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Cast members of 'The Windrush Warriors' pose as if they're ready for a fight

'It's a rallying call for all groups of people': Interview with the director of 'The Windrush Warriors'

Sky HISTORY spoke to John Klark, the director of a heart-warming theatre show titled 'The Windrush Warriors', which tells the story of four African-Caribbean pensioners who fought back against the establishment during the Windrush Scandal.

Image: The Windrush Warriors

The Windrush Warriors is a theatre show that highlights the struggles and determination of people affected by the Windrush Scandal in 2018. Described as ‘thought-provoking’ and ‘brilliant’, this production mixes heart with humour as it showcases the people who fought back when they were unjustly questioned.

Sky HISTORY spoke to director John Klark to learn more about The Windrush Warriors and the real stories that inspired the script.

What is 'The Windrush Warriors' theatre show about?

The Windrush Warriors tells the story of four Afro-Caribbean pensioners, children of the Windrush Generation, who spend their days in a down-and-out community centre to socialise and save on their heating bills.

One day, one of them receives a letter from the Home Office asking them to confirm their immigration status. The pensioners decide to form a fight-back group to help others and challenge the hostile environment. It is a story of courage under fire using the lens of theatre.

Why was it a project that you wanted to be involved in?

My career in theatre is all about bringing untold stories to the stage. I was thrilled to be able to be involved and raise awareness of the ongoing Windrush Scandal. My work focuses a lot on community work and to be able to introduce the topic of the Windrush Scandal to new audiences is an honour.

To what extent is the show based on real characters and real events?

The writer and creator Nicola Gardner has used a lot of real-life stories in the show so audiences realise that the scandal has had implications far and wide. She spent time with a Windrush descendants’ group in Preston to hear people’s experiences first-hand.

The show illustrates that instead of taking their situation sitting down, the ordinary people (who came to this country and rebuilt the economy after World War II) organised and mobilised.

It’s been over 75 years since the arrival of the Empire Windrush but stories about both the Windrush Generation and the Windrush Scandal are still incredibly relevant in 2024. Why do you think this is?

At least 85 people were actually wrongfully deported. There are many thousands of people who are eligible for payments under the Windrush Compensation scheme that still haven’t been paid. Some people have since sadly passed away. Many recommendations which came after the inquiry still have not happened, with some recommendations being scrapped.

So it is an ongoing scandal with implications far and wide. It also highlights the distrust some communities rightfully have about those in power.

The cast of 'The Windrush Warriors' performing on stage
Image: The Windrush Warriors

What can audiences learn from going to see The Windrush Warriors?

They can learn that people can change their fate if they take action. It’s a rallying call for all groups of people to not just take what is thrown at them.

We have held some illuminating Q&A sessions after some performances that have shown how the story resonated with all kinds of people. The show educates all kinds of people who never realised that such an act of betrayal happened to such a large number of people living in the UK.

Are there any resources you would recommend for people who want to learn more about Windrush?

It’s always good to read a wide range of news stories to get a wider understanding of the scandal, but also to read a wide range of books and listen to testimony. Several museums, like the National Maritime Museum, are holding events to mark Windrush Day this year [Saturday, 22nd June 2024].

Many councils are also holding events to mark this year’s anniversary of the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush and our show is included in some of those. So yes, by all means, read, but also listen and experience testimony first-hand.

There’s quite a lot of comedy throughout this production – why is it important to have a level of light-heartedness when dealing with such serious topics?

We want to make our show as accessible as possible. We deal with the topic sensitively but know that certain groups of people can use comedy to deal with dire situations.

We also know that if you use comedy, people can remember. It’s also sometimes a useful way of putting the audience in the interesting position of debating whether they can laugh or not. All in all, we would say our show is a dramedy.

Are there any other historical and socially relevant events that you would like to cover in your future theatre productions?

I would love to explore other historical events as a starting point to create new work. I actually have an idea to use ancient history as a starting point for a new solo comedy show. I know that with all the difficulties we as a nation have faced in recent years, comedy is actually needed more than ever. People need to remember and be respectful. But also people need to be shown what is happening in different ways, and comedy can be a useful tool in that regard.

To learn more about 'The Windrush Warriors' and find information about upcoming performances, visit the show’s official website.