Director says BBC Four’s Soon Gone, the saga of a Caribbean family’s life after arriving in Britain, is a tribute to his parents
A long-held wish to bring the story of the Windrush generation and its descendants to a wider audience has come true for a leading director. But as Kwame Kwei-Armah’s dramatic tribute – a series of televised monologues that will feature leading black actors including Lenny Henry – is announced this weekend, he is coming to terms with the death of his father a few days ago.
“It is now very personal for me,” said Kwei-Armah, whose mother died in 2005. “I have been longing to make something that could be a tribute to my mother and father’s experience [they arrived from Grenada in the early 1960s]. I did it to celebrate them and it means even more because of my father’s death. I feel it will pay tribute.”
The eight 15-minute films overseen by the director, Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle, are part of a diversity-themed season that runs on BBC Four next month, and were made for the channel by Henry’s production company, Douglas Road, in collaboration with Kwei-Armah’s London theatre, the Young Vic. They tell the chronological saga of a Caribbean family’s arrival in Britain in 1948 and chart its progress down the decades, eventually projecting into the future.
“The central provocation behind the idea was to wonder if this community will survive,” Kwei-Armah said. “We are at a particularly significant moment in history and this story has been sitting in my conscience.”
The former Casualty actor believes drama is the way to communicate the different social landscape of the past. “I wanted to show that what people take for granted today was not always the case. Lenny and I have said to each other we are both in the legacy business now. So it is part of our responsibility as artists to tell these stories.”