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Voice 35 Years: Cowans dazzles in Ashes debut

HISTORY: A snapshot of the 8 January 1983 issue.

AS THE new year of 1983 arrived, The Voice newspaper rolled off its 18th edition on January 8 with a heavily news ladened front page which spoke of triumph for a black cricketer in the England team ‘down under’, a long anticipated tour to the UK by a Nigerian musical superstar, an all-black comedy cast about to make its national TV debut and a
warning about changes to the Nationality Act that would affect every black person in Britain.

While wishing its readers a Happy New Year 35 years ago, the paper’s lead story, headlined ‘Cowans cracks it’, celebrated fast blower Norman Cowans’ eight-wicket demolition of the Australian team in the fourth Test match in Melbourne, which had set up England for a memorable win in the Ashes series.

The Voice said Cowans’ match haul was an important personal triumph for the 21-year-old fast bowler as it vindicated his performances in the earlier Test matches and proved he was mismanaged by the captain, leading many to question his inclusion in the team.

The other equally celebratory story on the page was news that Nigerian superstar King Sunny Ade and his 16-member
band were heading to the UK for their first tour which was set to bring some instant sunshine to London’s African
music fans. The headline read ‘King Sunny to play first concert in London’.

SCOOP

The Voice said this was a scoop for the promoters Island Records as it was always an economic battle to get support
for such a tour due to the large number of King Sunny’s entourage. The band’s full line up included five vocalists, four guitarists, two talking drummers, Hawaiian guitar, bass drummers, congoes, percussion and maraccas.

The tour was set to kick off at the Lyceum Theatre. ‘No problems’ was the other headline on the front cover, announcing that the Black Theatre Co-operative’s comedy series No Problem was about to make its Channel 4 debut with an all-black cast including Judith Jacob, Victor Romero Evans, Sarah Lam, Janet Kay, Chris Tummings, Shope Shodeinde and Malcolm Frederick.

Commissioned by London Weekend Television, No Problem made history in being the first ever series devised and written by a black company.

CITIZENSHIP

Finishing off a news-packed front page was advice for readers on the new Nationality Act which took effect on January 1, and this meant the present day citizenship of the UK and Colonies was replaced with three separate citizenships.The Voice urged its readers to get to know the facts as the change will affect the status of everyone not registered.


CRACKING CRICKET: Norman Cowans went on to play 19 Tests for England after his 1982/1983 Ashes debut; page 15 featured then-upcoming actor Hugh Quarshie. Pages two and three focused on the previous; Cowans also featured on this edition’s front page

Over on pages two and three, The Voice reflected on the stories it covered in the first four months of its launch from August 1982 with the aptly suited headline ‘That was the year that was’. Among the stories it looked back on were the demolition of three houses by Lambeth Council in Railton Road, Brixton which almost set off a street riot between residents and the police, similar to the Brixton Riots of 1981; the unsolved murder of the young Asian girl Aseema Devani on the Chalk Hill estate in Wembley; Paul Boateng (now Lord Boateng) finally being endorsed by the Labour Party as a prospective Parliamentary candidate after facing opposition from the leadership of the party; and 18-year-old Colin Douglas from Brixton who gained a place at Oxford University to study philosophy and politics under an agreement between the ILEA and the Cambridge and Oxford universities.

In the entertainment Buzz section on page 15, The Voice got a one and one interview with distinguished Ghanaian actor Hugh Quarshie, as he became the first black actor to be cast in a major role with the Royal Shakespeare Company, appearing as Hotspur in Henry IV at the Barbican Centre.

In the interview with reporter Isabel Appio, Oxford educated Quarshie pointed out that it was no accident he ended up in classical theatre as his father, a retired diplomat, was determined that his only son should have a sound education and not grow up to be a “butcher boy”.

The interview revealed that, as a black actor with an Oxford accent, Quarshie faced a dilemma which his contemporaries such as Trevor Laird, Victor Romero Evans and Rudolph Walker had overcome by fitting neatly into theatrical roles. He said: “At first, I didn’t fit in. I am not a black West Indian and I don’t speak with a street credibility accent, but at the same time, I wasn’t white.”

In the interview, Quarshie also told how he joined the black theatre company Temba appearing in Black Slaves White Chains. But despite gaining valuable experience, it was also a bad one as the company was in turmoil and this was one of the factors which persuaded him to try and establish his name in mainstream theatre.

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