Interviewer: Kevin Philemon
Organisation: Rose Green Centre
KEVIN: Well, the, the first question I’m going to ask is um, if you just tell me about you, about yourself, when you first came into this country and where you were born and what is what like to um, to leave as, where you lived as a youngster? That’s the first question, so if you start by saying your name and, and take it from there.
GUY: Well, my name is Guy Bailey and I was born in Jamaica and I came to the UK, England um, I came specifically to Bristol and this was back in the early 60’s, 61, 62 time and um, I came here as a very young teenager and it was more on a level for furthering my education rather than anything else.
KEVIN: That’s ok, that’s ok.
GUY: But of course um, it didn’t quite work out like that for the simple reason that um, unless you had your mother and father here at time who can pull up the slack of the situation to ensure that you continue your full education, I could not, I had then to go back into education for a short period of time and then when, when I reached the age of 16 I was able to work and I had to rather than going to education full time, I had to go into education part time, work, and go into education part time. That was mainly how it started um, as I said my mother and father wasn’t here but I came to live with my eldest brother who then at the time lived in City Road, St Paul’s and from there on, I progressed to where I am at this present moment.
KEVIN: Ok, um, if, can you tell us a bit about the year it was um, and what it was like to, as a young Black person coming to Bristol England to um, to cope with the situation. What was it like, was there a lot of tension?
GUY: Um, as a young Black person at the time I was in a sense quite naive of the situation.
KEVIN: So what year was it?
GUY: This was back in 1961, in late 61 um, early 62 and um, what I didn’t expect was the division, the segregation of, of White and Black and the distance between both sets of people because as you would probably realise those days um, everyone sees England as the mother, mother country and if you have a mother, the mother takes care of the children and in this case it wasn’t like that. And I said, as I said it was pretty naive of the situation because in, in Jamaica for instance, the Jamaicans didn’t really know about prejudice, about um, divisions among local people in the sense that um, racism wasn’t the same, in the same context as, as it is here. What we have here was White people looking down on Black people and it doesn’t matter where you were. You weren’t sort of seen as a full part of society and that makes it difficult for Black people then and at that time it, specifically I can only speak about Bristol at the moment because at that time the Black people in Bristol were mainly of West Indian origin and mainly Jamaicans. Um, there wasn’t very many Asians around at the time but it obviously it grows. And the, the divisions seems to widen more the years, over the years because of the, the, the, the, the racism among White and, and, and against Black people. So it was very difficult to, to progress from thereon and of course if I had my own way and had the resources to do it, I would probably have gone straight back after being here a few months but obviously that wasn’t the reason for coming here and I had to do as I was told by the elders. Obviously my parents encouraged me to stay and my older brother was, was helping to support me um, so it was rather difficult at that point.
KEVIN: OK, um, as difficult as it was um, you guys still managed to live and make your way around um, Bristol and um a lot of interesting things have come out of that existence because you guys have set the way for most of the Black youngsters today, you know, with some examples such as the Rose Green Cricket Club. Can you tell me your first involvement in the Cricket Club and how it all came about?
GUY: Well, talking about Cricket, Cricket at that time was probably one of the most important thing in, in West Indians in this country because that was the sort of thing that keep um, West Indian together more than anything else. Um, we have a Cricket Club at this present moment but at the time when, when I came here there wasn’t a West Indian Cricket Club as such. There were those that were able to play Cricket and those that um, old enough to join other Cricket Club. I think most, most West Indians at that point were playing for White Clubs um, on a Saturday but very little Cricket was played on a Sunday by West Indians. Um, it wasn’t done until later on, the 60’s that when more and more West Indians realised that Cricket was the way forward. We, we started to meet…
KEVIN: I think we can safety start from where you just um, finished, where you were talking about um…
GUY: West Indians…
KEVIN: The young ones that came you know, in their 20’s and their 30’s.
KEVIN: So you can start from most West Indians that came…
KEVIN: At that time in the 60’s yeah, maybe recall that?
GUY: Yeah, from the early to middle 60’s, you, we, we did find that the West Indians that were here were mostly men and they were men in their 20’s and 30’s, probably up until the probably early 40’s. But they came here not for anything else other than to work because they were invited here to work so us to help build, help to rebuild um, Britain back from the, the depressing state of the War and um, they were crying out for not your common labour and obviously this is why so many West Indians came back, came to England and as I said earlier a lot of them or most of them were from Jamaica. Um, if I go back to the, the, the story about cricket is that they were all working during the week up to Friday’s and sometimes Saturday’s and those that played cricket would play for White teams on a Saturday and any league cricket at that time was probably friendlies. And they would play for White teams on a Saturday including myself as a young teenager would be playing for White team. And um, what happened is that as I said earlier that on Sunday’s when there was very little recreational for anyone to do or if you were a West Indian and wasn’t connected to a club or a, a community organisation that has some sort of activity going, you were, you had to find your own. So cricket was the way out for, for us and we used to meet at Eastfield Park on a Sunday afternoon, probably from about 1 o’clock, you would be there for about early evening. And this sort of spur um, most of the young men that were there to sort of come together and try and form a cricket team. And this was round about that time as well that um, used to have a couple of clubs. One used call Multi-Racial and one called Montpelier and there were mixed teams with different nationalities err, whether you were English, West Indian, Irish or whatever, you, you played together. And it was roundabout the middle 60’s that um, the Bristol West Indian came about and it was through are, the only place we had to meet for any sort of recreational activities are on a weekends or evenings, was the Bamboo club which was in, was in, just of Portland, just off um, Portland Square. And um, I remember specifically one evening a friend of mine who used to play cricket for another team, another White team, came to me and says, “you’re, you’re a good cricketer, we, we, there are a number of us who plays very good cricket and why don’t we get together and form a cricket team and name it the West, Bristol West Indian Cricket Club.” So it started off basically from there when, when, when we put um, our resource, our little resources together with the help of the Bamboo club and one has to give thanks to this, the owner of the Bamboo club, Tony Bullimore, who, who was up for it as well and as he had a passion for working and, and mixing with West Indians it was, it was sort of well, sort of accepted that the Bamboo club was gonna, where we start, started off as a head quarters for, for our cricket. And our cricket progressed from there; although there were some very difficult times especially gaining fixtures to play cricket in the surroundings areas and close to the Bristol areas. Many of the Bristol clubs at that time wouldn’t, didn’t or want to play against um, a full Black team for what ever reasons there were and I felt it was more of a, a racist reason rather than anything else. Oh their not good enough and a, we can’t play them and all this sort of thing. So there do everything or try everything to not to um, to play against us. Having said that though, they wasn’t, it wasn’t all White teams that um, felt like that or, or say they wouldn’t play us. Some of them, who understands the situation more than others, would try and find some sort of excuse why they, they shouldn’t or they cant because they had um, existing fixtures and they had fixtures made well in advance or, and when I say well in advance one, a couple of clubs did say to me we have fixtures which we made like 3, 4, 5 years in advance so therefore, we cant find any place to fit a, a, a club like, like you have. So, so we per, we persuade and um, there were clubs felt we, we can play against the West Indian, West Indian team and some clubs that came, came to mind, especially a club like Shirehampton. We used to have a sort of big day at Shirehampton, West Indian. When we were going down to Shirehampton to play Shirehampton Cricket Club, it was like all of St Paul’s would follow the team down to Shirehampton and it was shouting and screaming and supporting the West Indian team against playing Shirehampton as we would do normally in the West Indies, and it went very well. So those sort of things come back to mind um, there were some bigger clubs in the Bristol area who wouldn’t even consider playing us and they were sort of so called the elite club the, for instance the clubs like um, The School Masters and, Stapleton, The Frenchay’s. Although, they had, some of them had players playing with them on a Saturday but they wouldn’t entertain playing a full West Indian Club on a Sunday. Um, but we per, perused the, the, the, the, the, the old thing, we didn’t give up, we sort of take fixtures where we could get them from and we used to travel to places like, um, if we, in Taunton um, Taunton Dean was a club that used to give us fixtures and we travelled down to Taunton. We used to even have to travel down to Paignton to play cricket. We travelled to South Wales to play cricket um, and around the Gloucester area there 1 of 2 clubs around those area and in the Bristol area a club called Tormartin used to be like out in the farms and they were mainly farmers we were playing. Castle Cary and places like this. Um, Chew Magna and places like this. We’d have to go and play our cricket um, because the Bristol clubs were just sort of felt they were the elite of cricket clubs and couldn’t entertain playing a Black team but we got over that slowly and surely because sometimes when we have to play, when we have to play or when we, we were offered a fixture on the, on the basics that there play us a trail match and see how we get on with them or we play a 20/20 match and see how that goes. And if they, and if they, and if it goes down well were, were sort a fixture out. You know, it was miserable and, and um, you felt, what, what, why, you know but behind all that was the issue of eliteness and, and super, su, su, su, being superiority over, over others. We’ve got control so therefore we keep control, we can’t let these guys who, who, and they would find all sorts of excuses of why they can’t play us and you know, that’s what forces us to be able to form a West Indian team and that West Indian in the end become one of the major force of cricket in the area. And I would say as much as 50, 50 miles or more of radius of Bristol, when we play the teams that refused from players in the beginning and when we give them a hiding, then they started to pull back and think well after all we can’t allow them to, to beat us and not play them again to give them a hiding and it went on like that. So, so therefore it was a major thing for us and a major breakthrough when it, when it and when league cricket came to Bristol, of course we were sort of up for that and league cricket didn’t start up in a, in a, in, in an adult cricket, it started off in a youth league. And we were able Bristol West Indians through, through the youth service and the youth club at the male youth club were able to put a team together of West Indians together to play in the youth league. And that was in the early 70’s when that started and I remember clearly because I managed that youth team because I used to work at the youth, the youth, the youth centre and I managed that team and when the first league um, seasons finished we were champion. Just to show you how good we were, not just as adults but even as youths because we won the first youth champion league cricket in Bristol, which is in 1973 and then from thereon um, when this, they brought league cricket for adult players, they obviously, we were included in, in, in the league set up because there is no way they could say we, you know. What would have happed rather than put us in one of the higher division, they put us in one of the lower division and their excuses were um, you haven’t got your own facilities, you haven’t got your own ground, you’re have to use council facilities and all that sort of thing. And council facilities wasn’t up to the, to the standard as, as the, The School Masters, The Stapleton, The Downend and, and other teams of that nature so obviously we, we were put in a lower league. We complained about it because we felt we were better, a lot better than where we were but um, obviously we felt it was a challenge and we had to take a step and think oh well. It is what it is, for us to prove our worth let’s, let’s, let’s continue because this is half way through the first league season when we really lost interest as such but we tried and pulled things back together and said that let’s show them then that we are better than and Err, the first season we didn’t actually win the 3rd division that they put us in but the second season we won that and proceeding seasons we just got promotion for where we started off up to this, then senior division at the time in Bristol so we then become a senior division club through sort of the depressing the, the whole scene of, of, of, of cricket among our, our boys. But people like myself and other 4 or 5 other people who were generally um, felt that cricket was one way of making process and breaking down barriers and, and become friends and teams and, and all these sorts of things. We progress on and from there we become one of the most successful club over the years. When you think of clubs that were a 100 years old or more, when playing a club which is only about 2 or 3 years old and we were able to stand up to them and give them just as much as they gave to us on the field. You know, it was a good way of breaking down barriers and the Bristol West Indian Cricket Club was progressed from there to where we are now at Rose Green.
KEVIN: Excellent, very, very interesting, I’ve learnt something today. Um, a lot of challenges it was um, from what you’ve just been telling me and you still succeed in penetrating the system in a lot of ways. And it was for the passion and you said um, you mentioned you were trying to make a difference; there were a few of you that really saw it as a way of um, breaking down barriers. Can you tell us um, the type of barriers you think the present of Rose Green Cricket Club and cricket days of the 60’s and 70’s have made for Black people living in Bristol today, the kind of things they feel, the barriers?
GUY: Well, to be, to be quite honest with you I feel that the Cricket Club was probably one of the oldest West Indian organisations still in Bristol apart from Bristol West Indian Parent and Friend Association. They were sort of the first Black led organisations in, in Bristol. And then the Cricket Club is probably the second oldest because the Cricket Club is, is coming up to the 50th year at the moment and it was not just about cricket, it was just, it was also about the community, it was all about, about the family, it, it, it provides a sort of an outlet for family on the weekend. I break down barriers, we were able to talk to community group, community organisation, even the local authorities, we were able to go to the local authorities and say to them look, we’ve got a Cricket Club that needs a home and how many grounds have you’ve got which is not being used that was near. They, the St Paul’s and the central area of Bristol where most of our, our, our residents were and we would sort of negotiate with the council to find a ground suitable. But again this is hard work because we kept moving from place to place and eventually we end up playing our home ground cricket back in Oldland Common, which is now South Gloucestershire, which is probably about 8 or 10 miles away from the central area of Bristol. So unless you were able to find transport yourself to get there on the weekend on Saturday or Sunday, you weren’t, you weren’t probably able to reach the, but we tend to keep the cricket um, business and, and organisation in the central area of Bristol where we have our meetings and um, we would always try and invite as many people as well so they can…So the cricket helped break down barriers and it helped to unit the West Indian community together and this was a great part of what I think the Cricket Club did for, for um, for the community. I can remember on occasion we would be going to Paignton to play cricket on a Sunday and you’ve find 4, 5 coaches at Sussex Place and that was filled with families, men, women and children who were going to be driving down to Paignton on a Sunday morning to play, for us to play cricket on a Sunday afternoon and get back home Sunday evening. You know, those are the sorts of things we had, we had coaches where we, because we couldn’t play some of our cricket in Bristol on a Sunday, we had to go to London, Birmingham um, and other, other cities, even Manchester at time. We have to travel um, to get to places to play cricket, to play clubs that um, we felt we were a strong, strong cricket connection and a, some of them were West Indian clubs that we played because they used to have like a West Indian um, league where, which was organised nationally because we used to have a thing, a, a league which they called, they were, Clive Lloyd, Ron Kanhai and other great West Indian name after great West India. So we used to have to travel miles and miles away, places like Sheffield, my god to play cricket on a Sunday and travelling back to Bristol to get to work Sunday, Monday morning. You know, it used to be like this so I made no apologies for where we are at the present moment and, and you know, there was some very good hard working men and women because we used to involve them a lot. They used to be the mothers, the mothers of the Cricket Club. They elderly women who got their son’s playing, they used to be there looking after the young men playing the cricket, looking after the tea, making the tea and all this sort of thing. You know, it was like a family thing and the community thing and it helps to build a community for we are in at the present moment, break down barriers that was one of the greatest part of our achievement. Now if you see Bristol West Indian Cricket Club has got a home for itself, which it’s the Rose Green Centre and sometimes you wouldn’t believe if you just drive along Gordon Road, you would believe there is a part of rural England just behind the wall at Rose Green when you walk, when you drive in there and park your car and look out on the field you can see activities for cricket, football and other sports taking places during the summer months and winter months so therefore Bristol West Indian, for me has been um, an icon for, for our communities and there are other people and other um, culture that have come along since and have developed through the process of, of what Bristol West Indians has done.
KEVIN: Excellent, amazing stuff, amazing stuff, I mean to be the second community organisation out, sorry, Jamaican, Caribbean Black organisation in Bristol was an achievement I must say. Um, say I wanna ask you in your opinion what do you think of BME organisations in general. How useful do you think they have been um, for, across, across the UK, Bristol especially?
GUY: Um, I think BME organisation it’s a pity at the present moment that the authority tried to get rid of BME organisation because, maybe because the BME organisation has been a thorn in, in the authorities flesh. But what I’ve noticed is that the, um, we used to get support to be able to develop resources for the BME organisation. Politicians are very crude people and there are some politicians who feel that we can’t allow them to do this or to do that because there, there take over and also there’s no such thing as taking over. People have taken over the world from day one and we have to live through it and progress through it. Um, I just, I just, I just feel BME organisation right now is, has been extinct because all the BME organisation has been starved of funds to make progress to continue this sort of um, this progress that we’ve made from the late 50’s, early 60’s and thereafter. The politicians brought in all forms of rules and legislations to stop this happening. So therefore you’ve got organisations whether they might be West Indian, Asians or otherwise just haven’t got the legs to stand on at the present moment because the rug has been pulled from beneath their feet. And at the present moment people are clutching onto straws and where you find that West Indian organisation could continue to make progress even in this time, even in time of financial strain all the funding that were given they didn’t actually cut it in half and says use this to build what you have, they taken all away and give it to White organisations to do the work for Black people and the only people that can work for Black people is Black people working for themselves. But they have to have the resources to do it because they can’t even get employment to do it privately, how the hell are they going to manage otherwise. So I just feel that politically we have been starved and politically we have been knocked from pillar to post and I just feel that sometimes the organisations at the present moment are only existing though the, the, the voluntary um, ways of which we have worked but no matter how much volunteers you have, you can’t make the progress that you’ve liked to make within the community because volunteer without money, to, to, to put the infrastructure in place doesn’t work.
KEVIN: How, what do you see the future of BME organisations anyway at the moment, what do you think there’s futures at?
GUY: The future of BME organisations is just, we, we just have to try and continue. We have set back 30 or 40 years but where we came from 30 or 40 years ago, if we there, if were back there now, we know the road to success and we can start rebuilding our lives again on the, in the same way as we did 30 or 40 years ago. I think we must, although they tried, they, they, they authorities tried to, to, to, to, to, to um, to split us and put things in the way that we will, we will not be able to work together because the funding for instance if you have a 100 organisations scrabbling over funding that 10 organisations should be using, you’re gonna have fights, you’re gonna have quarrels, you’re gonna have disagreements, you’re gonna dislike one another, which is what’s happening at the present moment. And I think I have, I honestly think that the powers to be knew that this is gonna happen and if they allow it to happen then we just wont have anything to hold to.
KEVIN: Ok, just 2 more questions and than we’re finish. Um, how would you in your own words describe um, heritage?
GUY: Um, well, heritage again, I think if you try to, to maintain your heritage it’s a good thing because a tree without roots can’t survive. So you cannot forget your heritage, you cannot forget where you’re coming from because you’re here now and if you forget where you’re coming from you don’t know where you’re be going tomorrow.
KEVIN: Ok, final question. What impact do you think your own personal culture or heritage has brought to this community?
GUY: My own, my own what?
KEVIN: Your own cultural heritage.
GUY: Oh, my own cultural…
KEVIN: Not your own. How do you think your own cultural heritage influenced the BME community in Bristol?
GUY: I, from my personal perspective, I have worked very hard on trying to keep our community together. I’m only one person but if you work with others you can achieve a lot and I have been involved in a lot of areas of different development in our community and I only hope I had the resources to do more to help from a cultural point of view. But I may not see what I personally has been fighting for comes through to full fruition because I am getting on in age now but I sincerely hope that what myself and many others like myself has done, our young people will find it possible to hang on to those cultural things that we have tried to promote and not forgetting they have a background which historically is very rich.
KEVIN: Thank you very much, that was amazing that.