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Colony, The (1964)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Colony, The (1964)
DirectorPhilip Donnellan
Production CompanyBBC
ProducerPhilip Donnellan
CameramanGeoff Mulligan
Songs Sung byStewart Family

Stan Crooke (signalman); Victor Williams (bus conductor); Polly Perkins (nurse); Bernice Smith (teacher); Pastor Dunn (preacher)

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Interviews with a variety of West Indian immigrants working in Birmingham.

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Broadcast on 16 June 1964, The Colony was directed by Philip Donnellan, a documentarist working in television since the late 1950s, who had gained a reputation for a series of investigations into working class communities across England.

Filmed at a variety of locations in Birmingham, The Colony was remarkable for its time in giving a voice to working-class settlers from the Carribean. The film uses no narration or commentary, allowing its participants - including a railwayman from St Kitts, a bus conductor from Jamaica, a family of singers from Trinidad and a nurse from Barbados - to speak intelligently and articulately about their experiences of Britain.

Most importantly, the film features a very diverse range of views and experiences, demonstrating the absurdity - as one participant points out - of Caribbean immigrants from different countries and very different backgrounds being seen, and coming to see themselves, as a single group.

Despite the hostility which many have faced, the interviewees mostly speak with little anger or bitterness. But the England which they find themselves in is not the one they were told about, and they struggle to understand their treatment by the English as foreigners. As one man eloquently puts it, "we call England 'the Mother Country'. We have been taught that it is the Mother Country, it has been drilled into us as the Mother Country, from the cradle, really, to the grave, because... Jamaica has been governed by the English for over three hundred years, and so everything about it is English."

Donnellan, born in Cork, went on to develop his interest in migrant communities in his next film, The Irishmen: An Impression of Exile (1965), an examination of the experience of Irish workers in London, focusing on a young fisherman from Cama in Connemara coming to work on the Victoria Line Underground excavation.

Mark Duguid

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Video Clips
1. The mother country (2:35)
2. Working together (3:11)
3. The debate (3:04)
Complete programme (57:25)
Donnellan, Philip (1924-1999)