Hackney youth charity brings CLR James’ legacy to new generations

The WorldBytes team working on the CLR James project.

The WorldBytes team working on the CLR James project. - Credit: Steve Forrest/Workers' Photos

The life of “forgotten hero” and anti-Colonialist fighter CLR James will be made into a documentary by young film makers.

CLR James

CLR James - Credit: Archant

Hackney-based youth education charity WORLDwrite has been given a £70,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to make the film, Every Cook Can Govern about Cyril Lionel Robert James who died in 1989 aged 78.

The Trinidadian, after whom the library in Dalston which opened last year is named, is most famous for two works - The Black Jacobins, which documents history’s only successful slave revolt in Haiti at the turn of the 19th century, along with Beyond a Boundary, both a cricket memoir and a scathing critique of colonialism.

The two-year multimedia project will explore his legacy and hopes to spur on a new generation to find inspiration in his understanding of society.

WORLDwrite co-ordinator Niall Crowley said the group wanted to focus on CLR James because he is “rather a forgotten hero” from the 20th century and little known among younger generations.

He said: “In the 1930s he was a leading actor in the anti-colonialist movement and the fight for West Indian independence, he was active in the pan-African movement of the 1950s, cricket correspondent for the Manchester Guardian and in the 1960s wrote what’s considered to be the defining book on the sport, Beyond a Boundary.

“Up to now though, James’ story has not been told and we think it’s a story worth telling.”

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They chose to name the film “Every cook can govern” after a phrase he wrote in a paper.

“We decided to adopt it because it sums up his deeply-held belief in the ability of ordinary people to organise themselves and to do great things, rather than look to the powers that be,” said Mr Crowley.

“We think this a particularly refreshing message that’s still relevant today.”

Over 100 volunteers from WORLDwrite, which runs the award winning online citizen TV channel WORLDbytes, will work to assemble an online knowledge portal about CLR James with interviews, debates, his lesser known works, articles and a timeline chart about his life.

Public lectures, archive workshops and CLR James-themed ‘Read-a-thons’ are also planned as well as the documentary which will include interviews with leading scholars on CLR James’ works and with those people knew him well.

Volunteers who would like to get involved will be provided with free film training and access to a range of workshops, some based at WORLDWrite’s studio in Millfields Road, Lower Clapton.

For more information email world.write@btconnect.com.