182 Britain’s ‘brown babies’ • 5 • Secrets and lies: searching for mothers and fathers For nearly every British ‘brown baby’, the identity of their American father was a total mystery. This led many of them, once they were older, on a search for their father and for their unknown American relatives. Those who were placed in children’s homes knew little or nothing about either parent, and the first parent they usually searched for was their mother. Before the rise of the internet in the 1990s and increasing access to many different kinds of records, this search
bridge the gap. Institutionalised secrets and lies If individuals operate with a certain degree of self-deception, then larger elite networks and professions appear almost entirely engineered towards keeping secrets. Denial and obfuscation are daily practices, learned and internalised. Whitehall is one such example. The official line is that civil servants serve ministers by generating the evidence base to inform policy. They consult with an array of outside stakeholders on the way to turning
Mike Leigh may well be Britain's greatest living film director; his worldview has permeated our national consciousness. This book gives detailed readings of the nine feature films he has made for the cinema, as well as an overview of his work for television. Written with the co-operation of Leigh himself, it challenges the critical privileging of realism in histories of British cinema, placing the emphasis instead on the importance of comedy and humour: of jokes and their functions; of laughter as a survival mechanism; and of characterisations and situations that disrupt our preconceptions of ‘realism’. Striving for the all-important quality of truth in everything he does, Leigh has consistently shown how ordinary lives are too complex to fit snugly into the conventions of narrative art. From the bittersweet observation of Life is Sweet or Secrets and Lies, to the blistering satire of Naked and the manifest compassion of Vera Drake, he has demonstrated a matchless ability to perceive life's funny side as well as its tragedies.
‘Welcome to the family’: Secrets and Lies 7 After the controversy of Naked came one of Leigh’s best loved and most highly acclaimed ﬁlms. Applying the epic thematic and structural scale of Naked to the intimate domestic environment of his earlier work, Secrets and Lies proved to be his most popular ﬁlm up to that time, winning the Palme d’Or and the International Critics’ Prize at Cannes (as well as a Best Actress award for Brenda Blethyn) and receiving ﬁve Oscar nominations in the major categories of Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress and
culture and ideas, and adopting dominant norms and positions, no matter how nonsensical. Chapter 6 looks at the secrets and lies that underpin elite power and control. Some are systematic and organised, and some are simply the lies leaders tell themselves. Chapter 7 shows that leadership has been transformed into a numbers game because numbers can be tallied up in a way that ideas can't. And because elites co-create the game, they can also change the rules as and when they need to. Part IV focuses on exit strategies and how canny elites
the UK has been ambivalent, as we shall see. The ‘breakthrough’ of Vera Drake was certainly preceded by a turning point in his reputation – and his success at the box oﬃce – with the release of Secrets and Lies in 1996, but even that came a quarter of century after Bleak Moments. Again one wonders – what took him so long? Whitehead_01_Chps.indd 1 29/3/07 15:53:02 2 mike leigh It is tempting to wheel out the old arguments about (ﬁlm-making) prophets being without honour in their own country – especially when that country is the UK. The British media still seem
This book surveys the elite state of play in Britain as it is now. It argues that the Establishment, as it has been conceived, is coming to an end. The book looks at how elites, by trying to get ahead, have destabilised the very institutions on which their power is based. It also looks at how leaders have adapted to get to the top. Those most suited to pleasing their assessors get there first. The book reveals some of the ways elites use to stay at the top once they get there. It looks at the secrets and lies that underpin elite power and control. Some are systematic and organised, and some are simply the lies leaders tell themselves. The book shows how leadership has been transformed into a numbers game because numbers can be tallied up in a way that ideas cannot. And because elites co-create the game, they can also change the rules as and when they need to. The book focuses on exit strategies and how canny elites survive when it all goes wrong. It briefly explores what solutions there might be to the current problems of leadership.
‘All these memories’: Career Girls 8 Still keeping us on our toes, Leigh followed the ensemble playing and emotional sweep of Secrets and Lies with a carefully crafted miniature. Career Girls focuses on just two young women, Hannah (Katrin Cartlidge) and Annie (Lynda Steadman), who used to be ﬂatmates when they were students in the mid-80s and, having not seen each other for six years, spend a weekend together at Hannah’s London home. It turns out to be a weekend full of coincidences and unexpected blasts from the past. Leigh makes no attempt to obscure these
from the opening shot, over which the titles run, the ﬁlm cuts immediately to a not obviously related scene, in which we recognise Timothy Spall, driving a saloon car. It rapidly becomes clear that he is a minicab driver, and throughout the ﬁlm we see him carrying a variety of passengers in a series of vignettes, in rather the same way that Spall’s character in Whitehead_01_Chps.indd 162 29/3/07 15:53:29 all or nothing 163 Secrets and Lies was periodically seen photographing a cross-section of diﬀerent subjects. This driver’s name is Phil Bassett, and he lives
This book recounts the little-known history of the mixed-race children born to black American servicemen and white British women during the Second World War. Of the three million American soldiers stationed in Britain from 1942 to 1945, about 8 per cent (240,000) were African-American; the latter’s relationships with British women resulted in the birth of an estimated 2,000 babies. The African-American press named these children ‘brown babies’; the British called them ‘half-castes’. Black GIs, in this segregated army, were forbidden to marry their white girlfriends. Up to half of the mothers of these babies, faced with the stigma of illegitimacy and a mixed-race child, gave their children up for adoption. The outcome for these children tended to be long-term residency in children’s homes, sometimes followed by fostering and occasionally adoption, but adoption societies frequently would not take on ‘coloured’ children, who were thought to be ‘too hard to place’. There has been minimal study of these children and the difficulties they faced, such as racism in a (then) very white Britain, lack of family or a clear identity. Accessibly written and illustrated with numerous photographs, this book presents the stories of over forty of these children. While some of the accounts of early childhood are heart-breaking, there are also many uplifting narratives of finding American fathers and gaining a sense of self and of heritage.