Who is Nello James?

The locals of Whalley Range and the surrounding areas are all familiar with the Nello James Centre on Withington Road and the current debate surrounding its status.

The iconic building is up for sale and everyone is wondering what lies ahead. Will it be restored to its former glory and used once again as a community centre for Caribbean’s, students and families or will it be demolished and the land used to build more houses?

There are many rumours surrounding the house and today TNT News looks in to who exactly Nello James is and why the building is named after him.

Cyril Lionel Robert James was born to Elizabeth James and Robert Alexander in Trinidad in 1901. Nicknmaed “Nello”, he had a standard Caribbean upbringing and was a prolific cricket player. Like his father, who was a teacher, Nello had an academic career during which time he wrote several books which are still referenced to this day.

In 1932 Nello came to live in Nelson, Lancashire with his friend and fellow cricketer Learie Constantine. Whilst helping Learie write his autobiography, Nello took a job as cricket correspondent at the Manchester Guardian.

Our Withington Road centre isn’t the only community hub to be named after him. After spending a year in Lancashire, Nello moved to London in 1933. His work resulted in him becoming a local hero which has resulted in tributes such as the CLR James Library in Hackney where the man himself attended the naming ceremony in 1985 and his wife attended the anniversary 20 years later.

In Brixton, James appeared on the Brixton Pound- a currency created to keep money local- B£10 note. It was to Brixton where Nello returned to live in the 1980s after a few years travelling around the world as a political activist. During his travel he met many people including Leon Trotsky in Mexico (Nello was a Trotskyist), Kwame Nkrumah before he became the first President of Ghana and Martin Luther King.

After facing deportation in the US for overstaying his visa, Nello returned to the UK where he once again wrote for the Manchester Guardian and died in Brixton in 1989. He was buried in his hometown of Tunapuna, Trinidad.

The Nello James Centre is a tribute to this author of great works such Beyond a Boundary which is cited as one of the best books on cricket to this day. C.L.R James’s legacy resonates around the world, particularly within the West Indian community who tend to be avid cricket fans and many a generation fought alongside James for independence.

This makes it likely that the Nello James Centre was not only named after a Caribbean man but bequeathed to the Caribbean community. Tomorrow, TNT focuses on the alleged friendship between Nello and British actress Vanessa Redgrave who, it is said, gave the property to the Caribbean community in Manchester.

TNT News Siobhan White

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