How positive and refreshing was it to see a drama about the Windrush generation that wasn’t condensed into 55 minutes?
Three Little Birds is a semi-biographical account of Lenny Henry’s mother’s experience in leaving Jamaica and coming to the UK in 1957. This is more than ‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs’. We’ve been there and we know all about the pain and racist behaviour that came with those words.
It goes deep into the lives of two sisters Chantrelle and Leah and their friend Hosanna. They leave Jamaica and arrive in London, Notting Hill to be exact, in the hope of a better life as that was what the Windrush Generation were promised. A better life and the opportunity to leave within five years better off than when they left their homes.
The three women very quickly realise that ‘better’ would be a struggle to acquire, let alone maintain and then some! I often wonder how the backbone of this generation maintained their silence, how they dealt with the trauma not only from the negative words and insults that they had to endure but the feelings of degradation as a result of the living conditions, having to share bedrooms, kitchens, even bathrooms after leaving behind beautiful homes and breath taking islands with the added benefit of natural Vitamin D every day of the year.
On a personal note I recall my mother telling me the shock she experienced when she first arrived in West London and had to travel to an area near Loftus Road to have a bath once a week. A completely different life to their English counterparts and one we probably couldn’t imagine now.
In the series, Leah leaves her abusive husband in Jamaica and has the additional heartache of also having to leave behind her three small children. Her brother Javon is already living in the country – as is a half sibling – and is working with the RAF. So alongside the new home and all that goes with it, there’s sibling issues and colourism, all enveloped in the racism that had to be endured. The drama really gets you thinking as the stories unfold episode by episode and how each character is faced with numerous challenges for simply wanting to live as human beings.
My personal reason for having a little extra love for the series is my daughter, Kamarane, is in episode 3 as the young Leah! It’s such a special thing to have her use her talents generations later to tell a story reflective of her grandmother’s experience. So proud and pleased for her.
All told, Three Little Birds is a must watch and gives you a new look at this period in British and Caribbean history. You can watch the six part drama on ITV every Sunday at 8pm or catch all episodes on ITVX if you want to binge watch it.