She didn’t even reach her half-century, yet Claudia Jones achieved enough to fill books, documentaries, plays… and now a film.
It’s hard to write about Jones without resorting to clichés – indomitable, inspirational, iconic. She was all of those things and more.
For readers of Soca News she is probably best known as the feisty activist who, rather than merely complaining about discrimination and racial violence in 1950s London, met them head-on by creating the imaginative indoor ‘Caribbean Carnival’ show at St Pancras Town Hall in January 1959. Her aim was to “wash the taste of Notting Hill and Nottingham [race riots] out of our mouths” by showcasing the best of black talent in Britain. It was a bold move that succeeded magnificently and laid the foundations that Rhaune Laslett and others built upon for the Notting Hill Fayre of 1966… which evolved into Notting Hill Carnival.
It’s encouraging to learn, then, that progress is being made on a new film focusing on her life. Called simply Claudia, the film is being developed by award-winning Trinidadian producer Frances-Anne Solomon and her team, who brought us Hero, the highly acclaimed 2019 film about the life of Ulric Cross. Scriptwriter for Claudia is Omari McCarthy while Lisa Wickham is co-producer, both of whom joined Solomon at film industry networking organisation EAVE (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs). The positive response the Claudia team received from other delegates at EAVE was “heart-warming”, said Wickham.
There’s certainly a fascinating story to be told about how this Trinidad-born radical came to England after being deported from the USA for her communist sympathies. The States’ loss was the UK’s gain, as she set up a newspaper, the West Indian Gazette, and used her extraordinary network of connections (she seemed to know everyone who was anyone in black cultural and political circles) to organise the St Pancras show, which became an annual event until the year of her death, 1964. It was entirely in keeping with her even-handed passion for justice that the brochure for that 1959 ‘carnival’ stated that some of the monies raised would be used to “assist the payments of fines of coloured and white youths involved in the Notting Hill events”.
The film will be produced in partnership with BAFTA award winner Nadine Marsh-Edwards’ UK-based Greenacre Films, Lisa Wickham’s Trinidad and Tobago-based Imagine Media International Limited and Frances-Anne Solomon’s Canada-based CaribbeanTales Media Group (CTMG).
Soca News will keep you posted on progress as the film develops.