Ponders End pastor-turned-playwright named in New Years Honours

Reverend Jason Young awarded British Empire Medal for his creative work, reports Fran Di Fazio

Reverend Jason Young (left) at Millfield Theatre for one of his filmmaking projects
Reverend Jason Young (left) at Millfield Theatre for one of his filmmaking projects, alongside camerman Damien Swaby and actor Richard Ward (credit Chris Scott)

A church pastor who also works as an acclaimed playwright and director has received a British Empire Medal in the King’s New Years Honours for his creative work in the pandemic.

Reverend Jason Young, a pastor at Gospel Temple Apostolic Church in Ponders End, is well known in the borough for his charity fundraising work and, more recently, for his writing and directing of films and stage plays about notable figures from Caribbean colonial history.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, he has written and directed a short stage play about 19th Century Jamaican writer and abolitionist Robert Wedderburn. Because of the second lockdown the play couldn’t be performed at Millfield Theatre for Black History Month 2020 but was instead filmed and uploaded online.

Jason said: “I want to thank my crew and cast members for their kindness and co-operation which has made this award possible. Without them my writing would never have been realised into a project that I could direct and bring to the public.”

The pastor added: “Films have a way of aiding people’s understanding of the sensitive issues surrounding the historical journeys of Caribbean people arriving in the UK.”

To raise awareness about the historical and contemporary black British experience, Jason has held scriptwriting workshops since 2006. Back then, he was the president of Battersea Arts Centre’s writers’ group.

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He explained: “I wanted my audience to empathise with characters like [writer and abolitionist] Mary Prince, [British First World War hero] Walter Tull and [virtuoso violinist] George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower.

“I wanted them to walk in their shoes while reading the characters of the script and imagining living in that world.”

Jason has worked to bring Caribbean stories and perspectives into the period drama genre. He hopes that the British Empire Medal award will help him get funding from major producers such as popular broadcasters and streaming platforms.

He returned again to the story of Robert Wedderburn in his 2021 short docu-drama The Radical Preacher. The aim was “to explore the identity of Caribbean people in Jane Austen’s England, as this is a narrative that is alienated from British period dramas”.

In 2022, Jason wrote and directed the short period drama Liberty or Death, about Jamaican Baptist deacon and abolitionist Samuel Sharpe. He made sure to raise awareness about the themes underlying the project, mainly the legacy of the slave trade, among the crew.

Jason says: “Once your cast and crew members have learned about the issues involved, then you can engage your second audience – the public – with a film that tells British history from a Caribbean or black perspective.”

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