Anthony Bryan had lived and worked in Britain for 50 years when he was suddenly detained and almost deported. Her brother has now told her story in a feature film that highlights the impact of the Windrush scandal.
Anthony Bryan’s story was told in newspaper articles and a television documentary and in an overwhelming audience in the House of Commons – but a television drama has the power to really immerse you in someone’s life .
In BBC One’s Sitting In Limbo, we follow Bryan, a painter and decorator who had never had any problems with the law, because he is told that he can no longer work, before being arrested in his London house , detained for five weeks and booked on a plane to Jamaica, a country he had not visited since 1965, when he was eight years old.
Patrick Robinson, who plays Bryan, says: “When I read the script, I was in tears easily halfway and I collapsed at the end, knowing that I wanted to be involved in this play, because it ‘did feel. ”
Bryan was one of the many caught in the Windrush scandal – people who moved from the Caribbean to the UK, mostly as children, and who became collateral damage as the government created an “hostile environment” “to immigration.
The government has said that more than 160 people may have been wrongfully detained or evicted. Over 1,270 claims have been filed.
Independent review found “deep institutional failure” that has changed the lives of thousands, and Interior Minister Priti Patel said “on behalf of this government and successive governments, I am really sorry for the actions that spanned decades. “
“It broke me,” said Bryan of the ordeal in a 2019 BBC documentary, which repeats itself five days after the drama.
His younger brother, novelist Stephen S Thompson, used his insight firsthand to write the script for Sitting In Limbo.
He first heard about the arrest of Bryan’s partner, Janet.
“My first thought was, it’s a little strange because I’ve never known him to be in trouble with the police,” says Thompson. “And then she mentioned the word” immigration. “And that made it even stranger.
“First, it was shock, then horror, and then, OK, how can we get practical about it? How are we going to get it out?”
Bryan had to prove that he really arrived in the 1960s and since then in the UK. The Interior Ministry thought he was lying, he told deputies in 2018.
He was detained twice and feared seeing his family again when he visited Jamaica. Only a last-minute intervention by an immigration lawyer in 2017 prevented his expulsion.
Bryan has been “very stoic” all along, says Thompson. “Obviously he was traumatized by it. He couldn’t believe it, like all of us.
“He’s getting to the point where he thinks, OK, well, that must be a mistake. He has a lot of faith in – or he had a lot of faith in – the system in this country, in this idea of just playing.
“To this day, he has even refused to feel embittered, or to take it too personally or to see it as a fundamental race problem.”
“Treated like a criminal”
Despite this, the current context of protests against systemic racism in the United Kingdom as well as in the United States should give additional power to Monday’s broadcast.
“Initially, I think he was disappointed and hurt and that he felt like he was being treated as a criminal by his own country when he had done nothing wrong,” said Thompson.
“This feeling of disappointment is probably the underlying emotion. How could this country in which he believed so much could drop it so badly?”
Bryan was heavily involved when Thompson was working on the script. The writer had to ask his brother and Janet to open up on the emotions they went through at the time.
“It’s not easy to do this stuff again,” said Thompson, adding that the soft-spoken Bryan is naturally “quite private.”
“But without that emotional content, it just wouldn’t be the same. So it was the hardest thing for me because they had to relive it, or at least talk about it very explicitly, when as I said , they are not really these types.
“So even though he’s my brother, I guess we sort of had to build that trust as we went along.”
Patrick Robinson, who is best known for playing Ash in BBC’s Casualty, remembers being “outraged” when the scandal broke out in 2017.
This was not news to him, however – the brother of a friend, who had been in the UK since the age of five months, was not allowed to return after a trip to Jamaica, which means that he missed his mother’s funeral.
“When you hear more about it, you just think it might be me or my brother,” says Robinson. “So yes, it is scandalous and unfortunately the same for the way to go with the bureaucracy and the government, in particular the British government.”
Robinson’s own parents came from Jamaica to Britain in the late 1950s or early 1960s. He was born in the United Kingdom, but older siblings had traveled with their mothers and fathers. .
He learned a lot about the history of Caribbean immigration to the UK during the narration of a documentary on the Windrush generation in the late 1990s.
For example, he learned that Conservative Minister of Health Enoch Powell – later known for his speech on “rivers of blood” – had recruited women from the British Empire to work as nurses in the NHS in the early years. 1960s.
“They were invited here, and that’s what I miss in terms of the story people don’t really know,” says Robinson.
The actor got to know the real Anthony Bryan “a little” during the filming.
“He’s a very cool guy,” he says. “He is quite dignified and that is how he was, I believe, throughout his experience.”
The drama includes scenes from Bryant with friends at a local club in Tottenham. Before meeting Bryan, Robinson’s search involved going under the cover of “shadow” one night.
“I just slipped in there and watched him for an hour before I made myself known in the club. It was great. And he was very much loved, sincerely, as I watched people come up to him and go out and chat. “
Despite numerous reports of the Windrush scandal – notably when it led to the resignation of Interior Minister Amber Rudd in 2018 – Robinson believes that the soap opera can give viewers a new glimpse of the personal record.
“I hope it makes people think. You hope they are entertained. You hope they feel,” he says.
“To try to understand others, you just have to imagine themselves in their place. And what the film can do is put yourself in it.”
Sitting in limbo is on BBC One at 8:30 p.m. BST Monday, then on BBC iPlayer. The Unwanted: The Secret Windrush Files is on BBC Two at 8:15 p.m. on June 13, then on iPlayer.