Rebecca Balfourth (KCL) - 2022-23 Students

Forgotten Voices: Caribbean Women on BBC Radio.

Of the 372 contributors to the BBC radio programme, Caribbean Voices, broadcast between 1943 and 1958, 71 were women. Alison Donnell, in Beyond Windrush, writes that ‘attention to these women makes it clear that an alternative West Indian women’s literary history existed alongside the canonical male Windrush writings.’ Yet the writers she lists have since been cast into ‘a shadow of obscurity.’ Unlike Sam Selvon or V.S. Naipaul, the majority of the women writers included in the programme have not been included in the now-established canon of Anglophone Caribbean writing. Sandra Courtman, in her introduction to Joyce Gladwell’s Brown Face, Big Master, explores the possibility that one of the reasons for this is ‘the tendency to privilege the novel over other forms of expression.’ This has dislodged the poetry and autobiographical writing in which women of the Windrush generation were more often engaged.

My research and writing will delve into the works of some of these forgotten voices of Caribbean women’s writing. In particular, I am interested in exploring works of poetry, autobiography and short fiction, as these are more representative than the novel of Caribbean women’s literature of this period. I am seeking to contribute to the existing field of knowledge, in relation to two questions.

The first is: how, or why have so many Caribbean women’s voices have been overlooked in the creation of a West Indian and then Anglophone Caribbean literature? I am motivated to explore this topic by a long-standing personal interest in recovering the rich literary and cultural history of the Caribbean and, more specifically, literature by people of Caribbean origin living in Britain.

My second question is: what has been forgotten? To this end, I want to research the archives of Caribbean Voices, and to explore the published texts of Caribbean women writing during the period that the programme ran. From this exploration, I want to produce a long-form piece of creative non-fiction.

Primary supervisor: Prof. Lara Feigel, KCL

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