Sometimes, it's just a cigar

This is our truth, tell us yours

Seven songs in seven days; three

Girl From Tiger Bay: Shirley Bassey

For thousands of years, the Severn Estuary has been a motorway of the pre-car civilization.

Tiger Bay in Cardiff was a boundary area, a place where a community grew up around commerce, and where a huge part of the population were in transit.

Even for people who weren’t from Tiger Bay it was a place of safety, a place where rules were more flexible and less rigorously enforced, within the boundaries of the bay.

Shirley Bassey wasn’t, according to some sources, from Tiger Bay, but from Splott. She belonged to the pre-Windrush generation, when blackness was more diffuse, more widely spread, and less of a political issue, but still a stigma that made individuals stand out from the crowd. Tiger Bay was a brand, an identifier, in a way that being the girl from Splott as not. In mid twentieth century Cardiff, being Afro Carribean was different to being Somali; being from the British Afro Carribean community was different to being from the merchant navy community of the docks. Being black was complicated, and a fractured experience that lazy retrospective analyses fail to understand.

From one hundred years ago, when black men from Cardiff were lynched for going out with white women, to now, when the girl from Tiger Bay is a national treasure, has been a long road. Getting to a point where a indie band, like the Manics, think it matters to write a song for a black woman from Cardiff is an achievment that speaks deeply to me, in a way that other songs never do.




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This entry was posted on December 26, 2015 by in Uncategorized.

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