British African-Caribbean community

British African-Caribbean community
British African-Caribbean
(British Afro-Caribbean)
The Leicester Caribbean Carnival
Total population
UK, 2001: 565,900[1]
(approximately 1.00% of the British population)
England, 2007: 599,700[2]
(approximately 1.20% of the English population)

(Not including those of partial Afro-Caribbean origin, for example 2007 estimates put the number of people of mixed Afro-Caribbean and White origin in England alone at 282,900)[2]
Regions with significant populations
Greater London · Birmingham · Liverpool · Cardiff · West Midlands · Manchester · Bristol · Nottingham · Leicester · Sheffield

British English · Caribbean English


Predominantly Evangelical,
Muslim and Rastafarian minority

Related ethnic groups

African diaspora · Afro-Caribbean · Jamaican British · Guyanese British · Barbadian British · Saint Lucian British · Grenadian British · Montserratian British · Trinidadian British · Kittitian and Nevisian British · Antiguan British · Vincentian British · Dominican British

The British African Caribbean (or Afro-Caribbean) communities are residents of the United Kingdom who are of West Indian background and whose ancestors were primarily indigenous to Africa. As immigration to the United Kingdom from Africa increased in the 1990s, the term has sometimes been used to include UK residents solely of African origin, or as a term to define all Black British residents, though the phrase "African and Caribbean" has more often been used to cover such a broader grouping. The most common and traditional use of the term African-Caribbean community is in reference to groups of residents' continuing aspects of Caribbean culture, customs and traditions in the United Kingdom.Term[›]

The largest proportion of the African-Caribbean population in the UK are of Jamaican origin; others trace origins to nations such as Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, Dominica, Montserrat, Anguilla, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana, which though located on the South American mainland, is very culturally similar to the Caribbean, and was historically considered to be part of the British West Indies, and Belize (formerly British Honduras), in Central America, which culturally is more akin to the English-speaking Caribbean than to Latin America, due to its colonial and still-extant economic ties to the UK.

African-Caribbean communities exist throughout the United Kingdom, though by far the largest concentrations are in London and Birmingham.[3] Significant communities also exist in other population centres, notably Manchester, Bradford, Nottingham, Coventry, Luton, Leicester, Bristol, Leeds, Huddersfield, Sheffield, Liverpool and Cardiff. In these cities, the community is traditionally associated with a particular area, such as, Brixton, Harlesden, Stonebridge, Tottenham, Dalston, Lewisham, Peckham in London, West Bowling and Heaton in Bradford, Chapeltown in Leeds,[4] St. Pauls in Bristol,[5] or Handsworth and Aston in Birmingham or Moss Side in Manchester. According to the 2001 census, the largest number of African-Caribbeans are found in Lewisham, South east London; with 9%.

British African-Caribbeans have an extremely high rate of mixed-race relationships, and could in effect become the first UK ethnic group to 'disappear'.[6] Half of all British African-Caribbean men in a relationship have partners of a different ethnic background,[6] as do one-third of all British African-Caribbean women.[7] 2007 estimates for England alone roughly put the full African-Caribbean to partial African-Caribbean heritage ratio at 2:1.[2]



Early pioneers

The only known photograph of Mary Seacole, taken for a carte de visite by Maull & Company in London (c. 1873)

The presence of British African-Caribbean people stems originally from the English involvement in the slave trade. From the 16th century to the 19th century enslaved Africans were shipped by European slave traders to British colonies in the Caribbean and British North America, as well as French, Dutch, Danish, Spanish, and Portuguese colonies. New World slavery was originally focused on the extraction of gold and other precious raw materials. Africans were then later set to work on the vast cotton, tobacco and sugar plantations in the Americas for the economic benefit of these colonial powers and their plantocracy.[8] One impact of the American Revolution was the differing historical development of African American and African-Caribbean people. There are records of small communities in the ports of Cardiff, Liverpool, London and South Shields dating back to the mid-18th century. These communities were formed by freed slaves following the abolition of slavery.[9] Typical occupations of the early migrants were footmen or coachmen.

Nineteenth Century

Prominent African-Caribbean people in Britain during the nineteenth century include:

Early Twentieth Century

The growing Caribbean presence in the British military led to approximately 15,000 migrants arriving in the North-West of England around the time of the First World War to work in munitions factories.[10]

The Jamaican poet and communist activist, Claude McKay came to England following the First World War and became the first Black British journalist, writing for the Workers Dreadnought.

Second World War

In February 1941 345 West Indian workers were brought to work in and around Liverpool.[11] They were generally better skilled than the local Black British. There was also some tension between them and West Africans who had settled in the area.[12]

The "Windrush generation"

Since World War II many African-Caribbean people migrated to North America and Europe, especially to the United States, Canada, the UK, France, and the Netherlands. As a result of the losses during the war, the British government began to encourage mass immigration from the countries of the British Empire and Commonwealth to fill shortages in the labour market.[13] The 1948 British Nationality Act gave British citizenship to all people living in Commonwealth countries, and full rights of entry and settlement in Britain.[14] Many West Indians were attracted by better prospects in what was often referred to as the mother country.

In 1998, an area of public open space in Brixton was renamed Windrush Square to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of the West Indians.[15]

The ship MV Empire Windrush brought the first group of 492 immigrants to Tilbury near London on 22 June 1948.[16] The Windrush was en route from Australia to England via the Atlantic, docking in Kingston, Jamaica. An advertisement had appeared in a Jamaican newspaper offering cheap transport on the ship for anybody who wanted to come and work in the UK. The arrivals were temporarily housed in the Clapham South deep shelter in southwest London less than a mile away from Coldharbour Lane in Brixton. Many only intended to stay in Britain for a few years, and although a number returned to the Caribbean to rejoin the RAF, the majority remained to settle permanently.[17] The arrival of the passengers has become an important landmark in the history of modern Britain, and the image of West Indians filing off its gangplank has come to symbolise the beginning of modern British multicultural society.[17] See Windrush image "here". .

There was plenty of work in post-war Britain and industries such as British Rail, the National Health Service and public transport recruited almost exclusively from Jamaica and Barbados.[18] Though Afro-Caribbeans were encouraged to journey to Britain via immigration campaigns created by successive British governments, many new arrivals were to endure prejudice, intolerance and extreme racism from sectors of indigenous British society.[16] This experience was to mark African-Caribbeans' relations with the wider community over a long period.[19] Early African-Caribbean immigrants found private employment and housing denied to them on the basis of race. Trade unions would often not help African-Caribbean workers and some pubs, clubs, dance halls and churches would bar black people from entering.[16] Housing was in short supply following the wartime bombing, and the shortage led to some of the first clashes with the established white community. Clashes continued and worsened into the 1950s, and riots erupted in cities including London, Birmingham and Nottingham.[13] In 1958, attacks in the London area of Notting Hill by white youths marred relations with West Indian residents, leading to the creation of the annual Notting Hill Carnival, which was initiated in 1959 as a positive response by the Caribbean community.[20] Some of the racism and intolerance was stoked by explicitly fascist or anti-immigration movements including Oswald Mosley's Union Movement, the League of Empire Loyalists, the White Defence League, the National Labour Party and others. Influenced by this kind of propaganda, gangs of Teddy Boys would often attack blacks in London.[16]

In 1962, Britain passed the Commonwealth Immigrants Act restricting the entry of immigrants,[13] and by 1972 only holders of work permits, or people with parents or grandparents born in the UK could gain entry - effectively stemming most Caribbean immigration.[14] Despite the restrictive measures, an entire generation of Britons with African-Caribbean heritage now existed, contributing to British society in virtually every field. The number of British persons born in the West Indies had increased from 15,000 in 1951 to 172,000 in 1961 to 304,000 in 1981. The total population of persons of West Indian heritage by 1981 was between 500,000 and 550,000, depending upon the official source used.[21]

Recession and turbulence, 1970s and 1980s

Dancers at the Notting Hill Carnival

The 1970s and 1980s were decades of comparative turbulence in wider British society; industrial disputes preceded a period of deep recession and widespread unemployment which seriously affected the economically less prosperous African-Caribbean community.Recession[›] Societal racism, discrimination, poverty, powerlessness and oppressive policing sparked a series of riots in areas with substantial African-Caribbean populations.[22] These "uprisings" (as they were described by some in the community) took place in St Pauls in 1980, Brixton, Toxteth and Moss Side in 1981, St Pauls again in 1982, Notting Hill Gate in 1982, Toxteth in 1982, and Handsworth, Brixton and Tottenham in 1985.[23]

The riots had a profoundly unsettling effect on local residents, and led the then Home Secretary William Whitelaw to commission the Scarman report to address the root causes of the disturbances. The report identified both "racial discrimination" and a "racial disadvantage" in Britain, concluding that urgent action was needed to prevent these issues becoming an "endemic, ineradicable disease threatening the very survival of our society".[22] The era saw an increase in attacks on Black people by white people. The Joint Campaign Against Racism committee reported that there had been more than 20,000 attacks on non-indigenous Britons including Britons of Asian origin during 1985.[24]

Recent history

While individuals with Caribbean heritage excelled in a variety of fields in British society during the 1990s and 2000s, many recurring issues continued to impact the African-Caribbean community as a whole. The police response to the 1993 murder of Black teenager Stephen Lawrence, by assailants that have yet to be convicted, led to an outcry from the community and calls to investigate police conduct. The subsequent government inquiry, the Macpherson Report, was vigorously sought by Stephen's Jamaican-born parents and revealed evidence of institutional racism in the London Metropolitan Police Service, confirming the beliefs of many Black Britons.[25]

The community has suffered from an increasing association with gun-crime, heightened by high profile murders, such as that of two young women shot outside a Birmingham hair salon in 2003. Several media outlets blamed a “gangster rap culture” in the community,[26] though Assistant Chief Constable Nick Tofiluk of the West Midlands Police believed that the use of firearms is not an Afro-Caribbean issue alone, and has been on the rise throughout British society.[27] Tensions between African-Caribbean residents and British Asians in a number of regions have led to confrontations, notably violent disturbances in Birmingham in 2005 where groups from both communities fought and rioted over two nights.[citation needed] There is also evidence of tensions between the African-Caribbean community and the growing number of African immigrants.[citation needed]

Some African-Caribbean people have left the UK, seeking a better life abroad, either back in the Caribbean or America.[28] However, the Caribbean community in Britain is also becoming increasingly integrated. In 2009, 1.2 per cent of British children under 16 were Black Caribbean but nearly as many – 1.1 per cent – were Mixed White and Black Caribbean. Among those children who were living with at least one Caribbean parent, only one in five were living with two Caribbean parents.[29]


Ridley Road Market in Dalston, London, which sells African-Caribbean music, textiles, and food including goat meat, yams, mangos and spices.[30]

In the UK Census of 2001, 565,876 people classified themselves in the category 'Black Caribbean', amounting to around 1 per cent of the total population.[31] Of the 'minority ethnic' population, which amounted to 7.9 per cent of the total UK population, Black Caribbeans accounted for 12.2 per cent.[31] In addition, 14.6 per cent of the minority ethnic population (equivalent to 1.2 per cent of the total population) identified as mixed race, of whom one third stated that they were of mixed white and Black Caribbean descent.[31] In 2001, 61 per cent of the Black Caribbean group lived in London.[32]

The Census also records respondents' countries of birth and the 2001 Census recorded 146,401 people born in Jamaica, 21,601 from Barbados, 21,283 from Trinidad and Tobago, 20,872 from Guyana, 9,783 from Grenada, 8,265 from Saint Lucia, 7,983 from Montserrat, 7,091 from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 6,739 from Dominica, 6,519 from Saint Kitts and Nevis, 3,891 from Antigua and Barbuda, and 498 from Anguilla.[33]


In 2007, 49% of black Caribbean pupils achieved five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C. Compared to just 44% in 2006. 56% of girls achieved five or more GCSEs at A*-C, with 42% of boys doing the same.[34]

The community

Diane Abbott, born to Jamaican parents, became the first Black woman elected to the House of Commons in 1987

In many parts of Britain, African-Caribbean people have been recognised as being part of a distinct community.[3] In the 1950s and 1960s community centres and associations sprung up in some British towns and cities with an aim to serve African-Caribbean populations. One such example was the African Caribbean Self Help Organisation (ACSHO) which was formed in 1964 in the district of Handsworth in Birmingham.[35] These centres have often addressed issues that rise within the community, including perceived problems of police harassment and concerns about the housing of Black people, which was viewed as discriminatory during the early decades of mass immigration.Community[›] The centres also allowed African-Caribbean peoples to socialise without risking the potential racial discrimination and aggression of "unfriendly pubs".[36] Many of these associations appointed a Community Relations Officer whose role was to liaise between the community and wider British society including the establishment. Other responsibilities included arranging social events, such as festivals, carnivals and coach trips, which helped bring the communities together.[36] Typical of present day centres is The Afro Caribbean Millennium Centre in Birmingham which was established with National Lottery funding to support principally Caribbean people in areas like employment, housing, education, immigration, and cultural issues.[37]

Although the community does not face any official or informal restrictions on political participation, Britons of Caribbean origin are nonetheless under-represented in local and national politics.[3] However there have been some successes with Diane Abbott being the first black person elected to Parliament[38] under Labour and Linda C Douglas being the first black person to be part of the Labour party National Executive Committee representing the now expelled Militant tendency. British African-West Indians have long asserted that they encounter discriminatory barriers to most middle and higher status occupations, as well as discrimination in hiring practices at all levels of employment. There is also considerable evidence that African-Caribbean people experience differential treatment at the hands of public officials, the British courts and penal system, and the police.[3] Studies have proposed that the isolation of certain regional urban areas by financial institutions such as insurance brokers disproportionately affects the community to its detriment.[3]

Britain's school system, despite efforts to address issues of discrimination,[39] has often been accused of racism through undermining the self-confidence of all Black children and maligning the culture of their parents.[40] Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, a disproportionate number of Caribbean migrant children were classified as 'educationally subnormal' and placed in special schools and units.[41] By the end of the 1980s, the chances of white school leavers finding employment were four times better than those of Black pupils. In 2000–01, Black pupils were three times more likely than white pupils and ten times more likely than Indian pupils to be officially excluded from school for disciplinary reasons. These chronic problems have contributed to the group being disproportionately at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum and thus have continued to face challenging social problems into the 21st century.[42]

African-Caribbean culture in the United Kingdom


African-Caribbean communities organise and participate in Caribbean Carnivals (Caribbean style carnivals) throughout the UK. The best known of these is the annual Notting Hill Carnival, attracting up to 1.5 million people from Britain and around the world, making it the largest street festival in Europe. This is Local London. The carnival began in 1964 as a small procession of Trinidadians in memory of festivals in their home country.

Leeds West Indian Carnival is Europe's oldest West Indian carnival and now attracts around 130,000 people.[43][44][45]

Other carnivals include the Leicester Caribbean Carnival and the Birmingham International Carnival.


Scotch bonnet peppers imported from the Caribbean on sale at London's Brixton Market. The peppers are a key ingredient of "Jerk" dishes.

The earliest Caribbean immigrants to post-war Britain found differences in diet and availability of food an uncomfortable challenge.[46] In later years, as the community developed and food imports became more accessible to all, grocers specialising in Caribbean produce opened in British high streets. Caribbean restaurants can now also be found in most areas of Britain where West Indian communities reside, serving traditional Caribbean dishes such as curried goat, fried dumplings, ackee and salt fish (the national dish of Jamaica), Pelau (the national dish of Trinidad and Tobago), (Cou-Cou and Flying Fish the national dish of Barbados), Pudding and Souse, as well as another tasty delicacy known as Fish Cakes from Barbados. The spices known as "jerk" and the traditional Sunday West Indian meal of rice and peas

The best known Caribbean food brands in the UK are Dunn's River, Jamaican Sunpride, Walkerswood and Grace Foods. Grace Foods is originally from Jamaica but is now a multi national conglomerate. In March 2007 Grace Foods bought ENCO Products, owners of the Dunn's River Brand, as well as "Nurishment", a flavoured, sweetened enriched milk drink, and the iconic Encona Sauce Range. Jamaican Sunpride products and ingredients have been widely available in the UK for over 10 years and has a sister brand of Jamaica Supreme with products mainly sourced from the Caribbean. Walkerswood is a Jamaican co-operative which has a range of sauces and marinades product. Jonathan Perry Bowens has added numerous ranges to this sector through his enviable ability in R & D. His most well known product range being Jamaican Sun. [47]


The influx of African-Caribbeans to the United Kingdom was accompanied by religious practices more common to the North American continent. In Britain, many African-Caribbeans continued to practice Non-conformist Protestant denominations with an Evangelical influence such as Pentecostalism and Seventh Day Baptism. African-Caribbeans have supported new churches in many areas of the country, which have grown to act as social centres for the community.Religion[›] The manner of worship in some of these churches is more akin to that of African American practices, than to traditional English Catholic or Anglican liturgy. Gospel music also came to play a part in British cultural life. African-Caribbeans played a central role establishing British gospel choirs, most notably the London Community Gospel Choir.

Some British African-Caribbeans continue to practice other religious beliefs such as the Rastafari movement, which developed in Jamaica. The Rastafarian belief system, associated personal symbols such as dreadlocks and cultural practices concerning cannabis have influenced British society far beyond the African-Caribbean community, being adopted by both indigenous Britons and others.[48]

There are around 40,000 African-Caribbean Muslims in the United Kingdom, 30,000 of those reside in London. Muslims of African-Caribbean origins are found in British major cities and town. Some of them, especially those from African countries like Nigeria, Uganda and Sierra Leone are more likely to be born to Muslim families while many, particularly the Caribbean Muslims converted to Islam in various circumstances including marriage and in prison.

Language and dialect

English is the official language of the former British West Indies, therefore African-Caribbean immigrants had few communication difficulties upon arrival in Britain compared to immigrants from other regions.[3] Nevertheless, indigenous Britons were generally unused to the distinct Caribbean dialects, creoles and patois (patwah) spoken by many African-Caribbean immigrants and their descendants, which would be particularly problematic in the field of education. In a study by language and education specialist Viv Edwards, The West Indian language issue in British schools, language – the Creole spoken by the students – was singled out as an important factor disadvantaging Caribbean children in British schools. The study cites negative attitudes of teachers towards any non-standard variety noting that;

"The teacher who does not or is not prepared to recognise the problems of the Creole-speaking child in a British English situation can only conclude that he is stupid when he gives either an inappropriate response or no response at all. The stereotyping process leads features of Creole to be stigmatised and to develop connotations of, amongst other things, low academic ability."[49]

As integration continued, African-West Indians born in Britain instinctively adopted hybrid dialects combining Caribbean and local British dialects.[50] These dialects and accents gradually entered mainstream British vernacular, and shades of Caribbean dialects can be heard amongst Britons regardless of cultural origin. A Lancaster University study identified an emergence in certain areas of Britain of a distinctive accent which borrows heavily from Jamaican creole, lifting some words unchanged.[51] This phenomenon, disparagingly named "Jafaican" meaning 'fake Jamaican', was famously parodied by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen through his character Ali G.[51]

Theatre, television and mainstream cinema

The 1970s saw the emergence of independent filmmakers such as Trinidadian-born Horace Ove, the director of Pressure, among others.[52] London's Talawa Theatre Company was founded in the 1985 by Jamaican-born Yvonne Brewster, their first production being based on C.L.R. James's historical account of the Haitian Revolution, The Black Jacobins.[53] Since the 1980s, the Blue Mountain Theatre's productions have offered a more earthy style of populist comedy, often bringing over Jamaican artists such as Oliver Samuels.[54]

While Guyanese actor Robert Adams became the first African-Caribbean dramatic actor to appear on British television on 11 May 1938 (in a production of Eugene O'Neill's play The Emperor Jones), African-Caribbean entertainers were first widely popularised on British television broadcasts with the postwar resumption of BBC television in 1946 (pre-war black entertainers on the BBC - the first in the world - had primarily been African-American stars).[55] The profile of African-Caribbean actors on television, such as Lennie James, Judith Jacob and Diane Parish, has widened substantially since 1970s shows such as Love Thy Neighbour (Rudolph Walker) and Rising Damp (Don Warrington) when their role was often to act simply as either the butt of, or foil to, racist jokes by 'white' characters. The most influential programme in moving away from this formula was the 1989–1994 Channel Four barbershop sitcom Desmond's, starring Norman Beaton and Carmen Munroe.

One of the biggest African-Caribbean names in comedy is Lenny Henry, who began his career as a stand-up comedian but whose television sketch shows, where he often caricatured Caribbean émigrés, made him popular enough to headline numerous primetime comedy shows from, for instance, Lenny Henry in 1984 to The Lenny Henry Show in 2004.[56] The highest professional achievement by a British African-Caribbean actor to date (2006) was Marianne Jean-Baptiste's 1996 nominations for an Academy Award (Oscar), Golden Globe and British Academy Award (bafta) for her feature-film debut role in Secrets & Lies.[57]


A shop in Electric Avenue, Brixton. In 1999 the street was hit by a nail-bomb planted by neo-nazi David Copeland. Copeland later stated that he was deliberately targeting the local African-Caribbean community. [58]

Jamaican poet James Berry was one of the first Caribbean writers to come to Britain after the 1948 British Nationality Act. He was followed by writers including Barbadians George Lamming and Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Trinidadians Samuel Selvon, CLR James, Jamaican Andrew Salkey and the Guyanese writer Wilson Harris. These writers viewed London as the centre of the English literary scene, and took advantage of the BBC Radio show Caribbean voices to gain attention and be published. By relocating to Britain, these writers also gave Caribbean literature an international readership for the first time and established Caribbean writing as an important perspective within English literature.[59] Some Caribbean writers also began writing about the hardships faced by settlers in post-war Britain. George Lamming addressed these issues with his 1954 novel The Emigrants, which traced the journey of migrants from Barbados as they struggled to integrate into British life.[59] By the mid-1980s, a more radical wave of writers and poets were addressing the African-Caribbean experience in Britain, promoted by a group of new publishing houses such as Akira, Karia, Dangaroo, and Karnak House.[59]

In 1984, the poet Fred D'Aguiar (born in London to Guyanese parents) won the T. S. Eliot Prize, and in 1994 won the Whitbread First Novel Award for The Longest Memory. Linton Kwesi Johnson's rhyming and socio-political commentary over dub beats made him the unofficial poet laureate of the British African-Caribbean community.[60] Another dub poet, Benjamin Zephaniah, born in Birmingham to Jamaican parents, overcame a spell in prison to become a well-known writer and public figure.[61] In 2003 he declined an OBE, stating that it reminded him of 'thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised'.[62]

African-Caribbean British writers have achieved recent literary acclaim. In 2004, Andrea Levy's novel Small Island was the winner of the 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction, one of Britain's highest literary honours. Levy, born in London to Jamaican parents, is the author of four novels, each exploring the problems faced by Black British-born children of Jamaican emigrants.[63] In 2006 Zadie Smith won the Orange Prize for On Beauty. Smith's acclaimed first novel White Teeth was a portrait of contemporary multicultural London, drawing from her own upbringing with an English father and a Jamaican mother.[64]

The UK also has a modest output of African-Caribbean popular fiction. The most widely known example may be Yardie, a work of Urban fiction written by Victor Headley in 1992. It described the life of a Jamaican courier carrying cocaine from Jamaica to London. The book was published by Steve Pope and Dotun Adebayo of Xpress books.[65]


The Voice newspaper was the primary African-Caribbean print media outlet in Britain, and was founded in the early 1980s by Val McCalla. Other publications have included the Gleaner, Black Voice, Pride Magazine and The Caribbean Times. The growth of such media is aimed to offset the perceived imbalances of 'mainstream' media. In 2006, Sir Ian Blair, the Chief Commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police, joined a long list of commentators in branding the mainstream British media as 'institutionally racist' for its alleged failure to offer a proper balance in reporting affairs related to the community.[66]

Trinidad-born Sir Trevor McDonald is one of the community's best-known journalists, having been the main presenter (newscaster) for the national ITV network for over twenty years.[67] Other notable media figures include Gary Younge, The Guardian columnist, and Moira Stuart, the veteran BBC news presenter.[68] Trinidadian-born Darcus Howe has written in New Statesman and fronted a number of documentary series including the Channel 4 current affairs programme Devil's Advocate. Much of Howe's work is related to the experiences of British African-Caribbeans and racism in wider British society.[69] Other notable producer/directors are Terry Jervis (Jervis Media) and Pogus Caesar (Windrush Productions); both have made multicultural, entertainment and sports programmes for Carlton TV, BBC TV and Channel 4.[70]

The community has a strong tradition of 'underground' 'pirate radio' broadcasters, the most established being London's Lightning Radio, Genesis Radio and Galaxy Radio which play a mix of ragga, reggae, bashment, hip hop and R&B. 'pirate radio' stations like Supreme, Galaxy and Genesis Radio are particularly highly regarded in the Afro Caribbean community for not only playing a variety of music such as Soca, Soul, dancehall, Jazz, Hip Hop, Reveail and Funky House, but also for dedicating time to have talk shows and information shows often taking an uncompromising stance in view. Thus giving the community the opportunity to phone in and participate in an array of subjects that mainstream radio and media refuse to address.

In 1996, Choice FM received a licence to broadcast in London and Birmingham with a remit to serve the musical tastes of the African-Caribbean community. Sadly, after being bought by PLC (which owns pop station Capital Radio) and more recently Global taking the ownership of the station, many feel that Choice FM has sold out and no longer reflects the community. This is demonstrated by the sacking of talk show host Geoff Schumann. In an article Geoff Schumann said "When I was on Choice, my show– a talk show– had an audience that was higher than any of the station’s other shows, and yet I was told, by a white man, that my style wouldn’t fit in with the station’s future plans. Generally speaking, a radio show with high ratings is usually the show that a station will keep. But when you want to create the impression that all black people want to do is listen to music, you sack the host that does the talking!” The people from the Afro-Caribbean community with a sense of identity, dignity and pride have abandoned Choice FM, often criticizing the misrepresentation of the music and the general undermining of not only Afro-Caribbean people, but all black people of African ancestry.

As a result, many black activists have campaigned tirelessly for the state to stop attacking black 'pirate radio' stations like Power Jam(now deceased) Galaxy Radio and Genesis Radio, as they are the only voice many of the Afro-Caribbean community feel they have to discus issues that concern them; other than just promoting Urban music like what Choice FM has become.

"The thing with me is that I’m not afraid to call myself black. I’m black— I’m not urban.” - Geoff Schumann. Presently Geoff Schumann now hosts a talk show on a popular west London 'pirate radio' station with the same format that he had on Choice FM, before the only black owned legal station was sold.

In 2002, the BBC established its digital broadcasting strand 'BBC Radio 1Xtra' to focus on new Black music - which in effect means catering to the tastes of the country's African-Caribbean youth.[71] The Internet has afforded the community the opportunity to publish en-masse, and there are now thousands of websites and blogs produced by or for African-Caribbeans in the UK such as the BBC's Family History page,[72] and The African-Caribbean Network, Blacknet UK, launched in 1996.[73]

Visual arts

Tate Britain gallery which houses works by Donald Rodney and Sonia Boyce

One of the most influential African-Caribbeans in the British art world has been Dr. Eddie Chambers.[74] Chambers, along with Donald Rodney, Marlene Smith and curator, artist, critic and academic Keith Piper, founded the BLK Art Group[75] in 1982, when they were initially based in the West Midlands. According to Chambers, significant artists such as the Guyanese-born painters Aubrey Williams and Frank Bowling and the Jamaican sculptor Ronald Moody initially found that, despite achieving worldwide renown, it was difficult to find acceptance in the highest echelons of the art establishment.[76] Chambers worked with Donald Rodney and Sonia Boyce, both of whose work is represented in the permanent collections of the London's Tate Britain museum. In 1986 the Hayward Gallery presented the exhibition 'The Other Story' that provided a survey of African-Caribbean, African and Asian artists working in the UK.

Other African-Caribbean artists of note include Faisal Abdu'allah of Jamaican heritage,[77] Guyanan-born Ingrid Pollard,[78] British-based Jamaican painter Eugene Palmer, the sculptor George 'Fowokan' Kelly[79] and Tam Joseph, whose 1983 work Spirit of Carnival was a vivid depiction of the Notting Hill Carnival.[80] The movement was also part of the impetus that led to the founding of the Association of Black Photographers by Mark Sealy. In 1999 the filmmaker Steve McQueen (not to be confused with the Hollywood filmstar) won Britain's most prestigious art prize, the Turner Prize, for his video "Deadpan".[81] The artist and producer Pogus Caesar was commissioned by Artangel to direct a film based on McQueen's work. Forward Ever - Backward Never was premiered at Lumiere in London 2002. Caesar has also established the OOM Gallery Archives, based in Birmingham, which has in excess of 14,000 images including photographs of contemporary Black British culture.


There are a number of African-Caribbean academics who are especially prominent in the arts and humanities. Professor Paul Gilroy, of Guyanese/English heritage, is one of Britain's leading academics, having taught sociology at Harvard as well as Goldsmiths College and the London School of Economics.[82] The Jamaican-born cultural theorist Professor Stuart Hall has also been a highly influential British intellectual since the 1960s.[83] Dr. Robert Beckford has presented several national television and radio documentaries exploring African-Caribbean history, culture and religion.[84] Other prominent academics include Guyanese born Professor Gus John, who has been active in education, schooling and political radicalism in Britain’s inner cities such as Manchester, Birmingham and London since the 1960s. He was involved in the organising the 'Black people's day of action' a response to the 1981 New Cross Fire. In 1989 he was appointed Director of Education in Hackney and was the first black person to hold such a position. He has also worked as an education consultant in Europe, the Caribbean and Africa. Gus John was the co-ordinator of the Black Parents Movement in Manchester, founded the Education for Liberation book service and helped to organise the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books in Manchester, London and Bradford. He has worked in a number of University settings, including a visiting Faculty Professor of Education at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and is currently an associate professor of the Institute of Education at the University of London. Dr 'William' Lez Henry works with young people, particularly black boys. He is the founder of Black Liberation Afrikan Knowledge (BLK Friday) a platform for people to give presentations to the community. In 2005, he received an Excellence In Education Award at the Challenging The Genius: Excellent Education for Children: “Our Future is Not a dream”, Conference in Chicago, USA. He is one of the foundering members of the National Independent Education Coalition (NIEC). Currently he hosts a fortnightly Talk show on a popular London 'Pirate Radio' station Galaxy 99.5 FM or and who is also a former lecturer of Goldsmiths College, and Prof. Harry Goldbourne, a former member of the radical group the Black Unity and Freedom Party, who went on to teach at the University of the South Bank. Although there are hundreds of African-Caribbean teachers in the UK, it has been suggested that their under-representation in inner-city schools is a major factor in the failure, particularly of secondary-level schools, to achieve a satisfactory average of achievement for the community's children (see Bernard Coard and the Swann Report of 1985).[85] Though research by the Longitudinal Survey of Young People in England in 2011 showed that 66 per cent of those from Black African backgrounds went on to university, compared to an average of 59 per cent of British Asian (Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi) students.[86] Which therefore suggests that as an average, more people from Black African backgrounds are now progressing to university than those of a South Asian background.


Former Musical Youth Frontman Dennis Seaton in 2005

The period of large-scale immigration brought many new musical styles to the United Kingdom. These styles gained popularity amongst Britons of all cultural origins, and aided Caribbean music in gaining international recognition. The earliest of these exponents was the calypso artist Lord Kitchener, who arrived in Britain on the Windrush in 1948 accompanied by fellow musician Lord Beginner.[87] Already a star in his native Trinidad, Lord Kitchener got an immediate booking at the only West Indian club in London. Six months later, he was appearing in three clubs nightly, and his popularity extended beyond the West Indian and African nightclub audiences, to include music hall and variety show audiences.[87] Kitchener's recording "London is the place for me" exemplified the experience of the Windrush generation.[88] Other calypso musicians began to collaborate with African Kwela musicians and British jazz players in London clubs.[88]

Jamaican music styles reached Britain in the 1960s, becoming the staple music for young British African-Caribbeans. Tours by ska artists such as Prince Buster and the Skatalites fed the growing British-Caribbean music scene, and the success of Jamaican artists Millie Small, Desmond Dekker and Bob and Marcia propelled Caribbean music and people into mainstream cultural life. British African-Caribbeans followed the changing styles of Jamaican music and began to produce homegrown music appealing to both Black and White communities. In 1969, the British African-Caribbean ska band Symarip recorded "Skinhead Moonstomp" which had a huge effect on the British ska scene. The ska sound and rude boy imagery inspired a generation of white working-class youths (especially mods and skinheads), and later helped spawn Britain's multi-cultural 2 Tone movement in the late 1970s.[89]

As Jamaican ska gave way to the slower styles of rocksteady and the more politicised reggae, British African-Caribbeans followed suit. Sound systems to rival those in Jamaica sprung up throughout communities, and 'Blues parties' - parties in private houses, where one paid at the door - became an institution. The arrival of Bob Marley to London in 1971 helped spawn a Black British music industry based on reggae. His association with the Rastafarian movement influenced waves of young people, reared in Britain, to discover their Caribbean roots. British Barbadian Dennis Bovell became Britain's prominent reggae band leader and producer, working with many international reggae stars, and introducing a reggae flavour to the British pop charts with non-reggae acts such as Dexys Midnight Runners and Bananarama. Bovell also worked extensively with London-based dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson.[90]

Successful DJ and musician Goldie, born to Scottish and Jamaican parents [91]

British music with reggae roots prospered in the 1980s and early 1990s. British African-Caribbean artists Musical Youth, Aswad, Maxi Priest and Eddy Grant had major commercial successes, and the multicultural band UB40 helped promote reggae to an international audience. Birmingham-based Steel Pulse became one of the world's foremost exponents of roots reggae and accompanying black consciousness, their debut 1978 album Handsworth Revolution becoming a seminal release.[92]

British African-Caribbean music had been generally synonymous with Caribbean styles until the 1990s, although some artists had been drawing on British and American musical forms for several decades. In the 1970s and 1980s, British African-Caribbean artists such as Hot Chocolate and Imagination became leaders of the British disco, soul and R&B scenes.[93] By the mid-1980s British African-Caribbeans were also incorporating American hip hop and House styles, becoming leading figures in Britain's developing dance music culture. This led to an explosion of musical forms. British artists created musical hybrids combining many elements including European techno, Jamaican dancehall, dub, breakbeats and contemporary American R'n'B. These unique blends began to gain international acclaim through the success of Soul II Soul and the multi-racial Massive Attack.[94]

British African-Caribbeans were at the leading edge of the jungle and drum and bass movements of the 1990s. Although the fast-tempo drums and loud intricate bass lines sounded fresh, Caribbean roots could still be detected.[95] Two successful exponents of these new styles were DJs Goldie and Roni Size, both of Jamaican heritage.[91][96] Later, British African-Caribbean musicians and DJs were at the forefront of the UK garage and Grime scenes.[97]

African-Caribbeans in British sport

British African-Caribbeans are well represented in traditional British sporting pastimes such as football and rugby, and have also represented the nation at the highest level in sports where Caribbeans typically excel in the home countries such as cricket and athletics. Some British African-Caribbeans have gone on to become international sports stars and top global earners in their chosen sporting field.


Britain's first Olympic sprint medals came from Harry Edward, born in Guyana, who won two individual bronze medals at the 1920 games in Antwerp.[98] Many years later, sprinter Linford Christie, born in Saint Andrew Parish, Jamaica, won 23 major championship medals, more than any other British male athlete to date. Christie's career highlight was winning a gold medal in the immensely competitive 100 metres event in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.[99] Welsh Hurdler Colin Jackson, who went to considerable lengths to explore his Jamaican heritage in a BBC documentary, held the 110 metres hurdles world record for 11 years between 1993 and 2004.[100]

Ethel Scott (1907–1984) had a Jamaican father and an English mother was the first black woman to represent Great Britain in an international athletics competition. She was a sprinter active in international competitions for a brief period in the 1930s. In general, Scott's achievements are only thinly documented, and she is largely unknown to the British public and historians of sport. Jamaican-born Tessa Sanderson became the first British African-Caribbean woman to win Olympic gold, receiving the medal for her javelin performance in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Denise Lewis, of Jamaican heritage, won heptathlon gold in the 2000 Sydney Olympics,[101] a games where 13 of Britain's 18 track and field representatives had Afro-Caribbean roots.[98] Four years later in the Athens Olympics, Kelly Holmes, the daughter of a Jamaican-born car mechanic, achieved the rare feat of taking gold in both the 800 and 1500 metres races.[102] In the same games, Britain's men's 4 x 100 metre relay team of Marlon Devonish, Darren Campbell, Mark Lewis-Francis and Jason Gardener, all of African-Caribbean heritage, beat the favoured United States quartet to claim Olympic gold.[103]


British boxers of a Caribbean background have played a prominent role in the national boxing scene since the early 1980s. In 1995 Frank Bruno, whose mother was a Pentecostal laypreacher from Jamaica, became Britain's first world heavyweight boxing champion in the 20th century.[104] Bruno's reign was shortly followed by British-born Jamaican Lennox Lewis, who defeated Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson to become the world's premier heavyweight during the late 1990s.[105] Middleweights Chris Eubank, who spent his early years in Jamaica, and Nigel Benn, of Barbadian descent, both claimed world titles and fought a series of brutal battles in the early 1990s.[106] In the Sydney Olympics of 2000, Audley Harrison (who has Jamaican heritage) became Britain's first heavyweight gold medalist.[107] Other boxing champions from the British African-Caribbean community include the welterweight Lloyd Honeyghan, nicknamed 'Ragamuffin Man' by boxing super-star Donald Curry in 1986, in reference to his (in comparison to Curry's extravagance) normal appearance; Honeyghan subsequently spectacularly defeated Curry.[108]


Cricket has long been a popular pastime amongst African-Caribbeans in both the West Indies and the United Kingdom, though this has waned somewhat since its peak during the 1960s-1980s.[109] After the period of widespread immigration, tours of England by the combined West Indian cricket team became cultural celebrations of Caribbean culture in Britain, particularly at cricket grounds such as The Oval in South London.[109] Almost all the great West Indian cricketers became regular features of the domestic county game, including Garfield Sobers, Vivian Richards and Michael Holding. In turn, British cricketers of Caribbean origin also began to make an impact in English cricket. In the 1980s-1990s, players including Gladstone Small (born in Barbados),[110] Devon Malcolm (born in Jamaica)[111] and Phillip DeFreitas (born in Dominica)[112] represented England, making significant contributions to the side.Cricket[›]


Lewis Hamilton whose paternal grandparents immigrated from Grenada achieved the highest honour in Motorsport, winning the FIA Formula One World Championship in 2008, only his second season in the sport, after narrowly finishing second in the championship in his debut season.


Former Derby County player Michael Johnson, one of a who players who have played for the Jamaican national football team

The first West Indian-born footballer to play football at a high level in Britain was Andrew Watson, who played for Queens Park (Glasgow) and went on to play for Scotland. Born in May 1857 in British Guyana, Watson lived and worked in Scotland and came to be known as one of the best players of his generation. He played in 36 games for Queens Park and also appeared for the London Swifts in the English FA Cup championship of 1882, making him the first Black player in English Cup history. Watson earned 2 Scottish Cup medals and 4 Charity Cup medals during his career; Who's Who also acknowledged his performances in international matches. Watson's place in football history included a spell in management as Club Secretary for Queens Park - making Watson the first Afro-Caribbean man to reach the boardroom.[113]

Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand, whose father came to Britain from St. Lucia,[114] is a former captain of the English national team.

Other early Caribbean footballers included Walter Tull, of Barbadian descent, who played for the north London club Tottenham Hotspur in the early 20th century.[115] Some years later, Jamaican-born Lloyd 'Lindy' Delapenha made an impact playing for Middlesbrough between 1950–57, becoming a leading goal scorer and the first Black player to win a championship medal.[116] However, it was not until the 1970s that African-Caribbean players began to make a major impact on the game. Clyde Best (West Ham 1969–1976), born in Bermuda,[117] paved the way for players such as Cyrille Regis (born in French Guyana),[118] and Luther Blissett (born in Jamaica).[119] Blissett and Regis joined Viv Anderson to form the first wave of Black footballers to play for the England national team. Although the number of players of African-Caribbean origin in the English league was increasing far beyond proportions in wider society, when Black players represented the English national team, they still had to endure racism from a section of England supporters. When selected to play for England, Cyril Regis received a bullet through the mail with the threat, "You'll get one of these through your knees if you step on our Wembley turf."[118]

By the 1980s the British African-Caribbean community was well represented at all playing levels of the game. John Barnes, born in Jamaica, was one of the most talented players of his generation and one of the few footballers to win every honour in the domestic English game including the PFA Players' Player of the Year.[120] Although Barnes played for England on 78 occasions between 1983 and 1991, his performances rarely matched his club standard.[121] Subsequently, Barnes identified a culture of racism in football during his era as a player.[120] Players of African-Caribbean origin continued to excel in English football, in the 1990s Paul Ince - whose parents were from Trinidad - went on to captain Manchester United, Liverpool F.C. and the English national team. The contribution was reciprocated when a number of British born footballers including Robbie Earle, Frank Sinclair and Darryl Powell represented the Jamaica national football team in the 1998 World Cup finals.

At the turn of the millennium, British-born Black footballers constituted about 13% of the English league,[122] and a number of groups including "Kick It Out" were highlighting issues of racism still in the game.[123] In the 2006 World Cup finals, Theo Walcott, a striker of English and Jamaican parents,[124] became the youngest ever player to join an England world cup squad - a side which included African-Caribbean players in every department, goal-keeping, defence, midfield and attack.England[›]

See also


^ Term: The Oxford English dictionary defines the term "Afro-Caribbean" as a "a person of African descent living in or coming from the Caribbean." American Heritage dictionary defines an "Afro-Caribbean" as "a native or inhabitant of the Caribbean region who is of African ancestry". •Within the field of phonology, the term British Afro-Caribbean refers exclusively to British citizens of Caribbean ancestry.[50]

•When drawing up anti-racist language guidelines in 1992, the British Sociological Association make a clear distinction between Afro Caribbean, when referring to people of West Indian extraction, and Afro/Caribbean (see [125]).

•The British medical journal's Glossary of terms relating to ethnicity and race refers to three primary terms of self identification or identification for people of Sub-Saharan ancestral origins, defining Afro-Caribbean/African Caribbean as

"A person of African ancestral origins whose family settled in the Caribbean before emigrating and who self identifies, or is identified, as Afro-Caribbean (in terms of racial classifications, this population approximates to the group known as Negroid or similar terms)."

The journal also defines African as "A person with African ancestral origins who self identifies, or is identified, as African, but excluding those of other ancestry, for example, European and South Asian." and Black as "A person with African ancestral origins, who self identifies, or is identified, as Black, African or Afro-Caribbean. In some circumstances the word Black signifies all non-white minority populations, and in this use serves political purposes."[126]

•Usage of the term "African-Caribbean" has begun to replace "Afro-Caribbean" within media and communications formal style guides (examples can be found in the Guardian newspaper style guide and the University of Bath style guide)

^ Recession: During the decades of the 1970s and 1980s, unemployment among the children of Caribbean migrants ran at three to four times that of white school leavers.[127] By 1982 the number of all people out of work in Britain had risen above three million for the first time since the 1930s.[128]

^ Community: One such community centre was the Gloucestershire West Indian Association which was formed in 1962. The formation of this group was in response to a number of issues that arose within the community at this time. These included perceived problems around police harassment and concerns about the housing of Black people on certain council estates in the city, which was viewed as discrimination and segregation.[129] Large centres presently operating include the Leeds West Indian centre[130] and the Manchester West Indian centre[131]

^ Religion: Mike Phillips, writing for the UK national archive project, described the influences of the new churches thus; "[they] gave the entire Caribbean community a sense of stability. At a time when migrants were under severe psychological pressure and distrusted the official services, or were misunderstood when they went to them, the Black church groups offered invaluable advice and comfort."[132]

In 2005 The Economist magazine discussed the growth of evangelical churches in London and Birmingham; "Another reason is that Britain's most prominent Afro-Caribbean institutions – the Black evangelical churches – are dominated by the urban poor. That has to do with the way the Caribbean was missionised: the hotter brand of Christianity gained most converts among the dispossessed, who then re-exported it to Britain."[133]

^ Cricket:  Phillip DeFreitas, Devon Malcolm and Gladstone Small made 44,40 and 17 test match appearances for England respectively. DeFreitas also played 103 One Day International for England, Malcolm made 10 appearances and Small made 53 appearances in the shorter format. Small and DeFreitas also represented England in the final of the 1987 Cricket World Cup against Australia.[134]

^ England: The England football squad for the 2006 world cup also contained Ashley Cole (Barbadian father),[135] Rio Ferdinand (father from St. Lucia)[136] Sol Campbell (Jamaican parents)[101] alongside goalkeeper David James, Jermaine Jenas and Aaron Lennon, all with ancestors from the Caribbean.


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  104. ^ Caribbean Hall of Fame Frank Bruno biography. 2001. Accessed 6 October 2006
  105. ^ The Lennox Lewis interview. Playboy online. April 2002. Accessed 6 October 2006
  106. ^ 100 Great Black Britons. Chris Eubank biography. Accessed 6 October 2006
    °The Rubank-Benn-Watson rivalry Accessed 6 October 2006
  107. ^ Harrison hits out at Beeb BBC Sport. 29 November 2002. Accessed 6 October 2006
  108. ^ The Time Tunnel: Honeyghan-Curry Remembered Accessed 6 October 2006
  109. ^ a b Not-cricket cricket Catalyst magazine. "Test match ticket prices have risen beyond most working class pockets and, some years ago, the ground authorities banned the drums, whistles and klaxons that once created an atmosphere of Caribbean carnival at the Kennington Oval, particularly. The ban has since been slightly relaxed, but probably too late. First, and even some second, generation Caribbean immigrants went to cheer the all-conquering West Indies team, now in decline." Accessed 21 November 2006
  110. ^ Gladstone Small player profile. Accessed 6 October 2006
  111. ^ Devon Malcolm player profile. Accessed 6 October 2006
  112. ^ Phil DeFreitas player profile. Accessed 6 October 2006
  113. ^ First Black footballer Andrew Watson inspired British soccer in 1870s Black history Accessed 6 October 2006
  114. ^ [5][dead link]
  115. ^
  116. ^ Football Unites, Racism Divides Official website. Biography of Lloyd 'Lindy' Delapenha.Accessed 6 October 2006
  117. ^ FIFA Order of Merit Presented to Clyde Best Bermuda Football Association homepage. Accessed 6 October 2006
  118. ^ a b Football Unites, Racism Divides Cyril Regis. Accessed 6 October 2006
  119. ^ Englishmen Abroad: Luther Blissett F.A. com. Accessed 6 October 2006
  120. ^ a b Society has to change - Barnes Alan Green talks to John Barnes. BBC Online. 4 November 2002. Accessed 6 October 2006
  121. ^ John Barnes profile. Football-England "His international career began when there was a definite hooligan element among England's support. There was also a definite racist element. Famously, a group of travelling supporters was heard remarking, after Barnes had scored his wonderful goal in Brazil, that England had only won 1-0 because his goal didn't count. It is true that the consistent brilliance he showed for Liverpool always eluded him in an England Shirt but for everybody who thought the problem lay with him there was as many again who felt it was the inadequacy of his teammates." Accessed 21 November 2006
  122. ^ Football Unites Racism Divides Accessed 26 October 2006.
  123. ^ Kick It Out is football's anti-racism campaign. Accessed 26 October 2006.
  124. ^ England's teenaged star Walcott linked to Jamaica The Jamaica Observer. 11 June 2006. Accessed 26 October 2006.
  125. ^
  126. ^ Glossary of terms relating to ethnicity and race: for reflection and debate R Bhopal. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Accessed 6 October 2006
  127. ^ Working lives Migration histories. Accessed 8 October 2006
  128. ^ UK unemployment tops three million On this day. BBC online 1982. Accessed 8 October 2006
  129. ^ Voices: Our Untold Stories. African Caribbean Stories BBC online. Accessed 6 October 2006
  130. ^ Leeds West Indian centre Details. Accessed 6 October 2006
  131. ^ Manchester City Council West Indian centre Details. Accessed 6 October 2006
  132. ^ Worship for Caribbeans in Britain Migration histories. Accessed 6 October 2006
  133. ^ The suburbs turn Black 9 June 2005. Accessed 6 October 2006
  134. ^ Australia v England scorecard 1987 Cricket Accessed 6 October 2006
  135. ^ Defender cast in unwanted role of target man Guardian online. 27 November 2004. Accessed 6 October 2006
  136. ^ England's Ferdinand looks forward to World Cup clash against Trinidad Caribbean net news. 12 December 2005. Accessed 6 October 2006

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