In May of this year the NCF’s Cultural Officer, Research and Document, Michelle Springer tagged me on a Facebook Blog where British writer Mags Chalcraft-Islam, was searching for a Caribbean writer to direct a play on Mary Prince. I had read ‘The History of Mary Prince’ in 1986 when I was in University at Hamilton College and I have had the book for many years. Her story is so powerful it stayed with me, so needless to say I was very interested. Her book was used by abolitionist in 1830 as evidence of the inhumanity of the practice of slavery of the African people in the West Indies.
I sent Mags my CV and asked for a copy of the script. She responded and forwarded the script with a note that she could make no promises that I would be the Director. What happened next as they say is history, it is the catalyst for this journey upon which I am about to embark.
I wrote a critique of the script identifying the things that I thought she had been struggling with in the play and Mags was impressed – my directing concepts were powerful. She then asked a question, making the assumption that I must be living in the UK, “What are you doing in England?” I quipped, not all the experts live in England, I am in Barbados but I will come to England and work with you on the play. After all Mary Prince is a Caribbean heroine we need to reclaim. How many of you know of Mary Prince?
Mags applied for more funding and the waiting began. Would this project come through for me? Well guess what? It did. So here I am in Norwich with two actresses and the writer to be the dramaturge for the play. In January I will direct the play.
I have to tell you, it is cold and rainy outside but I am warm inside and my pix attempt to tell the story. On leaving Barbados the flight was delayed for six hours but I was lucky to have my past YAR (Youth Achieving Results) student, the beautiful Misha, who now works with Virgin Atlantic to take care of me. Then Kim Weekes, another one of my past students from the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination (EBCCI) spent time with me while I waited.
After eight hours of flying I officially met the writer Mags, along with the actresses Oyin who will be Mary Prince and Hatty who will be Susannah, the woman who chronicled Mary’s story. At the end of our first day and eight hours of work, we cried at the terror of slavery and we celebrated Mary’s strength, tenacity and bravery. We are RECLAIMING MARY.
The NCF has partnered with me on this journey and I am grateful. I know that the ancestors are smiling.