From the 11th century, when one commentator claimed the capital was being over-run with Moors, to the garage MCs and street poets of 2003 – this book tells the story of life in London for black and Asian people from the seventeenth century until today.
One of the scores of Africans who boarded the S.S. Nautilus in April 1787 hoping to leave London behind and start a new life in Sierra Leone was called Black London. Who was he? Undoubtedly poor and desperate, he left almost no archival mark or trace. Nor do most people – white or black.
London Calling tells the story and examines literature written by black people in or about London, tracing their escapades, fortune making, and self-expansion. It is a joyful and often rapturous work, a love letter to the capital, a teeming and complex mix of social and cultural history seen through the imagination and experience of great black writers. London Calling gets to the heart of the immigration impulse, and evokes the dreams and adventures of those who have sought refuge and asylum in the cradle of Empire.
The book is populated by runaway slaves, lotharios, imams, boxer-pimps, rajahs and colonial revolutionaries, and discusses writers as diverse in style and time as the 18th-century grocer-aesthete Ignatius Sancho right through to Rushdie, Kureishi and yardie chronicler Victor Headley. The result is an exciting work, brimming with life, as it spotlights a rich but neglected literary tradition, and brings to life a gaping void in the city's history. Placing the multiculturalism of today's capital in its historical context, Sukhdev Sandhu shows that it is no new phenomenon, and that just as London has been the making of many black writers, they too have been the making of London.
This is a brilliant and stunningly original debut from a writer set to be one of our most important cultural commentators.