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JIS News

‘A Charmed Life’, a documentary about the life of Jamaican Eddie Noble, who joined Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) during World War II, is being shown at venues in London and cities across the United Kingdom (UK).
The 64-minute film by Councillor Patrick Vernon, gives a strong and powerful account of the generation that came to Britain and served during the World War and created a ‘Britishness’ based on nurturing social justice and the values of hard work, tolerance and respect.
Councillor Vernon told JIS News that the UK screenings are to raise awareness of the contributions of Caribbean people to British life.
He said that the idea for the film came about after a meeting with Noble in 2001.
At that time, following several years of working in the public sector and as a volunteer mentor for black boys and young men, Vernon said he decided to set up the ‘Every Generation’ website, which focusses on black heritage and family history. In developing the website, he wanted the information to reflect experiences, knowledge and historical achievements of black people in Britain.
During the research and development period, he came across the book ‘Jamaican Airman’ written by Mr. Noble and “thought it was a good story about a Jamaican childhood, growing up in colonial Jamaica, his service in the RAF during the second World War, then settling in Britain, and his hopes and determination. I contacted the publishers and asked to interview and profile him on the website,” he related to JIS News.
On making contact with Mr. Noble, Councillor Vernon discovered that they both lived in Hackney, less then two miles apart. “At first he was suspicious about who I was,” the Councillor recalled, noting that although Mr. Noble was about 84 at the time, he was “fit and very independent.”
“He lived on his own and was always immaculately dressed in shirt and tie, reflecting the discipline of that generation. We got on well and became friends. He became a grandfather figure in my life. We shared a passion for literature, history, music and politics. I also became his agent and arranged bookings for him to do talks at schools and libraries during Black History Month. I also sold some of his books and arranged for distribution. In many ways, it laid the foundation for me to become a publisher,” the Councillor said.
The documentary is based on interviews conducted with Noble at the CLR James Library in Hackney in 2002, a Black History Month event in Tottenham and at his appearance at a Black Child Conference at the Queen Elizabeth Conference in 2004.
Councillor Vernon told JIS News the documentary was not the original idea behind the filming but after Noble’s death in July 2007, he felt it would be a fitting tribute to his memory. “I was approached by his family to deliver the eulogy at his funeral. I felt really honoured and I decided I wanted to complete the documentary and make it a tribute and celebration of his life and of the values and ethos of the Windrush generation that is fast disappearing,” he stated.
Born in Jamaica in 1917, Mr. Noble volunteered for military service at age 25 and served in the RAF. He wrote five books, including poetry and a history of Jamaica. He died at age 90 in 2007.
Vernon, who was elected Councillor of Hackney in 2006, described Mr. Noble as a powerful and charistmatic man, who was deeply concerned about his community.
He was a past chairman of Age Concern in Hackney and was heavily involved in a number of youth projects and was also a Lollipop man (Street warden who helps school children cross the street).
Vernon said: “He was very proud of Jamaica and of being Jamaican and being British at the same time. He was also worried and concerned abut the generation of black people in Britain. He felt that his generation had worked hard to lay a foundation but he was concerned that their efforts were not being built on. He was particularaly concerned about Caribbean boys not making the most of the opportunities.”
He added that one of the key messages that he hoped ‘A Charmed Life’ could promote is that people like Mr. Noble and other elders, are the true mentors for young people.
Councillor Vernon has also launched a programme called ‘The Charmed Life Campaign’ to encourage people to learn, share and document the legacy and achievements of Caribbean and African elders.