From Battersea to Bishopsgate
Will a Guyanese be the first black woman on court of the Bank of England?
By John Mair in London
April 26, 2003
She started immigrant life in Britain in a two-room basement flat in Battersea, South London. No bath. Her Guyanese parents and six children all in it. Daytime sitting rooms became night-time bedrooms. Yet, later this year Yvonne Thompson could make it big in Bishopsgate in the City of London. She may become the first ever black woman on the Court of the Bank of England; the body which guides the Central Bank and sets interest rates. She's had the interview. Just waiting for the result. It is some journey.
She shared that progress with the sixth Diaspora Dialogue at the Guyana High Commission in London last week. Yvonne, a marketing and public relations specialist, is Chair of The European Federation of Black Business Owners and a bit of a mover and shaker in the world of "quangos" - quasi national government organisations. She's on the Small Business Council, the Learning and Skills Exchange and others but as she says: "We (Black Britons) are pushing at an open door with the Labour Government". She is a fully paid up member of the 'Guyanese Mafia' at the heart of public policy in Britain; so far though somewhat of a backroom girl.
Yvonne came to England in 1959 the advance cohort of her family: "I believed the streets were paved with gold. Little did I know they were paved with leaves, rubbish, etc".
Her father a hospital worker at St Thomas in Waterloo, their first home two basement rooms in Battersea. No bath just "washing in a bucket of water out back". Her parents were strict and Guyanese. Both working with their six kids farmed out to a child minder during the day. Eventually, they moved upmarket to a flat in Wandsworth. Still no bath. Today, she lives in Greenwich. In a house with a bath.
Her visits 'home' have not been frequent or regular. In 1987, back with her by then divorced mother which she found "incredibly emotional". So much so that she had insomnia for the first three nights in her mother's land. Another trip back was planned in 2000 but aborted when her mother died.
Yvonne is a livewire. Involved here there and everywhere but not so far in the Guyanese Diaspora. A founder and director of the black London radio station Choice FM, she is what the British call a 'Quango Queen' having also in the recent past served on the Economic and Social Committee of the European Commission. She sees her task to push open those doors to power for her, for black Britons and for black British women in particular. If she makes it to the Bank of England and Bishopsgate, she will have done.