

The black panther has a keen sense of the right time to make a move.

The time is now.

Wakanda for ever.

N.B. To those who complain that there are no or few white people in these films I have mentioned, please tell me where your indignation was hiding when the people of colour were missing from the screens and stages of the world in the all too recent past.

This is the present and it is good. I am Not Your Negro (2016). I am a Black Panther (2018). The time of Hidden Figures (2017) must fade.

© Marjorie H Morgan 2018