F is for Alfred Fagon (1937-1986)

Alfred Fagon, poet, playwright and actor, was born in Clarendon, Jamaica in 1937. Fagon left the island for England in 1955 and soon found work with British Rail in Nottingham. He then went to the army, where he gained popularity after winning the service’s boxing middleweight championship in 1962. Alfred Fagon also worked as a calypsonian and a welder before taking to the stage. He eventually settled in St Paul’s, Bristol and by 1970, had his first starring role in Mustapha Matura’s Black Pieces. From Bristol, he would write and produce for theatre, television, film and radio. Notably, he penned 11 Josephine House (1972) and Death Of A Black Man (1975) in the early 70s, and he is listed as writer of Shakespeare Country, a 1973 BBC2 TV programme produced by Philip Saville.

There are many unanswered questions surrounding his sudden death in 1986, and he seems to have been forgotten in the decade that followed until friends and family set up the Alfred Fagon Award in 1996 to celebrate the best in black British Theatre. Oberon Books published 3 of his plays: 11 Josephine House, Death of a Black Man and Lonely Cowboy in 1999 in a book titled Fagon Plays. One of these also appears in the 1987 Yvonne Brewster edited Black Plays compilation but much of his work sits in archives in Bristol and London.

Zakiya McKenzie

More about the author

Fagon was the first Black person in Bristol to have a statue erected in his honor. 

UK playwright Roy Williams honors Fagon’s life and work.

The Guardian profiled Fagon, this “brilliant writer whose work must not be forgotten,” during staging of Fagon’s play “The Death of a Black Man.”

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