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Women Of The Windrush

Patrick Studio

Birmingham Hippodrome


Merging documentary with modern opera, the Women Of The Windrush is a hugely personal project for its creator, award-winning composer and filmmaker Shirley J Thompson. Dedicated to her own mother, who began a new life in the UK from the Caribbean, it has that raw edge of emotion and honesty.

Although Ms Thompson made the film that's the backdrop to this production in 1992, she has revisited it to add a musical score that resonates. Only on for two nights in Birmingham as part of a Windrush 75th Anniversary tour, Women Of The Windrush was performed in the intimate surroundings of Birmingham Hippodrome's Patrick Studio on November 23 and 24.

It's a short and simple 60 minute "celebratory" opera that opens with cardboard boxes and furniture covered in dust sheets. Soprano Abigail Kelly and pianist Melissa Morris go through the belongings performing a mix of songs that are both soothing and suitably jarring. These are interlaced with interviews from Ms Thompson's film Memories in Mind: Women of the Windrush Tell Their Stories. 

windrush mu

The film footage is mesmerising and the real heart of this show - hearing from the real women from the Windrush generation on their experiences, good and bad. 

With so many of that generation being lost, capturing their memories and learning mistakes from the past is surely one of their most important legacies. Some of their encounters will make you shake your head but it's important to hear them, whatever generation you belong to and I noticed there were some very young children in the audience too.

Kelly has stage presence and a fine voice and the musical addition of the opera for this new production does add extra depth on an emotional level.

This opera may be short at just one hour long(with no interval) but it packs a punch. A fitting way to mark the 75th anniversary of the Windrush's arrival to British shores and the legacy of that generation.

Alison Brinkworth


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