Express & Star

Sir Lenny Henry: 'I wanted to tell all our stories'

Writer Sir Lenny and stars Rochelle Neil, Yazmin Belo and Saffron Coomber discuss the six-part series, Three Little Birds, set in the Windrush era.

Sir Lenny Henry

“My mum, my auntie and a mail order bride came to Britain in 1957,” says Sir Lenny Henry, the acclaimed actor, writer, filmmaker and comedian. “And I always think that’s like the beginning of a great joke. Three Jamaican women came to Britain to cause trouble, and oh boy, did they find it when they got here.”

Sir Lenny is speaking ahead of the release of his latest work, Three Little Birds – named after the Bob Marley song – a post-Windrush series that chronicles the experiences of three Jamaican women as they land in Britain and attempt to make it their home. The gulf between their expectations and reality is wide. Their welcome is signs plastered to windows that read: ‘No blacks, no dogs, no Irish.’

Loosely based on Sir Lenny’s mother’s life, who emigrated to Britain from Jamaica in the 1950s with her two sisters, it is ultimately a spirited celebration of immigration, community and womanhood.

It is the latest in a string of Sir Lenny’s creations for screen and stage on the Windrush era. Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle followed a generation of one family from their landing in 1948 to the scandal of being wrongly deported in 2018. Earlier this year, Sir Lenny made his debut as a playwright with a one-man show about the Windrush scandal, August In England. “But I wanted to go deeper than that,” says the 65-year-old.

Russell T Davies, the prolific screenwriter and producer, and a friend and mentor of Sir Lenny’s, asked him what stories he wanted to tell. What did he want to say about the world?

“And I remembered I’d heard these stories from my mum, my aunties and my uncles about what it was like to arrive in Britain in the 50s, and what they had to overcome in terms of racism, sexism, oppression, the glass ceiling, the glass wall, the glass roof – anything glass, my family had to deal with it.

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