London Calypso Tent stalwart De Admiral (Jeffrey Hinds) has finally seen his boat come in – on his 26th year of performing in the ABC/ACUK competition. To loud cheers from a capacity crowd at The Tabernacle on Thursday, the Reading-born calypsonian was proclaimed UK Calypso Monarch 2018 for his topical song The Windrush Generation. He was clearly overjoyed to have achieved that long-cherished ambition.
His performance was preceded by archive footage of Lord Kitchener performing London is the Place for Me after stepping off HMT Empire Windrush in June 1948. Attired in an appropriately retro suit and stylish hat, and carrying old-style suitcases, Admiral looked as if he had walked down the gangplank alongside Kitch.
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Admiral’s delivery is soft and his stage presence subdued compared with some performers, but his critique of the UK Government’s treatment of the Windrush-era Caribbean migrants hit the mark. The lyrics skewered the casual cruelty of a ‘hostile environment’ policy that has seen many people unfairly deported and others left stateless despite having travelled to Britain legally (in some cases even born in the UK) and then working hard in the country for decades.
As De Admiral put it, to applause from the Tab audience, “The Windrush Generation deserves respect and compensation.” Visiting TT National Carnival Commission chairman Winston Peters – better known as the calypsonian Gypsy – piled on the pressure. After presenting Admiral with a special trophy from NCC and TUCO, Gypsy said: “I want to tell the PM that they owe us a debt of gratitude – we have a right to be here… I want the PM to know that this nonsense have to stop.” Another guest, the Mayor of staunchly Conservative Kensington & Chelsea Council, may have been feeling somewhat uncomfortable at this point!
The Windrush Generation scandal was also referenced by Sheldon Skeete in his beautifully crafted lyrics for The Road to Brexit. Sheldon was ready for some serious roadworks – he even brought on a cone – but it was the arrival of ‘Theresa May’ that brought the house down. In a night of strong competition it took the former monarch to third place.
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Sandwiching Admiral and Sheldon in the results was the imposing figure of Rev B, who woke from his doze and rushed out to warn us in Raise yuh Head that “they’re killing us” – ‘they’ being big pharma and the agri-chemical industry. Monsanto was the highly topical reference here, and seasoned tent-goers will remember Alexander D Great’s superlative Monsanto’s Law from some years back.
Alexander was keen to claim a place in the sun at Grand Anse in Grenada, only to be told that it had gone private. But, insisted Alexander, appealing to the audience for support, surely The Beaches are for Everyone. Spotting the beach towel left on stage, MC Martin Jay reminded Alex that beaches need to be clean too! G-String warned of a more hazardous beach landing (and then only if you were lucky) in The Green, Green Grass of Rome, which brought together fine lyrics (well-researched too), stirring music and a fine performance. On another occasion it might have brought him the crown, but this year he reached only fourth, a single point ahead of Alexander.
There was so much to savour here that predicting the final positions was well-nigh impossible, so congratulations to all the calypsonians. We’re pretty sure that our distinguished emissary from T&T will have been impressed.
The special guest this year was Stacey Sobers, who struck exactly the right note with her majestic performance of Kings and Queens. Many in the audience were probably mentally sorting out in their own minds their personal true kings and queens from the imposters. We also had guest spots from De Alberto and 2017 monarch Brown Sugar.