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"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Friday, 21 November 2014

Faith in Clapham restored by Radio 4 and John Agard

Just when it seemed this district was hopelessly engulfed in dirty money and booze-swilling, Maserati-driving  rich kids, came a timely reminder on (of all things ) Desert Island  Discs, of what Clapham used to stand for.

The guest this week was poet John Agard, and the presenter gently persuaded him to recite one of his best-known poems, the 1986 satire on academic views of poetry, Listen Mr Oxford Don.

Agard didn't need much persuading and spoke the lines with as much passion and precision as he did nearly 30 years ago:

Me not no Oxford don 
me a simple immigrant
from Clapham Common
I didn't graduate
I immigrate 

Back in '86. of course, Clapham was still a truly mixed-up place, but the yuppies were already flooding in. 

Oddly enough I din't think Agard ever lived in this area. When he first came to the UK in 1977 he settled in Shropshire, and I think he's stayed there. The Clapham reference harks back to the arrival of the Windrush era immigrants, many of whom were temporarily housed in the deep shelter near Clapham South Tube station - in fact, on the Common, less than a mile from the church where the Clapham Sect met 150 years  previously.

 The full story is here on the History Today site.

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