11 Josephine House, 1972
THE Death of A Black Man, 1975
Four Hundred Pounds, 1983
Lonely Cowboy, 1985
Born in 1937, Alfred Fagon was one of ten children in a close, religious family living in Clarendon, Jamaica. He moved to England in 1955 and found work with British Rail in Nottingham. He joined the army in 1958 and went on to become the Royal Signal Corps’ middleweight boxing champion in 1962. Upon the leaving the army, he travelled around the UK singing calypso and trained and worked as a welder, eventually settling in St Paul’s, Bristol, where he began his career as an actor and writer.
Alfred’s acting debut was at the Bristol Arts Centre as the Nigerian Officer Orara in Henry Livings’s play The Little Mrs Foster Show in 1966. In 1970 he made his first professional appearance in Mustapha Matura’s Black Pieces at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. His acting career continued both on stage and screen. Among other things, he featured in the popular British television police series Z Cars in 1973, the film R.H.I.N.O: Really Here in Name Only in 1983 and another popular television series, Boon, in 1986. That year he also starred, with Hazel O’Connor, in Fighting Back for the BBC, which was filmed in St Paul’s.
During this time, Fagon also developed his own plays and television scripts, many of which he also starred in. Many of his early pieces are based on his experiences and life in St Paul’s. His first produced play was 11 Josephine House, in which he appeared as himself. Produced by InterAction and directed by Donald Rees, the play was staged at the Almost Free Theatre in 1972 and was set in the front room of a Bristol household in which the family dream about their spiritual home in Jamaica. This was followed by In Shakespeare Country, directed by Philip Saville for BBC Two in 1973; No Soldiers in St Paul’s, which Fagon directed; and Death of A Black Man which was produced at the Hampstead Theatre in 1975. Set in Chelsea and loosely based on the life of the Jamaican saxophonist Joe Harriot, Death of A Black Man eerily presages Fagon’s own passing. In 1983, Fagon’s Four Hundred Pounds toured the UK and played at the Royal Court and his final play, Lonely Cowboy, set in Brixton, came out in 1985, one year before his death.
To mark his achievements, a statue created by David G Mutasa was erected in Bristol, the only one commemorating an African Caribbean in the city. And the friends of Alfred Fagon later went on to establish a playwriting award in his name. The Alfred Fagon Award, which was inaugurated in 1997, recognises and celebrates writers of African and Caribbean descent.