Barry Reckord (Emmanuel ’53)

© Margaret Reckord Bernal
Born Barrington John Reckord in 1926, Kingston Jamaica, “Barry” was a Jamaican playwright who is recognised as one of the earliest Caribbean writers to contribute to British theatre.

Said to be the first Black Briton to have a play performed at London’s Royal Court Theatre, Barry Reckford produced over a dozen plays. He excelled at an early age and after completing his early education in Kingston College and St. Peter’s College in Kingston (where he studied theology, 1948), he won the island’s prestigious Issa scholarship in 1950 which enabled him to travel to Britain to study English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

Reckford graduated in 1953 and returned to Jamaica but spent the next few decades intermittently teaching and writing in Jamaica, Britain and Canada. Some of his most notable works include the award winning play, Skyvers (1963), Flesh to a tiger (1958), as well as a book, Does Fidel Eat More Than Your Father (Praeger, 1971). His works laid the foundation for many later emerging Caribbean playwrights such as Trinidadian Mustafa Matura, Guyanese Michael Abbensetts and Jamaican Alfred Fagon. He went on to receive the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship to Assist Research and Artistic Creation in 1973. In that same year, Reckord was also awarded the Silver Musgrave Medal by the Institute of Jamaica.

His last few years were spent mostly in Jamaica due to his failing health and died aged 85 in December, 2011. As a tribute to Reckord’s life and works, the London Hub established the Barry Reckord Bursary designed to encourage new playwrights of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) descent. The first recipient of the Barry Reckord Bursary was announced in January 2013.

This profile is adapted from an obituary written by Margaret Busby.