Alfred Fagon

Alfred Fagon was born 25 June 1937 in Clarendon, Jamaica, the third of nine brothers and two sisters. Upon his arrival in Britain in 1955 he worked for British Rail in Nottingham before joining the Royal Signal Corps, where he became the army’s middleweight champion in 1962, later working as a welder in Bristol. His acting career began in Bristol when he appeared in Henry Livings’ The Little Mrs Foster Show at Bristol Arts Centre.  He appeared in Drums Along the Avon and Whatever Next for the BBC in Bristol along with Granny Doesn’t Live Here Anymore for Harlech TV, as well as in documentaries including the award-winning Jumbles. He also appeared in Biggest Thief in Town at Chelmsford. In 1970 he appeared in the three short plays that make up Mustapha Matura‘s Black Pieces as part of Inter-Action’s Black and White Power Plays season at the ICA in London, the first Black theatre season in the UK.  Inspired by this experience he went on to write and produce plays such as No Soldiers in St Paul, exploring social tension between the black community and the police in Bristol. The Inter-Action season was the particular initiative of director Roland Rees, who went on to direct Fagon’s 11 Josephine House for Inter-Action in 1972, before setting up his own company Foco Novo, with supporting new black writing as a key priority. Rees’s productions of Alfred Fagon’s plays included Death of a Blackman (Hampstead Theatre, 1975)Four Hundred Pounds (at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs and on tour, 1982). He also appeared as an actor in Roland Rees’s production of Mustapha Matura’s As Time Goes By at the Royal Court in 1972 and in his Foco Novo production of Sleeping Policeman by Tunde Ikoli and Howard Brenton in 1983. Fagon’s play Lonely Cowboy appeared at the Tricycle in 1985. He also wrote Shakespeare Country, a BBC2 production of his play of the same name. He also wrote many poems including a series called Waterwell. Later television appearances included Tales Out of School, directed by Jane Howell, and Quest for Love, directed by Philip Saville for Channel 4.

He died in 1986 of a heart attack while out jogging. The police claimed to be unable to identify who he was and he was given a pauper’s funeral.

Recognition has come since with a statue set up to him in Bristol in 1987, while in 1997 the Alfred Fagon Award was set up in his name, recognising and celebrating playwrights of Caribbean and African descent, resident in the UK.

A small collection of his papers including play manuscripts is held by the V&A Theatre Collections and catalogued on Archives Hub. Three of his plays are published in Fagon: Plays by Oberon Books, 1999.