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 the world-beating West Indian international cricket team has been told in a number of different ways. It speaks to postwar 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, historians have placed increasing and arguably long-overdue emphasis on the position of West Indian international cricket in the eyes of black emigrants and settlers in different parts of the world.
But what about the world of cricket beyond the elite, international sphere? 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.
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?
The ‘Windrush Cricket’ project began in June 2020 with seed funding from Culture Lab at UCL East community engagement team and support from Hackney Council. Initially focusing on east London, the project’s scope has now broadened to include the whole of London, as well as Caribbean clubs and communities in Bristol, Nottingham, Leicester, Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester.
The research supports Dr Collins’ undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and will be published in a series of journal articles and ultimately a book, provisionally entitled Staying at the Crease: Caribbean Cricket in England Since 1948.
If you are interested in contributing to this project or would simply like to know more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Banner images taken from London Transport Museum