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    Cricket's role in fostering a sense of 'home' for the Windrush arrivals in Britain
Cricket's role in fostering a sense of 'home' for the Windrush arrivals in Britain
Windrush arrivals. Source: Euronews.com

Cricket's role in fostering a sense of 'home' for the Windrush arrivals in Britain

During the 1950s, cricket was widely played in various settings throughout Britain, including towns, villages, cities, workplaces, and as a social activity. It had also become a popular cultural pastime in the English-speaking Caribbean.

The game of cricket played a significant role in Britain's cultural dominance, as it helped convey ideas about social hierarchy. In the colonial Caribbean, cricket clubs were segregated based on both class and "race," contributing to the perpetuation of social divisions. The emphasis on adhering to rules, fair play, and sportsmanship further reinforced the sense of prestige associated with white English culture.

Following the Second World War, racism compelled many new arrivals from the Windrush generation, who were primarily black Caribbean men seeking manual employment, to establish their own cricket clubs. One notable example is Carnegie CC, which was established in 1955 and remains active today, providing a platform for Caribbean cricketers in and around the Brixton area.

The sport held a special significance for the Windrush generation, as detailed in my upcoming book, "Windrush Cricket: Caribbean Migration and The Remaking of Post-War England." In his memoir "Beyond a Boundary," esteemed Trinidadian writer C.L.R. James expressed that cricket not only shaped the social attitudes of an entire generation or even two but also had a profound impact on their personal lives, particularly in intimate ways.

Despite prevalent racism, certain Caribbean cricket icons were celebrated and eventually gained favour with the political establishment. For instance, Learie Constantine became the first black individual to be appointed to the House of Lords in 1969.

Prominent cricketers like Bertie Clarke, who had represented the West Indies before the war, played a crucial role in the glamorous social circles of cricket within the BBC. There, he collaborated with Una Marson (a radio host and the BBC's first black female employee) and other newcomers from the Caribbean on the London Calling radio program.

During the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, a vibrant ecosystem of Caribbean cricket developed across Britain. Black cricket clubs sprouted up in various English cities, starting with Leeds Caribbean in 1948, followed swiftly by others like Sheffield Caribbeans, Bristol West Indians, and the West Indian Cricket and Sports Club in Manchester.

These clubs and competitions were established by black individuals themselves and served as a significant connection between England and the Caribbean, fostering an important cultural exchange within the black Atlantic community.

Cricket play inside public transport. Source: The Mirror
Cricket play inside public transport. Source: The Mirror

London Transport and Cricket

London Transport was a significant employer in London after World War II and placed a strong emphasis on providing sports and recreational opportunities. Recruitment materials distributed in Barbados highlighted the chance for prospective workers to engage in cricket while working on the buses and London Underground. By the late 1950s, London Transport had become a key contributor to the growth of Caribbean cricket in England. Some individuals initially viewed themselves as temporary visitors but ultimately returned to the Caribbean to play cricket as representatives of London. One successful example was the Central Road Services (CRS) team, named after a bus garage in south London.

Barbados cricketer. Source: InsideTheGames
Barbados cricketer. Source: InsideTheGames

According to Chris Hope, a bus conductor recruited from Barbados:

“Most Barbadians were into cricket and Central Road Services cricket team had three or four venues such as Langley Park and Osterley. That’s how we passed our time … The Caribbean islanders used to mix and you were glad to see other black people, to be honest.”

In 1975, the CRS team returned to Barbados for a cricket tour, exemplifying the patterns of migration and return that shaped the identities and sense of belonging for this group. The concept of home varied depending on the circumstances, and cricket served as a cultural and social bridge between their two worlds.

Lorenzo Daniels, a bus conductor recruited from Barbados, remembered his early arrival and settlement in the new country. He established a life there and considered it his home while recognising Barbados as his birthplace.

Through their organisation and hard work, individuals like Devon Malcolm, Phillip DeFreitas, and David Lawrence achieved representation in the England national cricket team. However, their achievements often triggered a racist backlash, exposing the deep divisions that emerged in defining Englishness in a postcolonial era.

Other cricket enthusiasts from the Windrush generation operated at the community level, creating opportunities for young people and providing spaces for interaction among black Caribbean individuals across different generations. These efforts mirrored and intersected with the activities of churches and social clubs.

This extraordinary generation of Windrush cricketers played a significant role in community development in England, contributing to a broader narrative of black British history that extends beyond protests, policing, and resistance. In doing so, they played a transformative role in redefining British identity.

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