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Caryl Phillips

Award winning novelist, writer and playwright, Caryl Phillips was born in the West Indies but grew up in northern England after his parents emigrated to the UK when he was just three months old.

Now residing between London and New York City, the question of where 'home' is for Phillips, a central factor in his writing, has built him a reputation over the last 20 years as one of Britain's most original and articulate novelists.

As a result, his work has brought him international recognition and awards including the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize, a Booker Prize nomination in 1993 and the Sunday Times Writer of the Year in 1992.

In exploring the concept of 'where we belong', Phillips is a continual traveller. In this South Bank Show, we follow him back to St. Kitts, the island of his birth and inspiration for much of his writing and to Leeds, the city where he was brought up in the '60's and '70's.

As the only black child growing up in a white community, Phillips was faced with many cultural problems that other children were possibly not aware of at that time.

Says Phillips: 'I knew I couldn't afford to stumble through my life. I became very mentally tough, very determined and very focused. I never allowed myself to hide behind the restrictive door of race'.

Phillips' sheer hard work and tenacity secured him a place at Oxford University where he read English, setting him firmly on the road to becoming the highly successful writer he is today.

He talks to Melvyn Bragg about the prejudices he has had to overcome in his life, his determination to become a writer, his passion for Leeds United Football Club and why in his new novel, A Distant Shore, he has decided to turn his attention to the social problems of contemporary Britain.

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