The Lenny Henry Enlightenment?

Lenny Henry

A friend of mine shared this with me a few days ago. Seconds after reading the synopsis, I had my reservations. I huffed and puffed at the thought of this being yet another much to do about nothing – a tick box initiative which allows for us to think we’ve solved a problem with all talk and no action. This morning, in an attempt to be diplomatic (and perhaps prove my instincts right), I decided to give it 5 minutes. Upon hearing Lenny say: “I hope that things will now change, and that I don’t have to come back and repeat myself in another 5 or 6 years time…” (he was quoting himself – these were the words he spoke in a similar lecture…over 5 years ago, btw) I was hooked.

Congratulations to Lenny for presenting a remarkable lecture, jam packed with thought-provoking philosophies and candid statistics. Praise to his efforts in raising awareness re the noticeably fading rainbow many UK TV and film companies have so aimlessly followed. I look forward to reading his proposal and would like to think its a step forward in brining about solutions.

I agreed with many of his points re the lack of diversity on screen and its implications on UK representation and production quality… I did however, wonder if this lecture would attribute to more problems before it moves us towards solutions (at a snail pace)???

In 2010 I joined the BBC Young Writers Programme. I was one of the writers responsible for Eastenders: E20 (sorry about that). I’ll always be grateful for the experience I had on the programme, but my mind will always be plagued by some of the harsh lessons I came to learn – the agendas, the repetition, the cut-throat environment, etc – all part of a game I didn’t quite want to play. I found that the attempts to have characters represent a people, often perpetuated stereotypes (mostly negative and unstimulating).

It is my great hope, that if Lenny’s proposal is acknowledged, and as a nation, we make strides to address the diversity-deficit, we do it with ‘revolution’ in mind. We consider the process of production from start to finish, and ensure that a cosmopolitan environment is an integral part in the training, educating, writing, commissioning, financing, filming, management, administration, acting, post-production(i.e, promotion) stages, etc. We make sure people are included, not just because they ‘help tick a box’, but because they are hard working, talented people whom just so happen to ‘tick a box’ (these people do exist), that the creation of well-rounded characters takes precedence over fulfilling stereotypes…Shonda Rhymes is one of the many artists achieving this, and at such a high level. I have every faith that more of us can do the same.

Maybe you think I’m ranting, maybe you think I’m onto something. Either way, your thoughts are always welcome.

So while you’re munching that Easter egg, have a watch (try and exercise a little patience with the Q&A session, there are one or two gems in there) and share your comments.

Check out, Lenny Henry Delivers the 2014 BAFTA Television lecture – YouTube. 

Many thanks,
Nadia.

 

PS.  This article by Ian Burrell of The Independent was plastered on my FaceBook wall not long after writing the above (timing)! This is also a worthwhile read. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/lenny-henry-vows-to-lead-campaign-for-greater-diversity-on-british-television-9269646.html

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