Cricket was a game of immense social and cultural importance for the ‘Windrush generation’ that arrived in England from the Caribbean after World War II.
The story of West Indian cricket in the postwar era has been told in a number of different ways. It speaks to cultural histories of colonialism and ideas of emergent national and cultural solidarities across the Anglophone Caribbean. It is also a part of a global history of ‘race,’ racialisation and racism in sport. Here, the focus has often been on ‘white majority’ reactions to touring West Indies teams, using press sources and the voices of elite players and officials. Recently, there has been increasing and arguably long-overdue emphasis placed on the position of West Indies cricket in the eyes of black emigrants and settlers.
Horace Ové’s 1986 film Playing Away notwithstanding, one of the less explored elements of this complex transnational history is the function and meaning that cricket had for black Caribbean communities that settled in England after the Empire Windrush troopship docked on 22 June 1948.
Playing Away (1986)
How did playing cricket in the street or the park, setting up new cricket clubs for both recreation and as social networks, and the experience of playing cricket in predominantly white but increasingly diverse communities, shape the experience of migration and settlement over time? What role did cricket play in the creation of black Atlantic cultures and identities, as a link between emigration and immigration, and how did it contribute to the complex and contested emergence of black British identities? Why was cricket so important to the social and cultural life of these communities, and why did it decline over time?
In collaboration with Hackney Council and Hackney Museum, the ‘Windrush Cricket’ oral history project seeks to explore some of these questions through close study of the experiences of Hackney residents. It will hopefully be able to build on this to include London, and other cities and towns across England.
Banner images taken from London Transport Museum