WHEN I returned to Jamaica in 1966 it was as though I had never left, because news of what I had been doing in England had filtered back. Audrey Chong, who was with the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) at the time, interviewed me on television and asked me to do various accents. Right after that I was invited by Harvey Ennevor, who was then general manager at JBC, to rejoin the station. So I went straight back into radio.
I got a slot to do a programme called Jamaica Woman: I introduced poetry and short stories, and got the themes composed and performed by Ernie Ranglin because I thought it was high time we went Jamaican. I was with that programme for nearly a year, when Beverley Anderson joined and we both worked on it. We organised a group of women who would meet for coffee and cookies every Saturday morning. We took stacks of tapes, lots of batteries, put the tape recorder in the centre of the table, threw out questions and comments and listened to the ladies respond. We would edit the tapes during the weekend and then, each morning that week, play five-minute segments of what the women had said — no water, no light, children suffering, pigs and goats running all over the place, and so on.
Somebody from the prime minister's office phoned and said Mr Shearer wanted to talk with Beverley and me. He thought we might have set the women up to say these things, which we denied. At our suggestion, he invited the women to Jamaica House one Saturday morning and allowed us to tape the sessions there. As a result, people got stand pipes and electricity where they didn't have them before, and we got things for the children.
Operation Friendship, with Annabella Odgen and Reverend Webster Edwards, started about that time, and we helped to get it off the ground. We begged for food, bedding, material, and equipment. We encouraged people to go and meet the children and play with them. We took some of the children on sponsored field trips, for example, to visit the School for the Deaf in Brown's Town. It was exciting radio.
Eventually there was a television version of the same programme, with a broader cross-section of women — including some of the ladies from upper St Andrew who had a little more money and a lot more time to come in and talk, and they sometimes donated yards and yards of material. People would offer what they could. A little lady might make coconut drops and sell them and give the money to buy bits of cloth to make undergarments for the children or nighties. The paint companies would contribute paint. The whole community was involved.
Tomorrow in the Autobiography of Leonie Forbes: I 'dreamed' Bob Marley's funeral before he died.