Surya Turner, born in East London in 1969 of Antiguan parents, left to live with her grandparents in Antigua when she was about 18 months old. She returned to live with her parents in East London at the age of 6.
When Surya returned to London she found the contrast between the estate in Canning Town and the beautiful island of Antigua quite shocking. Dead dogs in the street were a common occurrence and the walls were daubed with NF.* Her mother worked as a machinist and her father in Ford Dagenham. Surya sang in the choir in the nearby Anglican church and attended Star Lane Primary School. Here one teacher took her and other students to the Royal Ballet. This made her realize there was a world outside Canning Town.
The family moved to Custom House, a new housing estate of mainly white working class families. She went to Rosetta Primary School where she was chosen to go and stay with a family for a month in Holland, another event that took her out of Canning Town. Later she attended Woodside Community School where she developed a love of literature. There were low expectations of what pupils could achieve and students were only able to take a maximum of 5 academic GCSEs. Surya had to forge a letter from her mother so that the school would allow her to take English Literature rather than secretarial skills.
She stayed on at school and got very good A levels and was the first person in her school to go to university. She passed the Oxford entrance exam but felt out of place at the interview so went to Bristol University instead which she enjoyed.
Surya has worked as a storyteller, leadership facilitator, coach and is an ordinand Buddhist, teaching at the London Buddhist Centre. She has returned to live in East London and loves it.
- National Front is a British whites only, far-right political party opposed to non-white immigration and committed to a programme of repatriation. It was very active in East London in the 1970s.