A belter of a TV programme on the family history of Noel Clarke

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Back in August, I waxed lyrically about the history which is reflected regularly in the BBC programme “Who do you think you are?”. I feel compelled to return to the subject, given the sheer awesomeness of the last episode in the current run of this BBC series.

Available on BBC iPlayer for the next 27 days, actor and director Noel Clarke traces his family history. Noel’s mother, Gemma, came to this country from Trinidad as an NHS nurse in the 1960s/70s. She brought up Noel on her own, and there are no siblings. Noel Clarke had absolutely no idea of his family background.

The programme takes Noel back to Trinidad. He discovers that his paternal grandmother, Menelvia, was a key campaigner for Trinidad’s independence in the 1950s and 60s. It is quite an emotional moment when a senior local politician tells Noel how respected and admired his grandmother was.

But it is Noel Clarke’s final trip which proves to be a belter – gripping and harrowing by equal degrees. He goes to Carriacou, a small island under the wing of Grenada (pictured above). There, his ancestors worked as slaves. Noel learns of the horrific treatment of the slaves at the hands of a ruthless estate manager while the estate owners lived on the proceeds back in London. But he discovers that his great-great-great-great grandfather, Glasgow Bedeau, was born in slavery but not only emancipated but did very well for himself. He bought a big plot of land on the island, where Noel Clarke was able to meet lots of his long-lost cousins.

The programme ends with Noel Clarke watching islanders perform an Ghanian song, passed down over countless generations of the Bedeau family, which, as Noel reflects, his forebears would have heard while they were slaves, as they enjoyed one of their rare breaks from work.

It is all very moving and “must-see” TV. You can watch it here for the next 27 days.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is a councillor and one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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