Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Scene 1: Interior fort
The noise of the sea slapping against the walls of Cape Coast Castle. The sound of many different African languages, talking fast, scared.
I am a girl. I am in the dark. I don’t know how long I’ve been kept in the dark. High above me, there is a tiny crack of light. Last time I counted, I was eleven, nearly twelve. I am a girl. Last time I saw my mama, I was carrying a water gourd on my head. The water was sloshing-sloshing all over my clothes. Mama was clapping her hands and laughing at me. I am frightened of the dark. I don’t know where I am. I don’t even know why I’m here.
Once upon a time, I lived in a house with a cone-shaped roof, in a big compound. My mother grew okra and pumpkin in her yard. My father shaped woods and metals.
A time now ago, I had my hair just done fresh. Pretty, my Mama say. Small sections coiled with thread. My brother and I were playing and laughing. My brother says my laugh is funny and that my laugh makes him laugh.
All of a sudden, some men come and take us. I know those people. They have the marks on the face of the enemy. I kick and scream and shout. Furious. They bundle us off through the woods. Pushing and shouting. Move. Move. Beating us. I hold on to my brother. My brother holds on to me.
We are dragged through the forest for days and nights and days. It is a long time. I am tired and heavy as an elephant. I cry loud for my Mama to hear me. I cry loud for my Papa to see me.
One day, we arrive here. A place that is bigger than the palace of the Paramount Chief. Some call it a palace, a fort, a factory, a prison, a dungeon. My brother is pulled away. I reach out but I cannot hold him. My tears dry up inside me. My mouth goes dry and my lips. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. After that, I stop talking. The words dry under my lips.
Outside this place, where I am trapped and kept like an animal, there is a sound I never hear before. A crashing and thudding. They say it is The Sea. I think it is a wild monster. I think it is coming for me.
Scene 2: Shipping news
The voice of the Shipping Forecast will be interrupted by the voices of the four black women. These women form a chorus throughout the play. Behind their voices there’s the roaring, crashing of the big Atlantic.
There are warnings of gales
In the Viking North.
The general synopsis at midday – low.
971 moving steadily Northeast and filling.
New High expected Trafalgar
By the same time.
By the same time.
Saturday, August 11, 1707
The weather in Liverpool was close.
Gales running between the south and west.
Dirty weather, the ship’s captain said.
The wild Aurora Borealis
Flew around with unusual swiftness.
The Dorothy reached Barbados, June 1709.
One hundred slaves surviving.
Veering North West 6 to 8.
Occasionally severe Gale 9.
The Duke of Argyll reached London
Eighty slaves surviving. Soon.
The moon that night was in a shroud.
The moon was in a shroud.
The Annapolis reached London –
Less than a third of the slaves survived.
Captain’s Log: 23rd May 1709 –
Buryed a man slave No 84.
Wednesday 29 May –
Buryed a Boy slave, No 86 of a flux.
Decreasing. Rough or very rough.
The weather still dirty, the captain said.
Slow moving, with little change.
The weather filthy!
Rain then showers. Moderate or rough.
Thursday, 13 June 1709
Buryed a woman slave, no 47.
Into the howling, moaning Atlantic.
Into the open-grave-green sea.
Into the choppy waters, another body.
Another stiff black wave into
the tight black waves of the sea.
Into the turbulent waters,
another body yet.
If you want to learn to pray,
Go to sea.
The Lamplighter by Jackie Kay is published by Bloodaxe Books/BBC Productions, price £9.95
Grace Blakeley investigates the curious case of Carillion: how the company’s slow decline and abrupt liquidation reveals the nature of modern capitalism.
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns