Writer turns brother’s ‘traumatic’ Windrush scandal story into BBC drama

The experience left Anthony Bryan pictured above, “questioning his very identity”

The brother of a man who was caught up in the Windrush scandal has written a BBC drama to tell his story.

Stephen S Thompson’s Sitting in Limbo is about Anthony Bryan, who moved from Jamaica at the age of eight in 1965, but discovered in 2016 there was no record of him as a British citizen.

“As his brother, I saw what he went through first-hand,” Thompson said.

“Anthony has been severely traumatised by the experience. I couldn’t bear the idea that he had suffered in vain.”

The drama will be a feature-length film, and the writer added: “For me, this is personal.”

Despite having lived in the UK since childhood, Bryan had never held a passport until he attempted to visit his elderly mother in Jamaica three years ago.

A group of men on board the Empire Windrush
Between 1948 and 1970, almost half a million people moved from the Caribbean to Britain. Image copyright: Getty Images.

An estimated 500,000 people now living in the UK who arrived from Caribbean countries between 1948 and 1971 have been called the “Windrush generation”, in reference to the ship that brought the first workers to the UK.

They were granted indefinite leave to remain in 1971, but thousands were children travelling on their parents’ passports, without their own documents.

Changes to immigration law in 2012 meant those without documents were asked for evidence to continue working, access services or even to remain in the UK.

The crackdown was blamed on the “hostile environment for illegal immigrants” promised by Prime Minister Theresa May while she was home secretary.

With the onus on Bryan to prove his status to the Immigration Office, he was forced to leave his job and was unable to claim benefits before being detained as an illegal immigrant.

“It has badly affected his confidence and left him questioning his very identity,” added Thompson – whose first novel Toy Soldiers, a semi-autobiographical account of his adolescence, was published in 2000.

Piers Wenger, controller of BBC Drama, said Bryan’s story was “incredibly important and one that needs to be told with urgency”.

Main image copyright: Getty Images

First published 09.07.19: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-48910655

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