Frank Gilbert Crichlow (13 July 1932 – 15 September 2010) was a British community activist and civil rights campaigner, who became known in 1960s London as a godfather of black radicalism. He was a central figure in the Notting Hill Carnival, his restaurant the Mangrove serving for many years as the base from which activists, musicians and artists organised the event, as well as becoming "the symbol of resistance to police persecution".
Frank Gilbert Crichlow
13 July 1932
|Died||15 September 2010 (aged 78)|
Originally from Woodbrook, Port of Spain, Trinidad, Frank Crichlow arrived in England in June 1953 on the SS Colombie, among the first wave of post-war immigrants from the Caribbean. He lived in Paddington at first, working for British Rail, then formed the Starlight Four band in 1956. Margaret Busby writes in The Guardian that the band had a few television and radio appearances, which in 1959 gave Crichlow enough money to open the El Rio cafe in Notting Hill at 127 Westbourne Park Road. The cafe became a fashionable meeting place, with Christine Keeler and John Profumo as customers, and provided a safe place for black people to meet. Crichlow described it as a school or university for hustlers.
In 1968 he opened the Mangrove restaurant at 8 All Saints Road, Notting Hill, attracting both unwelcome police attention and celebrity visitors such as Diana Ross and the Supremes, Vanessa Redgrave, and Sammy Davis Jr. The restaurant was raided six times in the first year, though nothing was found. Crichlow, Darcus Howe, and several others marched on the police station in 1970 in protest against the constant police attention. Charged with incitement to riot, the Mangrove Nine, as they became known, were acquitted during a celebrated trial that lasted 55 days in 1971, and which involved Howe unsuccessfully demanding an all-black jury. Crichlow called the trial "a turning point for black people."
He went on to form the Mangrove Community Association to improve housing and services for ex-offenders, drug addicts, and alcoholics. He was also a central figure in the Notting Hill Carnival; his restaurant served for many years as the base from which activists, musicians and artists organised the event.
Despite being well known locally for his anti-drug stance—Heather Mills writes in The Independent that the local joke about him was that "his education is lacking: he's the only Trinidadian who doesn't know what a great draw of ganja is"—he was charged with drug offences in 1979, and subsequently cleared of the charges. In 1988 police used sledgehammers to break into the Mangrove, searching for drugs, after hiding in a freight container outside the restaurant from where they launched the raid. Charged with possession of heroin and cannabis, which he said the police had planted, Crichlow was defended by Gareth Peirce, Michael Mansfield, and Courtenay Griffiths, and was again acquitted, receiving £50,000 damages from the Metropolitan Police in 1992 for false imprisonment, battery and malicious prosecution.
Abner Cohen, writing in 1993, stated that although Crichlow was never a "leader" in any formal sense, never sought any important office, and was a "shy, diffident" person, he had nevertheless been "one of the most significant West Indian leaders in Britain during the 1970s and 1980s. His role in the Notting Hill Carnival was paramount. [...] What was astonishing about Crichlow was that he did not give up. During twenty turbulent years, he made the Mangrove into a potent symbol of black unity, defiance and resistance."
- Jasper, Lee. "Obituary: Frank Crichlow, founder of Mangrove Community Association", OBV, 17 September 2010.
- Cohen, Abner (1993). Masquerade Politics: Explorations in the Structure of Urban Cultural Movements. University of California Press. pp. 106–109. ISBN 978-0-520-07838-3. Retrieved 19 August 2011.
- Salandy-Brown, Marina, "How places change!", Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, 14 October 2010.
- Busby, Margaret. "Frank Crichlow obituary", The Guardian, 26 September 2010.
- Bunce, Robert, and Paul Field, "Mangrove Nine: the court challenge against police racism in Notting Hill", The Guardian, 29 November 2010.
- Mills, Heather. "Restaurant that became a symbol for radicalism", The Independent, 13 October 1992.
- Knightley, Phillip. "Appreciation: Frank Crichlow", The Guardian, 6 October 2010.
- Godwin, Richard, "Interview: Lenora Crichlow", Evening Standard, 8 May 2012.
- "Fowokan at the funeral of Frank Crichlow Part One". YouTube, 22 November 2010.
- Barling, Kurt. "Remembering one of London's civil rights pioneers", BBC News, 27 September 2010.
- Bunce, Robert, and Paul Field, "Frank Critchlow: Community leader who made the Mangrove Restaurant the beating heart of Notting Hill", The Independent, 23 September 2010.