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Voice 35 Years: 'You can be turned back if you're black'

‘DISASTER’: The front page of this edition focused on a group of black holidaymakers being turned away from France

‘HOLIDAY DISASTER’ was the front page headline The Voice used to describe how a group of 80 black people from London were refused entry to France when they were told they had to obtain visas by French Immigration and police after a day trip turned sour.

The lead story in The Voice’s 43rd edition published on July 9, 1983, reported that the day trip to France was organised by two social workers from West Norwood, Mrs Mowen and Mrs Boyd, for their families and friends.

However, although the party of 80 had filled out identity cards which were given to them on the coaches and stamped by immigration officers at Dover, it was when they arrived in France that they were refused entry by the police.

Mrs Boyd told The Voice: “When we arrived in France, the police told the coach driver in our presence that the black people onboard needed visas, while entry was granted to three Irish people and one American who had travelled with the group. The Irish had the same identity cards as us and the American had a passport. The coach driver told us to get back on the coach – don’t argue with the French police or you will be arrested.”

Mrs Boyd said she had never been so belittled in her life. “The driver made no attempt to present or argue the case and the French didn’t want to know or see any other papers.

“It was very embarrassing as we had encouraged people to come on the trip which by this time was a total disaster.”

Although the French police had made exceptions, the party stood firm as one united group and returned back to London, disappointed, humiliated and angry.

Apart from saying they would be seeking legal advice on the matter, Mrs Boyd and Mrs Mowen had a warning for black people: “Beware of travel services and check everything out before taking a foreign trip as you can be turned back because you are black.”

Also featured on the front cover was a photograph of newly crowned Miss Trinidad and Tobago UK, Petal Duvernay, a 19-year-old student from Tottenham who won £250 in prize money.

PAGE THREE: A story on letter threats is featured

Another story on the page, headlined ‘Hair razing’, reported on an alert from an Inner London Education Authority safety advisor who expressed his growing concern over certain Afro hair products which are now thought to be highly flammable.

“The new dressings are a special hazard,” he said. When The Voice questioned a leading hair designer, Lorna St Clair, she said that while in her experience no one she knew had their hair catch fire, she would advise people with Afro hair to be wary when near a naked flame.

On page three, the lead story, headlined ‘Letter threat’, reported on the nasty shock a Caribbean-born woman on the White City Estate in west London received when she opened her morning post and found a letter threatening her and her family.

The woman, Constance Hippolyte, told The Voice: “At the time I was so frightened I thought I would die.”

It turns out that other people in the area had been experiencing the same frightening start to the day as they opened their morning mail. It was just one in a series of chain letters apparently circulating in the Shepherd’s Bush and White City areas and beyond, with letters warning that dreadful things would happen to them or their family if the chain was not continued within 13 days.

Turning over to page five, the lead story, headlined ‘Elaine Clair – the unsolved mystery’, The Voice looked back on the mysterious disappearance and death of the 15-year-old student two years after she left her home in Alperton, north London to keep an appointment with her teacher.

MYSTERY: Elain Clair's death was covered on page five

No new evidence had come to light to explain how she died in July 1981. Clair had left home at 9.30am to go to school, which was five minutes away. That was the last her family saw of her until her fully clothed body was found six days later two miles away in the Grand Union Canal.

The Voice is celebrating its 35th birthday this year. Share your The Voice memories, comments and birthday wishes on social media, using the hashtag #Voice35Years. Each week we will be digging into The Voice archive and publish a front cover from its first year of publication as we look back over 35 years.

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