One of our recommended books is All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle


In this “warm, funny” novel (Good Housekeeping), Jamaican immigrant Hubert Bird rediscovers the world he’d once turned his back on as he learns to find happiness after staying in isolation for so long.

In weekly phone calls to his daughter in Australia, widower Hubert Bird paints a picture of the perfect retirement, packed with fun, friendship, and fulfillment. But it’s a lie. In reality, Hubert’s days are all the same, dragging on without him seeing a single soul.

Until he receives some good news—good news that in one way turns out to be the worst news ever,

more …

In this “warm, funny” novel (Good Housekeeping), Jamaican immigrant Hubert Bird rediscovers the world he’d once turned his back on as he learns to find happiness after staying in isolation for so long.

In weekly phone calls to his daughter in Australia, widower Hubert Bird paints a picture of the perfect retirement, packed with fun, friendship, and fulfillment. But it’s a lie. In reality, Hubert’s days are all the same, dragging on without him seeing a single soul.

Until he receives some good news—good news that in one way turns out to be the worst news ever, news that will force him out again, into a world he has long since turned his back on. The news that his daughter is coming for a visit.

Now Hubert faces a seemingly impossible task: to make his real life resemble his fake life before the truth comes out.
Along the way Hubert stumbles across a second chance at love, renews a cherished friendship, and finds himself roped into an audacious community scheme that seeks to end loneliness once and for all . . .

Life is certainly beginning to happen to Hubert Bird. But with the origin of his earlier isolation always lurking in the shadows, will he ever get to live the life he’s pretended to have for so long?

less …
  • Grand Central Publishing
  • Paperback
  • August 2022
  • 400 Pages
  • 9781538720172

Buy the Book

$16.99 indies Bookstore

About Mike Gayle

Mike Gayle is the author of All the Lonely PeopleMike Gayle was born and raised in Birmingham, UK. After earning a Sociology degree, he moved to London to become a journalist and ended up as an advice columnist for a teenage girls’ magazine before becoming Features Editor for another teen magazine. He has written for a variety of publications including the Sunday Times, the Guardian, and Cosmo. Mike became a full-time novelist in 1997 and has written thirteen novels, which have been translated into more than thirty languages. After stints in London and Manchester, Mike now resides in Birmingham with his wife, two kids, and a rabbit.


“Hubert Bird is a gentle hero and I loved him. A book that is perfect for the times we live in, but also one to treasure for many years to come.”―Ruth Hogan, author of The Keeper of Lost Things

“A winning tale…Readers will be touched.”Publishers Weekly

“Mike Gayle is on World Beating Form with All the Lonely People. It’s the right book at the right time and you’re going to love it.”―Jenny Colgan, New York Times bestselling author of The Bookshop on the Corner

Discussion Questions

1. For Hubert, it was the death of his daughter that led him to a life of loneliness. Who in your life inspires you to live life to the fullest?

2. Ashley makes a huge leap of faith by setting out on her own to raise her daughter. What kind of strength does it take to create the type of life you want while raising a child?

3. Hubert didn’t allow the color of his skin to dictate who he loved or the life he wanted to live. Have you ever defied someone else’s expectations or prejudices to pursue what makes you happy?

4. Discuss the moments of obvious/subtle racism Hubert had to overcome throughout the story. What can non-immigrants be aware of/do to help immigrants transition to life in a new country?

5. Gus’s descent into loneliness took on a dramatically different form than Hubert’s. While Hubert’s home still provided him the comforts he needed, Gus’s degraded and left him living in unhealthy conditions. Why do you think Gus found himself living like this?

6. Hubert grieves by keeping to himself. What are the different ways of grieving and what kind of support do people need?

7. Hubert reluctantly left his loneliness behind to connect with his community and past friends. What have you reluctantly done that resulted in an unexpected joy?

8. Joyce stood up against racism to be with Hubert even though things in her life may have been easier without Hubert in it. What does that tell you about who Joyce is as a person and her values in life?

9. Hubert has a difficult relationship with his son. What caused David to turn to drugs and could Hubert have handled the situation differently? If yes, how?

10. Life is filled with joy, but also sadness. Discuss times when you felt like giving up, but your friends and family helped you find your joy again.

11. Hubert crafts an exciting lifestyle for himself in a notebook instead of going out and living it. Discuss why he does this even though he knows that it’s not his daughter on the phone that he’s telling these stories to.

12. To Hubert, his family was everything and he was willing to do anything for them. What does family mean to you?

13. If you could start a movement in your community, what would it be? And why?





Moments before Hubert met Ashleigh for the first time, he had been settled in his favorite armchair, Puss curled up on his lap, waiting for Rose to call. When the doorbell rang he gave a tut of annoyance, wagering it was one of those damn courier people who were always trying to make him take in parcels for his neighbors.

“Would you mind accepting this for number sixty-three?” they would ask.

“Yes, me mind a great deal!” he would snap. “Now clear off!” And then he would slam the door shut in their faces.

As he shifted Puss from his lap and stood up to answer the door, Hubert muttered angrily to himself.

“Parcels, parcels, parcels! All day, every day, for people who are never in to receive the damn things! If people want them things so much why them no just buy it from the shops like everybody else?”

With words of scathing condemnation loaded and ready to fire, Hubert unlocked the front door and flung it open only to discover that the person before him wasn’t anything like he’d been expecting.

Instead of a uniformed parcel courier, there stood a young woman with short dyed-blond hair. In a nod toward the recent spell of unseasonably warm April weather, she was wearing a pink tank top, cut-off jeans, and pink flip-flops. Holding her hand was a small child, a girl, with blond hair, also wearing a pink top, shorts, and pink flip-flops.

The young woman smiled.

“Hi, there. I’m not disturbing you, am I?”

Hubert said nothing but made a mental note that should he need to contact the police, he could tell them that the woman spoke with a funny accent. To his untrained ear it sounded Welsh or possibly Irish, though he couldn’t be entirely sure it was either.

She held up her hand as if in surrender.

“It’s okay. I’m not trying to sell you anything or nothing. I just came round to say hello, really. We’ve just moved in next door.”

She pointed in the direction of the block of low-rise flats adjacent to Hubert’s property.

“We’re new to the area and don’t know a single soul. Anyway, this morning I was saying to myself, ‘Ash, you’re never going to get to know anyone around here unless, you know, you start talking to people.’ So I called round to see the couple in the flat below, but I think they must be out at work. Then I tried the family across the hallway, but they didn’t open the door, even though I could hear the TV blaring away. So then I tried all the other flats and got nothing—all out or busy, I suppose—so I got Layla ready and took her to try the mother and toddler group at the library, but it’s just closed due to funding problems apparently, so…”

She paused, looking at him expectantly, perhaps hoping for a smile or a nod of comprehension, but Hubert remained impassive.

The young woman cleared her throat self-consciously but then continued.

“My name’s Ash, well, it’s Ashleigh, really, but everyone calls me Ash. And this little madam here”—she glanced down at the small child—“is my daughter, Layla.”

The little girl covered her eyes with both hands but peeked up at Hubert through the cracks between her fingers.

“Layla,” said Ash, her voice warm with encouragement, “say hello to our lovely new neighbor, Mr.…”

Ashleigh looked at him expectantly but Hubert continued to say nothing.

“I think she’s a bit shy,” said Ash, returning her attention to Layla. “You won’t believe it to look at me but I used to be dead shy too when I was a kid. Wouldn’t say boo to a goose, me. My mam was always saying, ‘Ashleigh Jones, you won’t get far in life being shy now, will you?’ and my nan would be like, ‘Oh, leave the poor child alone, Jen, you’ll give her a complex.’ Then Mam would say, ‘I just don’t want her to get set in her ways, like,’ and then Nan would say, ‘She’s only a babby, she’s too young to get set in her ways.’ Then Mam would roll her eyes like this…”

Ashleigh paused to illustrate. She did it so well that for a moment Hubert thought her pupils might have disappeared for good.

“… and say, ‘Like she isn’t set in her ways… she already hates vegetables,’ and then Nan would shrug and say nothing. The thing is, though, Mam was right. I hated vegetables then and I can’t stand them now. Hate the things.”

She smiled hopefully at Hubert.

“I’m going on, aren’t I? I do that. I think it’s nerves. In new situations I just start talking and I can’t stop. Anyway, I suppose what I’m trying to say is that it’s nice to be neighborly, isn’t it? And this… well, this is me being exactly that.”

She thrust out a hand for him to shake and Hubert noted that her nails were painted in bright glittery purple nail polish that was chipped at the edges. Then from inside the house Hubert heard his phone ringing.

“Me got to go,” he said urgently, and without waiting for her response, he shut the door and hurried back to his front sitting room to answer the call.


“Yes, it’s me, Dad. Are you okay? You sound a bit out of breath.”

Breathing a sigh of relief, he settled back down in his chair.

“Me fine. Just someone at the door, that’s all. But you know me, me dealt with them quickly. No one comes between me and my daughter! So tell me, Professor Bird, what have you been up to this week? And don’t leave anything out, me want to hear it all!”

It had been almost twenty years since Hubert’s daughter, Rose, had relocated to Australia, and rarely a day went by when he didn’t wish that she lived closer. He’d never say this to her, of course; the last thing he wanted was to prevent her from living her dreams. But there were moments, usually when he least expected, when he felt her absence so intensely he could barely draw breath.

Still, she was a good girl, calling every week without fail, and while it wasn’t the same as having her with him, it was the next best thing. Anyway, international calls had moved on from when Hubert used to ring his mother back home in Jamaica. Gone were the days of hissing static, crossed lines, and eye-watering phone bills. With today’s modern technology, the cost was minimal and the lines so crystal clear it was almost like being in the same room.

Without need for further prompting, Rose told him about the faculty meetings she’d chaired, the conferences in faraway places she’d agreed to speak at, and the fancy meals out she’d enjoyed with friends. Hubert always loved hearing about the exciting and glamorous things she’d been up to. It made him profoundly happy to know that she was living such a full and contented life.

After a short while, Rose drew her news to a close.

“Right then, that’s more than enough about me. How about you, Pops? What have you been up to?”

Hubert chuckled.

“Now tell me, girl, why does a fancy, la-di-da academic like you want to know what a boring old man like me has been doing with his days? You a glutton for punishment?”

Rose heaved a heavy but good-natured sigh.

“Honestly, Dad, you’re like a broken record! Every single time I call, you say: ‘Why you want to know what me up to?’ and I say, ‘Because I’m interested in your life, Dad,’ and you say something like, ‘Well, on Tuesday me climbed Mount Everest, and on Wednesday me tap-danced with that nice lady from Strictly,’ and then I say, ‘Really, Dad?’ and then finally you laugh that big laugh of yours and tell me the truth. It’s so frustrating! For once, can you please just tell me what you’ve been up to without making a whole song and dance about it?”

Hubert chuckled again. His daughter’s impression of him had been note perfect, managing to replicate both the richness of his voice and the intricacies of the diction of a Jamaican man who has called England his home for the past sixty years.

“Me not sure me like your tone, young lady,” he scolded playfully.

“Good,” retorted Rose. “You’re not meant to. And if you don’t want to hear more of it, you’ll stop teasing me and tell me what you’ve really been up to this week!”

“Me was only having a little fun, Rose, you know that,” relented Hubert. “But me consider meself told off, okay? So, what have I been up to?”

He slipped on his reading glasses and reached for the open notepad on the table next to him.

“Well, on Tuesday me take a trip out to the garden center, the big one on Oakley Road, you know it? Me buy a few bedding plants for the front garden—make the most of this mild spring we’re having—and then me stayed on there for lunch.”

“Sounds lovely. Did Dotty, Dennis, and Harvey go too?”

“Of course! We had a whale of a time. Dotty was teasing Dennis about him gardening skills, Dennis was play-fighting with Harvey in the bedding plants section, and all the while me trying to keep that rowdy bunch in line!”

Rose laughed.

“Sounds like a good time. I wish I’d been there. How’s Dotty’s sciatica, by the way? Still playing her up?”

Hubert referred to his notepad again.

“Oh, you know how these things are when you’re old. They come and they go.”

“Poor Dotty. Give her my love, won’t you? And how about Dennis’s great-grandson? How did he get on with his trials for… who was it again?”

Once again Hubert referred to his notepad, only this time he couldn’t see the entry he was looking for.

“Me think… me think it was Watford,” he said, panicking.

“Are you sure? I would’ve remembered if you’d said Watford because that’s where Robin’s mother’s family are from. No, last time we spoke you definitely said… West Ham—that’s it! You said it was West Ham.”

Hubert frantically flicked through his notebook and sure enough, there were the words “WEST HAM” underlined next to “Dennis’s great-grandson.”

“Actually you might be right about that,” he said eventually. “But really, Watford or West Ham, what does it matter? Him not my great-grandson!”

Rose chuckled heartily, clearly amused by her father’s charming indifference to details.

“No, Pops, I suppose he isn’t. But how did he get on anyway?”

“Do you know what?” said Hubert abruptly. “Me didn’t ask Dennis and him didn’t bring it up.”

“Oh, Dad,” chided Rose, “what are you like? You really should take an interest in your friends, you know. They’re good for your health. I came across a very interesting study the other day that said people with a small group of good friends are more likely to live longer.”

“Well, with friends like Dotty, Dennis, and Harvey, even if me don’t live for eternity it will certainly feel like it!” Hubert laughed and then cleared his throat. “Now, darling, that’s more than enough about me. Tell me more about this conference you’re going to in Mexico. You’re giving a big speech, you say?”

They talked for a good while longer, covering not just her trip to Mexico but also the new book proposal she was working on and the plans she had to finally landscape the garden so that she could make the most of her pool. Hubert relished every last detail she shared with him and could have listened to her talk all day. And so, as always, it was with a heavy heart that he realized their time was coming to an end.

“Right then, Pops, I’d better be going. I’ve got to be up early in the morning as I’m picking up a visiting professor flying in from Canada. What are your plans for the rest of the week?”

“Oh, you know. This and that.”

“Now come on, Pops, remember what we agreed? No messing about. Just tell me what you’re up to.”

Hubert flicked to the most recent page of his notebook.

“Well, tomorrow night Dotty wants to try bingo down at the new place that’s just opened up in town. Saturday, Dennis and me have talked about going to a country pub for lunch. Sunday, Harvey is having everyone round for a big roast. And Monday me having the day to meself to work on the garden. As for the rest of the week, me have no idea, but me sure Dotty’s cooking up some plans.”

“That certainly sounds like a packed schedule!” said Rose. “I don’t know how you do it.”

“Neither do I, darling. Neither do I. Anyway, you take care, me speak to you soon.”

Ending the call, Hubert sat for a moment contemplating his conversation with Rose. He’d nearly put his foot in it once or twice. He really was going to either have a brain transplant or at the very least get himself a better system for making notes. Picking up the pen from the table beside him, he wrote down “MAKE BETTER NOTES” in his pad, then tossed it to one side with such force that Puss, who had curled up in his lap again, woke up and stared at him accusingly.

“Don’t start with me,” said Hubert, trying to avoid her gaze.

Puss continued to stare.

“You know it’s not like me enjoy doing this.”

Still Puss stared.

“It’s not like me got a choice in the matter, is it?”

Puss gave Hubert one last disdainful glower before jumping down to the floor and stalking out of the room as if to say she didn’t tolerate liars. Because the truth was Hubert Bird was a liar. And a practiced one at that. Not a single word he’d said to his daughter was true. It was lies, all lies. And he felt absolutely wretched about it.


A Conversation with Mike Gayle


Your parents’ immigrant story is the foundation of Hubert’s story. What can you share with us about your parents’ story?

Unlike Hubert who arrived by boat from The West Indies in the late 1950s, my parents arrived a decade later by plane. Both Hubert’s and my parents’ generation came to the UK having been invited to do so by the government to help meet the labor shortage in the post-war years. Instead of being welcomed however, they were met with racism and prejudice at every turn, some of it overt, some of it more subtle, but all of it a shocking reality check. The mother country that they had been taught about at school turned out not to be a very loving parent.

What made you want to write a story about a lonely person?

As Rose says in the book, “loneliness is an epidemic,” and I wanted to look at this phenomenon through a single character. One of the questions I was curious about was how do lonely people become lonely people? Are they born or are they made? As we look across Hubert’s life we see him leave his family in Jamaica, move countries, meet Joyce, start a new family and then gradually, one by one, he loses his new family and his life empties out. There’s nothing unusual about Hubert’s story in a way, yet at the same time it’s completely and utterly heartbreaking–the inherent tragedy of being a human being. So I suppose one of the central questions of the book is do you resign yourself to the fact that one day your life might be empty life or try to fill it up with new friends and “family?”

What does having a community of friends and family mean to you?

I think family and community is all about meeting that fundamental human need of belonging. On a family level it’s about looking after the needs and concerns of your household and also spending time with each other. On a community level I think it’s about having that wider connection outside the household whether it’s based on location, belief, or commonality. It’s about looking out for one another and caring about what happens to other people.

The discussion of race in today’s world is so important. What has changed since the time your parents immigrated from Jamaica and what progress still needs to be made?

There’s no doubting that things have definitely improved, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect. My mum used to talk about how when she first came to the country people would sometimes cross the road to avoid her. The fact that that kind of blatant racism is now no longer socially acceptable doesn’t mean that racism no longer exists. Often it goes underground, becomes more subtle–more insidious. We need more diversity in power. My children need to see people who look like them in every single walk of life from the very top all the way down, they need to feel that they aren’t going to be judged by the color of their skin or the way that they speak.

You wrote a beautiful cast of characters, each with a very distinct personality. Where do you draw inspiration from to help you breathe life into each character and make them jump off the page?

I’ve always been a bit of a people watcher. I love nothing more than spending a few hours in a café pretending to work but actually observing what’s going on around me and there are always so many characters to choose from! Loud people, quiet people, people who like to tell jokes, and people who are a little more reserved. That’s one of the wonderful things about human beings–we’re so diverse! Also I often read my work aloud as I’m writing, particularly with dialogue. That way I can check that it sounds natural, the way a real person might speak.

Is there a character you identify with the most in All the Lonely People? Why?

I think it’s got to be Hubert. He reminds me partly of my father but also the elderly version of myself I fear awaits me in the future. I like the fact that even though he’s in his eighties Hubert is stylish and still takes pride in his appearance. Both my parents are very similar in this regard and so, I fear, am I!

What do you hope your readers will take away from reading All the Lonely People?

Primarily that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they put their minds to it. I think all too often it’s easy to feel powerless or to assume that the only change that can come about is from the top down. What All The Lonely People shows is that when we come together with a common cause, we can make a difference. I also love the idea of having a grand ambition. I think it’s good to have unrealistic targets, to, in effect, shoot for the moon. Too often we limit ourselves to what we believe is possible, which has the potential to blind us to the real possibilities before us.

Was there any research you did to make sure the flashback chapters were historically accurate?

I did a great deal of research and there are some wonderful resources out there. YouTube has some wonderful old Pathe newsreels from the period which helped me get a picture in my head of both the West Indies and the UK in the 1950s and beyond. Other resources that were helpful were:

  • Mother Country – Real Stories of The Windrush Children edited by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff (Headline)
  • Back In Time For Brixton (BBC 2)
  • Black Nurses: The Women Who Saved The NHS (BBC 4)

You wrote several books before All the Lonely People. Does your writing process change from book to book?

Absolutely. Although I wouldn’t say it changes so much as adapts! All The Lonely People is actually my seventeenth book and each book I write is a learning process. I’d like to say that it gets easier but I’d be lying! I treat each story I write as a fresh challenge. I hate the idea of just churning out the same thing book after book. My readers deserve more than this and I’d be bored to tears!

When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer?

I’ve always loved books right back to when I was very small and trips to the library were the highlight of my week. On one of those visits I remember picking up a book called Just William by Richmal Crompton. It was about a schoolboy called William who constantly found himself in all sorts of scrapes through “no fault” of his own. I enjoyed it so much that the very first thing I did after reading the last page was to borrow my dad’s old typewriter and attempt to write my own version called, “Just Michael!”

When you’re not writing, what are your favorite hobbies or things to do?

After a morning spent writing I like to do anything that involves not staring at a screen! Usually the first thing I’ll do is get outside and take my dog for a walk. He’s a rescue greyhound and loves being outside and so whether it’s sunny, rainy, or snowing he makes me take him out. Normally I’ll wear my headphones and listen to an audiobook or sometimes I’ll leave the headphones at home and instead listen to my thoughts! Other than that I enjoy reading (I usually have at least two or three books going on at once), going to the gym (mostly because it’s a great place to listen to audiobooks or catch up on podcasts and still get fit!), and watching good drama on TV (recent favorites have included The Good Fight, Ozark, and Line of Duty).

What’s one thing you want all your readers to know about you?

That I love being a writer and I care about what I do. Each book I write is a labor of love and takes a lot of time, blood, sweat, and tears and I’m happy to do that because I really believe in the power of a good story. There’s nothing better than being fully immersed in a good book and meeting fantastic characters you care about and for whom you want nothing more than the happy ending that’s due to them.


Understanding History to Write a Modern-Day Novel


It used to be the case that whenever anyone asked me about the research I’d undertaken during the course of writing one of my novels I’d say something debonair like, ”My life is my research!” I’d raise an eyebrow as if to make it clear what an incredibly interesting person I was, constantly having adventures and living life to the fullest. The truth of the matter however is that I’m actually quite boring really, and even worse I prefer it that way. I like my drama to exist only inside the pages of the books I write. Real life drama isn’t my thing, at least if I can help it.

I’m telling you this as a preamble to what I’m going to say over the next few pages which in short is this: All the Lonely People took a lot of research. When I first came up with the idea for this story one of the things I knew I wanted to explore was a long life lived from beginning to end. In the past I’ve tended to write stories about particular key moments in a character’s life: the weekend of a particularly tricky birthday, the months following the reintroduction of two old school friends after a long absence, two siblings coming together having spent a lifetime apart. But in All the Lonely People I wanted to examine a character’s story from beginning to end as a way of thinking about how people become lonely.

To start with I had an image in my mind of a home. At first that home only has one person in it, then that person falls in love with another and there are now two. From the love of those two people comes another person, and yet another, until finally there are four people in a house where once there was one. But the story doesn’t stop there no matter how much we’d like it to and so for Hubert (because of course it is Hubert I’m talking about) the home gradually begins to empty. First Rose leaves to go to university, then David follows to live his life, and then finally (and, most heartbreakingly of all) Joyce leaves too until there is only Hubert left.

I knew this was the story I wanted to tell, the story of how someone’s life fills and then empties again. But to tell that story would require me to dig deeper than I ever had before, to push myself far outside my comfort zone. I’d never written an historical novel before. The farthest I’d ever gone back to was the Seventies, the decade in which I was born. To write this story I was going to have to travel back twenty years before my birth to a time I had no direct experience of. In short, I was going to have to do some research.

My first port of call was my parents. That said getting any relevant information out of them wasn’t the easiest of tasks. They were consistently vague about all manner of questions and it was quite hard to pin them down. They were good at the early days, telling me wonderful stories of life in Jamaica, but they seemed to falter when it came to talking about life in England. At first I wondered whether it was a memory thing, after all they’re both in their eighties now but having spoken to friends whose parents are of the same age as mine and also immigrants, I’m beginning to think that something else might be at play. I get the feeling that this haziness is simply down to the fact that from the moment they arrived they were so busy working, struggling to make ends meet, make a life and survive in a strange and often hostile country that much of those early days is just a blur to them.

Thankfully, however there were plenty of other rich resources available. Mother Country (Edited by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff and published in the UK by Headline) was particularly helpful. Subtitled, ”Real Stories of the Windrush Children”, it’s a wonderful collection of first person stories told by the children and grandchildren of those that came from the Caribbean to England in the 40s, 50s and 60s in answer to the call to help with England’s post-war labor shortfall. Other useful references for me were novels covering the period of Hubert’s arrival in the country. Particularly helpful was The Lonely Londoners by Trinidadian author Sam Selvon (1956) telling of the experiences of Moses Aloetta in post-war London and Andrea Levy’s Orange Prize winning tale, Small Island, offering as it does a fascinating insight into the lives of people like Hubert.

If my children had informed me they were watching YouTube videos for ”research” before I started writing All the Lonely People I would’ve been highly sceptical but it turns out that the online platform is another superb resource for research. Where else would I have been able to find footage from the fifties of rural Jamaica, a blue beat dance and newsreels about the Empire Windrush, the ship which carried the first Caribbean arrivals  to “the mother country” ? Pathé newsreels entitled, The Jamaica Problem and No Colour Bar Dance are particularly eye opening about the blatant racism faced by the newly arrived West Indians. The films are at once hilarious and depressing which is no mean feat, take a look and you’ll see what I mean.

The four-part documentary series Windrush, produced and directed by David Upshal and originally broadcast on BBC2 in 1998 to mark the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush, is essential viewing. Its scale and depth greatly informed the creation of Hubert and his environment and I urge you to track it down and watch it. It really is worth your time.

While the majority of my research shocked, saddened and angered me, there was a lot that put a smile on my face too. Listening to the Windrush generation talk directly about their experiences in their own words, I couldn’t help but notice how, despite all the difficulties they faced, they never seemed to let things get them down, they always found a way to keep going. And it was this spirit, more than anything that I wanted to capture in Hubert Hezekiah Bird. I wanted to create a character who, though he faces sorrow, pain and problems, finds a way through it all and ultimately leaves the world a better place than he found it.