The UK West Indian press …..

….. for information, education and co-operation

By Clayton Goodwin

The UK West Indian press which I encountered shortly after first coming to London in October 1960, was still in its infancy. There had been publications in this sector before, but they were usually aimed at an academically literate readership and did not survive for very long. After the outbreak of violence towards West Indian and African people, symbolised by the racial riots of 1958 and that following the murder of Kelso Cochrane the following year, they knew that they were no longer immigrants who would not be troubled if they did not trouble other people but for safe-guarding they had to develop their own community framework. That meant setting up their own newspapers/magazines for information, education and co-operation.

The most prominent magazine to a young Englishman newly-arrived in the capital was Flamingo which I found on sale from vendors next to the Dominion cinema on Tottenham Court Road. Its stylish, colourful format caught my eye. Yes, there were photographs of pretty girls and more flippant features but also much historical and cultural content. For a country-boy who had never met any black person, or had any relevant education, I was surprised at the hitherto unknown achievements of West Indians, Africans and African Americans. On an early trip to the inner-city suburbs I became acquainted with the West Indian Gazette, edited by future-icon Claudia Jones. Although the heavy Marxist interpretation was a bit much for me, the news and cultural content packed a powerful. As I have explained in my life-book Sorry, but I thought you were black, within a very short time of seeing my first copy I was writing for the West Indian Gazette.

Both Flamingo and West Indian Gazette had disappeared from the market within a year of Claudia’s death on Christmas Eve 1964. And so, too, had the several publications which had flourished in their wake. I contributed to WINA (West Indian National Association), and impressive magazine edited by Hector Karam which, unjustly to my mind, is left out of accepted histories, New Contact, and several even more ephemeral. Meanwhile the Weekly Gleaner, which was classed as the UK edition of an essentially Jamaican newspaper, had been launched to keep Jamaicans here in touch with events and attitudes in their homeland, was gaining readers in all West Indian communities and beyond.

The next decade belongs to Aubrey Baynes, the real godfather of the UK West Indian press. When we first met (1964) the Vincentian was producing Daylight International with a high standard of journalism, presentation and printing. Within a year he became the editor of Magnet News – Jan Carew left after editing the first edition – which came close to achieving its stated aim of being the first regular black weekly newspaper. Aubrey attained that ambition, after Magnet News and Cinnamon had failed, by bringing out the West Indian World by 1970. Under him and his successors the title survived for 15 years and shaped, framed and laid down the markers for the publications that failed.

By the early 1970s, perhaps worn out by the strain of the business/financial side of the venture, Baynes handed over the reins to Arif Ali, hitherto editor of the pocket-book Westindian Digest. With Claudia Jones and Aubrey Baynes, he formed the trio at the backbone of the UK West Indian (African and Asian) press. Through his company, Hansib Publications, Arif initiated a string of titles, of which, in addition to the West Indian World, the Caribbean Times is the most significant to our story, and raised its international profile. He understood, too, the importance of linking his newspapers and magazines to promotional initiatives and supporting community enterprise in a comprehensive programme. Arif published the Who’s Who of West Indians in the United Kingdom, later re-named Third World Impact*, and after some two decades gave up his newspapers/magazines to concentrate on publishing books. 

The story will be continued and more details will be added – Caribcommx intends to talk with some of the people involved most closely.

*In the initial edition of this publication (1973) Clayton Goodwin was first described as being an “adopted Westindian”

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