Like father, like son: We’ve only just begun!
Mark and Joshua Grey reflect on their years in the creative arts
For more than 35 years, Mark Grey has built a solid foundation in the creative arts. A multi-award-winning producer and writer for both stage and screen, Mark’s passion for the arts is as strong as ever and much of his success he attributes to his upbringing by two hard-working Jamaican parents.
“My late parents – Wilford and Carmel Grey – were among the Windrush Generation which set sail from Jamaica to England in search of a better life for their family,” Mark begins. “My mother came first (around 1948) while my father, who had left Jamaica to do farm work in America in 1943, joined her a year later in 1949.”
Mark vividly recalls the account his parents gave him of how they first met.
“My father, affectionately known as Fred, was from Hanover, but during his childhood he grew up in Portland, as his father (my grandfather) had moved there for work. Then some years later, my father – then a young man – was employed by a foreman and during that time he took a shine to the foreman’s daughter – my mother – and the rest, as they say, is history,” he shared with The Sunday Gleaner.
Soon after Fred joined his beloved Carmel in England, Mark, the last of seven siblings, was born in East Dulwich, southeast London. After an application to their school of choice for Mark fell through, they decided to return to Jamaica where Mark was offered a place at West Indies College in Mandeville (now Northern Caribbean University) at age 13.
“At the time, I remember not wanting to go to Jamaica because I was born and settled in the UK, but as I look back now I can see that it was the best decision my parents ever made for me,” Mark said.
It was there that Mark’s passion for writing and storytelling first developed.
“Enamoured by the beauty, sounds and culture to be found all around me in Jamaica, I captured and wrote it all down in exercise books I kept to hand. My creativity and undying passion for writing and storytelling began right there and is something which has continued to the present day,” he noted.
AN ILLUSTRIOUS CAREER
After graduating from West Indies College, Mark then returned to London where he formed the Agape Theatre Company in 1985, followed by the Carmel Greystone Film Company (named after his late mother) in 2000. During his 35-year career he has produced 15 stage plays and six films, collecting numerous awards and nominations along the way.
“Often my work focuses on the complexities of human relationships and brings in elements related to faith and the challenges these pose based on our personal beliefs and behaviour,” said Mark. “It is these aspects with which I am most fascinated that I try to bring across in my writing for both the stage and screen with the hope that audiences take from it something positive to reflect on in light of their own life experiences.”
His highly acclaimed stage play, End the Silence, has attracted sell-out crowds every time with the likes of a certain Jamaican high commissioner by the name of H.E. Seth George Ramocan among those in the front row.
Mark recalled, “It was at the Omnibus Theatre that the high commissioner and his wife Dr Lola Ramocan attended the show and they were both very complimentary of our stage production, so much so that we were commissioned to take it to the Oval Theatre for a charity chaired by Mrs Ramocan. To see them both sitting in the front, hanging on every word was the epitome of what true theatre is about – telling stories which influence and take audiences on an emotional journey which changes lives.”
ENTERS THE SON
Following hot on the heels of Mark is his very own son, Joshua, who, though has his sights set on a career in journalism, having graduated with a degree in multimedia journalism from Bournemouth University in 2018, has, like his father, also developed a passion for writing and the creative arts.
“I started writing poems and short stories at primary school,” noted the 23-year-old, who then added, “but in recent years I’ve become more interested in scriptwriting because I like telling stories, and having grown up in an environment where I was encouraged to read by my parents, I suppose that did have some influence and I continue to enjoy that today.”
Mark even recalled how amazed teachers were at the quality of his son’s writing though tender in years.
“My son was a published author before he was 12 and still in primary school. He’s had work published in five poetry anthologies and numerous articles in My News. Both his mother (Elleni) and I are proud of him. I can recall on one occasion the teacher needing to verify that one of the poems he wrote was actually his because in her eyes it was such an amazing piece of work to have been produced by one so young,” the proud father beamed.
As well as writing, Joshua has also acted in several of his father’s stage plays, even making an appearance in his latest feature length film 3 Women – a character-driven drama which examines the lives of three disparate women who battle domestic violence, the glass ceiling and street gang culture as they strive to gain respect from their peers, family and employers in urban London – currently available on Amazon Prime.
With 35 years behind him in the creative arts and having celebrated his 60th birthday on June 7 with a family meal in a top-notch restaurant paid for by his son, Mark, who also studied writing for stage and screen with Screenwise International as well as having completed Total Filmmaking workshops with the LA Film School, has no imminent plans to stop. In fact, he has only just begun.
“As well as a music video in the pipeline, I’ll also be producing a stage play in October called Celebration to Scandal based on the unfair treatment of members from the Windrush Generation in the UK. It’s a subject close to my heart because my late parents who decided to live their remaining years in Jamaica could have easily been caught up in the hostile environment policy which sought to send those who had lived and tirelessly worked all their lives in the UK to Jamaica in an inhumane stance on immigration,” he said.