Lenny Henry's 'Three Little Birds' Is a Story of the Windrush Generation

Saffron Coomber as Chantrelle flirts with a sailor in Three Little Birds

Saffron Coomber as Chantrelle in Three Little Birds


ITV has released the first trailer for its forthcoming drama Three Little Birds, a 1950s set period project that hails from Sir Lenny Henry, who based the series on the stories of his mother and those like her who traveled to the U.K. as part of the Windrush generation. Workshopped with the help of Doctor Who's Russell T. Davies, the series is described as a "triumphant celebration of immigration, community, and the strength of Black womanhood." 

A segment of British history that doesn't get explored in popular media as often as it probably should, the Windrush generation refers to people from the Caribbean who traveled to and settled in the U.K. from 1945 to 1971. In 1948, the British Nationality Act gave people from colonies the right to live and work in Britain, and workers were needed to help counteract post-World War II labor shortages. Many of those who arrived became manual workers, drivers, cleaners, and nurses in the newly-established NHS. 

The name comes from the name of the ship many of them traveled on in 1948, the HMT Empire Windrush, which reportedly carried over a thousand passengers, many of whom came from Jamaica, although others hailed from Trinidad, St Lucia, Grenada, and Barbados. Three Little Birds stars Rochelle Neil (Guilt), Saffron Coomber (Small Axe), and Yazmin Belo (What Just Happened) in the central roles of Leah, Chantrelle, and Hosanna, who travel from Jamaica to England in search of a new life.

Here’s the series’ description. 

Set in 1957, post-Windrush, and amidst the booming decade set alight by promise, the rhythm of rock and roll, swing, Hollywood starlets and fabulous fashion Three Little Birds will introduce Dudley and the rest of the world to gregarious sisters Leah and Chantrelle and their virtuous, bible-loving acquaintance, Hosanna, as they board a cruise ship from Jamaica bound for a new life in Blighty.

Lured to the UK in search of new beginnings and by their older brother Aston, who asks Leah and Chantrelle if they’ll bring him a potential wife from back home, they convince Hosanna to give up her job as a trainee nurse and embark upon the journey to ‘the mother country. An effervescent mix of strong personalities they all have very different reasons for leaving their family and friends behind in Clarendon, Jamaica, though they soon discover it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, not least the dramatic change in weather. While we learn shocking truths about the lives they left behind the voyage of discovery is not smooth sailing for our trio, but they are determined to succeed and overcome the many obstacles of integration and build a new life in Britain.

Three Little Birds also stars Bobby Gordon (Hollyoaks) as the sisters’ new factory-worker colleague Shelton, and Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who) and Beth Hayes (Mr Selfridge) as Chantrelle’s employers Mr and Mrs Wantage.

Henry wrote all six scripts assistance from Davies. Directors Charles McDougall (Queer as Folk), Yero Timi Biu (Chloe), and Darcia Martin (Call The Midwife) each helm two episodes. Henry and Davies are also executive producers on the series, along with McDougall, Lucy Bedford, Kate Crowe, and Angela Ferreira.

Three Little Birds will premiere on ITV in the U.K. on Sunday, October 22, 2023, and stream on ITVX before coming to the U.S. via BritBox in 2024. 

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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