The launch of WORLDwrite’s long-awaited film Every Cook Can Govern: the life, works & impact of C.L.R. James

At 7.30pm on Thursday 31st March at The Arthur and Paula Lucas Theatre Kings College London, Strand Campus, WC2R 2LS

The launch of WORLDwrite’s long-awaited film Every Cook Can Govern: the life, works & impact of C.L.R. James
This is the first feature-length documentary to explore the life, writings and politics of the great Trinidad-born revolutionary C.L.R. James who died in Brixton in 1989.  The film interweaves never before seen footage of C.L.R. James with unique testimony from those he knew, alongside interviews with the world’s most eminent scholars of James’ life, work and politics.

From colonialism to cricket, from Marxism to the movies, from slavery to Shakespeare – James’ ideas, we learn, were shaped by a voracious love of reading and belief in mankind as history makers.  James devours the Western canon and celebrates the contributions of so-called ‘Dead White European Males’ to the best of what has been thought and said. He remains an uncompromising anti-colonialist and anti-Stalinist, unafraid to criticise the failures of his own mentees, including Eric Williams, the first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, and Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first President. During his 15 year sojourn in the USA, initially invited by Trotsky to address the ‘Negro question,’ James established a rare voice in opposition to World War II. He rejected the common conception of the war as a simple moral tale of good versus evil, and tells us this was a war for empire.  Millions were sacrificed in the name of freedom, millions more were subjected to the British colonial jackboot and, in the USA, to brutal repression and racial segregation.  James was ahead of the game in understanding the truth. Followed by the security services in Britain and in the USA, he is eventually imprisoned on Ellis Island where he crafts his lesser known masterpiece Mariners, Renegades and Castaways.

Explored in the film too, are some of his best known and most celebrated works The Black Jacobins (1938) and Beyond A Boundary (1963).  Black Jacobins debunked the myth that aristocratic do-gooders were responsible for the abolition of slavery and tells in gripping fashion the true story of the successful slave revolution in Haiti.  Beyond A Boundary is also greatly admired for its celebration of cricket and indictment of colonialism.  Ceri Dingle, the director adds “What emerges in this film through a challenging overview of his life is an understanding of what it meant to be an uncompromising revolutionary in the 20th Century.” Filmed in Britain, Trinidad and the USA, the film has benefited from the efforts of over 200 volunteer researchers, transcribers, presenters and filmmakers as well as the expertise of contributors.  This unique production history – crowd-funded, crowd-featured and crowd-filmed – does credit to James’ conviction that every cook can govern.

The film marks the culmination of a three year multimedia project arranged by the education charity WORLDwrite and its Citizen TV station WORLDbytes. The film has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Trust for London and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and developed in partnership with the British Library, Museum of London, George Padmore Institute, People’s History Museum, Nelson Library, Banyan archives and University of the West Indies.

The event is free-entry but please ensure you book your seats here so that we know you are coming and can reserve your seats. We’d be hugely grateful too, if you could make a donation with your ticket booking or via our JustGiving page here –  as the venue is very expensive and acquiring the rights for the never before seen archive footage of C.L.R. James has cost a fortune.