President Obama: Tribute, Reflections and Legacy

Reach Society
Central London
Friday 27th January 2017

President Obama: Tribute, Reflections & Legacy 

How would you best sum up the achievements and legacy of former President Barack Obama? This is what a group of professional Black men set out to do during a two hour discussion in central London. In a way it was a tribute to Barack Obama that this is what the largest gathering yet for a Reach Society discussion in over 5 years of discussions on topics of importance to the Black community. The discussion, led by one of the Reach Society Founders, Mr Rob Neil, took place exactly one week after Obama left office and was the 61st discussion night and the first of 2017. As such, it was an opportune moment to reflect on Barack Obama’s 8 years running America.

Before you read on you might want to think for a moment about the opening question and more specifically, as attendees on the night were asked, consider what one word alone, for you personally, sums up Obama’s 8 year presidency.  I share the responses from the night at the end of this review.

Initial Thoughts before Obama took office

Discussion commenced with collective thoughts about how people were feeling just prior to Obama taking office on 20 January 2009.

A sense of pride, change and hope were common at the time. Pride at having a new President, America’s first African-American president. Delight in change from the presidency of President George Bush II and hope for a change in America’s fortune. People thought back to how America was at the time. The economy was in dire straits. The economy was in recession with every chance of nose diving into depression. The image of America and respect for the President was at a real low due to the perceived ineptitude of Bush, combined with various military interventions in foreign affairs.

First Term: 2009 – 2013

Moving on to discuss first term achievements, 2009-2013, the biggest single achievement cited was the $trillion economic stimulus to the economy. Initially it created a degree of stagnation as Government offices closed down until Congress accepted and passed the bill to permit Obama’s stimulus package. Once it was agreed, the long term effect was successful, for it worked to really stimulate the economy. Basically, the act single-handedly rescued the US economy and saved the US motor industry, not to mention a number of dependent economies around the world including Great Britain.

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010), nicknamed ‘Obamacare’ was also pushed through. This resulted in 20 million of the poorest having affordable healthcare for the first time. It showed for the first time arguably that the US government cared about the health of its poorest citizens.

The rights of homosexuals and lesbians were recognised with legislation passed that legalised same sex marriage. Some saw that as a huge legacy. Others perceived that as a real negative, that went against the grain of an essentially God fearing, Christian nation and all that that means.

It was pointed out that his success was not down to him alone, but a key triumvirate featuring Campaign Adviser, David Axelrod, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and of course President Barack Obama himself at the centre of it all.

Also the selection of notable individuals of colour; Charles Frank Bolden Jr, Head of NASA and the 1st African American; Eric Holder, the 1st African American Attorney General and Justice Sotomayor, the 1st Hispanic/ Latina to serve on US Supreme Court.

Second Term, 2013-2017 and Presidency overall legacy

The symbolism of having a Black President was a frequent theme. There was great pride taken in that achievement, which also smashed the glass ceiling for Black people in a hugely symbolic way. No longer could they or anyone outside of that ethnic group say that Black people could not attain and achieve success in high office. The message of hope in his appointment and the erudite, statesmanlike manner in which he conducted himself was found to be inspirational, effective and powerful.

One of Obama’s most notable achievements was with regard to bringing about significant economic and employment improvements and by doing so stimulated the economy and averted an American economic depression. It’s important to recognise what President Obama inherited and what he achieved after 8 years for the economy and employment, for instance he pared down America’s deficit from 10% in 2009 to 3% by January 2017.

Obama appointed Loretta Lynch to be the 1st African American Women Attorney General and only the second ever African-American to hold the post. The first was her predecessor Eric Holder. She held office from 27 April 2015 – 20 January 2017.

Michelle Obama and her legacy were seen as part of Barack Obama’s too. She left a legacy of increasing access to education for girls and women around the globe. In an age when many girls around the world do not have the same equal access to education that we take for granted in Britain and America, she fervently and passionately highlighted this throughout her two terms as First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS). I recall her visits to Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (EGA) School in particular, as well as visits to Mulberry School for Girls and addressing the Oxford Union as major highlights of her time as FLOTUS. The images of the rapturous reception she received at EGA especially lives long in the memory. Her speech there and at the Oxford Union were memorable and inspiring to those girls and students listening and to those beyond who were able to watch on TV.

Not only that, she represented an idealised what some would say is ordinary black family unity, which to the media might well have appeared extraordinary, but which to many families is completely normal. There was great joy and pride seen in looking at the many 1’000’s of photographs of the couple and their family throughout the 8 years, as if it represented the African-America dream of a married, African-American couple with 2 children. They presented a united front throughout and she embodied the spirit of “behind every great man is a great woman” supporting him. She did that and much more. At a time when the widespread public perception is of the fractured black family unit, countless single mothers out there and an overwhelming image of successful Black men often having non-Black women as partners or wives many found this to be refreshing, something to be extremely proud of. It showed that you didn’t need a white woman to achieve and occupy a certain space in society.

Criticisms

It was stated that there had been some opinions voiced on-line that Obama had done little for Black people. That he had not done enough to curb Police brutality and the out of control gun culture and countless killings. That was shot down by comments stating that this was beyond his power thanks to American’s love affair with guns and the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. Furthermore, no other president had been able to tackle this and why was he expected to just because he was Black? People didn’t ask what had President Clinton, President George Bush 1 and II, Prime Minister’s Tony Blair, David Cameron or Theresa May done for Black people, so it was unfair to ask this of President Obama. More to the point, to paraphrase JFK’s famous phrase, this should be more about “Ask not what has my country done for me, but what have I done for my country?” Phrased here as ”It’s not what has Obama done for me, but what has I done with the opportunity Obama has created for me?” It is not the President’s or Prime Minister’s job to sort out African-American lives. It’s their’s. People need to understand the power and limitations of being a political leader. They can only do so much. People have to help themselves as much as a President or Prime Minister can do their part on a wider, macro level of political intervention.

It was said that he lacked a certain common touch and didn’t highlight loudly enough his achievements in office. I would dispute that as first of all it’s not his job to blow his own trumpet! Secondly, I perceived him to speak to the ordinary issues of the day affecting ordinary and poor citizens of the country. He seemed equally at home entertaining fellow political leaders as meeting ordinary Americans at work. As comfortable on a chat show as on a serious political news programme. He was real. He was unafraid to shed a tear and showed he really cared. Too many times he had to address the nation to speak about a mass killing spree and racial tensions over heating. He did so bravely and eloquently, showing that he wasn’t immune to what was happening, be that as a father, a man, an African-American and President. That was powerful beyond words. Who will forget post Charleston church killings when he spontaneously decided to lead the congregation in singing ‘Amazing Grace?

What was especially impressive, not that many people expected any different, was how his presidency on a personal level and governmental level was scandal free throughout his tenure. You can imagine if there was anything the media and public would have had a field day. He didn’t give them that opportunity.

One word to sum up Obama? For me it was thoughtful. I admired his academic, thoughtful style of speaking, be that in a press conference or TV interview. He knew his every word would be pored over so wasn’t afraid to take his time before pronouncing.

Numerous words from the floor summed up his term of office:

Inspirational. HOPE. Restricted. THOUGHTFUL. Success. EXTRAORDINARY. Compassionate. PERSISTENT. Healthcare. VALUES. Liberal. EMOTIONAL. Passionate. TRI-ABULATIONS (trials & tribulations). Brave. MICHELLE. Mixed. ELEGANT. Standard (raising them). CHANGE.

Most President’s and remember there have only been 45 to date, only have a maximum of two terms in office and generally, if lucky, get to leave one legacy. I believe taking the above into  consideration, President Obama has bequeathed America with quite a few legacy’s – a revived US economy, a record 82 consecutive months of jobs growth and falling unemployment, Obamacare, improved status of the office of President, family values, less interventionist foreign policy, gay rights and smashing the glass ceiling for Black people.

President Barack Obama, we salute you.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

This discussion was chaired and facilitated by Rob Neil. Some of the participants were lucky to get their hands on Ebony Magazine’s President Obama commemorative issue which was published in December 2016.

Reach Society meet once a month and will be holding their 6th annual Career’s Conference on 4th April 2017. The conference aims to inspire young people aged 14+ Over 3,800 have attended the first 5 conferences held.

Links

  1. As Obama Bids Farewell, We all need to say Thank You – Rev Jesse Jackson, The Voice, 8th January 2017
  2. Bye, Bye Barack: The Worst President Ever? – Battle of Ideas 2016 topic
  3. Battle of ideas 2012 Debate – Can Obama Recover to win a Second Term? – 27th October 2012
  4. Obama’s Top 50 Accomplishments – Washington Monthly – March – April 2012
  5. Reach Society Career’s Conference Review – 7th April 2013

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London goes Whoopi for Whoopi Goldberg Live at the London Palladium: Review

Star rating: ***
London Palladium
London W1
Saturday 11th February 2017

Ahead of making her debut stand up comedy performance in England it was understandable that Whoopi Goldberg might have been a little apprehensive about doing so at one of London’s grandest stages, the London Palladium. I’m pretty sure any apprehension would have evaporated within minutes of appearing on stage as she took in a raucously loud and passionate standing ovation. It was certainly one of the most warmly given greetings I’ve ever come across and the first time I’ve known someone to get a standing ovation before they’ve even told their first joke!!

After the audience settled down she rapidly got into her stride, explaining that she was inspired to do this show, the first of two in one night, by her late mother, who passed away when she was performing ‘Sister Act the Musical’ at the London Palladium in August 2010. She said her mum would have wanted her to return to this very stage again and make her proud.

In a show of two halves, the first 30 minutes was taken up with a fine set of stand up comedy. There was topical political material – a little bit of Trump and Brexit as you might expect. Whilst she didn’t go in too hard on her new President, there was a delicious one liner towards the end of the show when the audience were showing her a whole lot of love. “I really hope you do love me you know, as you never know, the way things are going they might not let me back in and I might be on the next flight back to London!”

She thanked the British women and indeed women all over the world who marched in solidarity against President Trump on 21st January 2017, the day after his inauguration ceremony. She felt touched by that show of solidarity and was passing on the thanks of American women – “They sent me to thank you!”

There was plenty of quite near the knuckle humour too. She joked re the effect the ageing process had on her never regions and how she was once the hottest comedian in the world, but now she’s only the hottest woman in the room because of the hot flushes brought on by the menopause!

The second half of the show, well almost an hour so more like 2/3 of the show was taken up with pre-submitted audience questions. This offered Whoopi the opportunity to regale the audience with anecdotes relating to children, being a young mother, young grandmother and Oscar winning actress.

I loved the story of what happened to her after she reacted to a 5 year old boy annoying her on a train journey. There were some weird and funny questions thrown out – e.g. “If you could remake any of your films which would you do?” She struggled to think of one that she would do again. As people shouted out films titles it was a real trip down memory lane as you recalled all her films – ‘The Colour Purple’, ‘Sister Act I, II and III’, ‘Ghost’ etc… An audience member piped in saying they were all perfect and couldn’t be improved on, so she went with that, which was a good call.

Another asked her if she was made into a soup what sort of soup would she be? She delicately sidestepped that one!

All in all this was a very enjoyable night with an African-American legend of stand up comedy and film. She received a standing ovation at the end, making it an astonishing two in one night.  That comedy stalwarts Helen Lederer and Adam Hills were in attendance at the first and second shows respectively was further evidence of Whoopi’s stature in the field of Stand up comedy. Her mum would have been proud. I hope it’s not so long before Whoopi Goldberg returns to perform again in the UK.

Review and Photographs © Tiemo Talk of the Town

Links:

  1. Black-ish is the Nouveau Black – Hit US Sitcom – Black-ish – 23rd January 2017
  2. Are we entering a Brave new World that’s Black and British? – 22nd January 2017

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Valentine’s Comedy Night

Star Rating: ***
Compass Comedy
Compass Theatre
Sunday 12th February 2017
Ickenham, Middlesex

Nothing says I love you more than a pre-Valentine’s comedy night out in Ickenham … said absolutely no one except myself! Maybe that explained the unusually, overwhelmingly male audience. The place was pretty full with approximately 90% men. Maybe the ladies were saving themselves for Tuesday night. This was quite some change from the usual female dominated audiences you find at comedy shows.

It made for an entertaining night as the guys often gave as good as they got in terms of wisecracks, creating a jovial atmosphere all round between compere and audience.
Regular Compere Lewis Bryan was superb at warming up the room between acts. He was witty and excelled at getting humour from most audience members he engaged with. We had quite an interesting cross-section of audience members – tube workers, engineers, jet setting Librarians (Singapore and USA!!), accountants, local thespians and even a metallurgist – not to be confused with a meteorologist as Lewis so obviously did!

Compere Lewis Bryan

Compere Lewis Bryan

I loved it when upon realising there was one American in the audience he asked if it’s true that American’s are over emotional and Julie Holmes from Arizona, USA, shouted right back at him “No We Aren’t” in a loud, overly emotional naturally American voice. A brilliantly funny response that had the place in stitches.

Considering it was the start of Valentine’s week, curiously there seemed to be a distinct lack of love in the air. Certainly there wasn’t much that was lovey-dovey from the hard-edged, blunt speaking opening act Sarah Callaghan. She’s a local comedian from the borough of Hillingdon. She had some funny one liners in her show and admittedly some were a little old as I recall hearing them before , but they struck a chord with the audience. The Grand Canyon routine was a particularly good, original one. I think some more levity, less harshness and a slowing down in her delivery wouldn’t go amiss. The coarseness just seemed somewhat uncalled for, especially from the opening performer.

Sarah Callaghan

Sarah Callaghan

Nathan Willcock  wasn’t the night’s headliner but at around 9”6 (or something nearly as ridiculously tall) his head was almost touching the ceiling of Compass Comedy! His set alas didn’t reach the same heights as his head, but the Nat King Cole and Chris Eubank were very good “visual” gags. That’s quite a USP there and if I were him I’d develop a lot more of those and see how many gags he can get out of that set up. The Brexit material was a fine, topical idea, but until Nathan can work up some funnier routines I think that part of the show should Brexit his set for the time being.

Sam Luttit a, young man with floppy hair read a stream of one liners from his notebook. These needed more work to achieve their aim of being pithy, funny, one liners. This was only his 3rd ever gig so good on him for having a go and I’m sure he can only improve on this if he works hard at it. It takes a lot of time writing material allied to plenty of stage time delivering jokes to develop your comedy craft. I think Lewis’ accidental teasing at the changeover was uncalled for considering Sam’s obvious inexperience.

Irish woman Catherine Bohart was very funny. She was composed, polished and confident. I liked her. She chose to “out” herself early one and did some fine stuff on the topic of sexuality. What made it even more interesting and personal was that it was set against the personal backdrop of her having a Deacon for a father! She even talked about – and this surely has to be a first for a comedy gig – transubstantiation – which I’m sure you of course well know is “the change of substance by which the bread and the wine offered in the sacrifice of the sacrament of the Eucharist during the Mass, become, in reality, the body and blood of Jesus Christ …!”  Jokes as well as religious education at Compass Comedy! Amen to that. It was a Sunday after all.

Headliner Jay Sodagar was a fine closing act. In what was a mix of newer and experienced comedians he shone out as quite a seasoned, well-travelled comedian. He played on some of the stereotypes surrounding his Asian ethnicity to good effect and was well received by the audience.

It’s always nice to come across new talent interspersed with more more experienced acts too.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

The next show in the current season is on Sunday 12th March 2017, 8pm. £5 entry. Details and on-line booking

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Black-ish is the Nouveau Black

Black-ish
TV rating: *****
ABC & E4
Writer & Executive Producer – Kenya Barris
Black-ish is an ABC Television Production

Black-ish is a sitcom based on the upper middle class African-American Johnson family who live in ‘the burbs’. The sit-coms stars Andre ‘Dre’ Johnson (Anthony Anderson) who has a great job, a beautiful wife, Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross), four kids and a colonial home in the ‘burbs.

Black-ish is an original, absolutely brilliant, hilarious and constantly thought provoking sit-com. What sets it apart and lifts it above most other sit-com’s of this genre is its deliberate issues focused story lines. Though I’m a relatively recent convert to the show, so far I’ve already watched a number of superb episodes covering a vast array of serious topics, from church, drugs, men’s health, fatherhood, the right to bear arms (and I mean guns, not the right to wear sleeveless shirts – LoL), the N word and what it is to be Black and middle-class. The latter is the real essence of the show  and where the show gets it’s ‘Black-ish’ title from.

The Johnson’s originate from the hood, but now find themselves living in middle class America, with middle class jobs (Mum is a Hospital Doctor, Dad Dre is a top executive) and with that comes a certain tension between life-long held opinions and their current middle class status. Has success come at the cost of “too much assimilation for this black family?” With a little help from his dad (Laurence Fishburne), Dre is eager to establish a sense of cultural identity for his family that honours their past while embracing the future. This tension underpins most episodes.

The show covers these heavyweight topics in sufficient depth, without losing sight of the fact it’s basically a light entertainment sit-com and with that, the laughs comes thick and fast without in any way diminishing the importance of the topical subject matter. Quite the opposite in fact, for the use of humour actually enhances the issues by shining a spotlight on them under the light touch veil of comedic entertainment.

Black-ish

This show is such a joy to watch, not only for those reasons, but because the family is simply just very nice and loveable, as well as intelligent and caring towards one another. They all seem to generally get along and are seen to be respectful to one another, not just children to parents or between the parents, but their’s respect between the siblings and from the parents to their children, even when they disagree with one another.

It’s so refreshing and uplifting to see parents in such a show treating their children like mature children. You can see they’re being prepared for adulthood and to make their own decisions in life. Dre and Rainbow don’t try to establish their parental authority by force, but through reasoning with their children and talking respectfully to them. As a result they are not treated as children to be patronised and talked down to.

The children are played by Yara Shahidi as Zoey, Marcus Scribner as Andre Jr., Miles Brown as Jack and Marsai Martin as Diane. Laurence Fishburne plays Dre’s father. Ruby Johnson is played by the very familiar face of Jennifer Lewis, star of over 300 TV shows and films. She is a ball of fire, livening up scenes she appears in with her witty repartee especially with Rainbow, with whom there is little love lost!

We also see their extended family – Dre’s mum and dad offering additional support. They visit regularly or stay over, which all helps with running a tidy, organised family home and it’s great to see them being a part of the family and interacting on a daily, regular basis with their grand children.

Black-ish is just like its cast and family. It’s smart, sassy, clever and very, very funny.

The show’s popularity was recognised earlier this month, when on 8th January 2017, Tracee Ellis Ross (daughter of Diana Ross) won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Comedy. The first African-American to do  so for 35 years since Debbie Allen in Fame (1982). black-ish also received nominations in other major categories including Best Actor in a TV Comedy or Musical and Best Television Series – Comedy.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

You can catch Black-ish on ABC in America and via E4 in the UK.

No unauthorised publication or reproduction of any part of this review is permitted without the permission of Tiemo Talk of the Town.

Thank you for reading our review. We hope you enjoyed it and that if you did, will post a comment and/or share it with others who have the same interest in this topic and may also appreciate the chance to read it and comment.

Links:

  1. Are We Entering a Brave New World That’s Black and British? – 22nd January 2017
  2. Black and British – The entire season available on iplayer for a limited period of time.
  3. Sunny D – Episodes 1-4 , further information and clips – November 2016
  4. All About the Mckenzies ITV2 pilot – Tiemo review – 21 November 2016
  5. Are You Being Heard? Representing Britain on TV – Video featuring Sir Lenny Henry and Michael Peters – Part of the Future for Public Service Television Review – 22nd March 2016
  6. No Laughing Matter – Black Stand Up Comedy article – Michael Peters – 23rd November 2015

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Posted in Comedy Reviews, Comedy Reviews 2017, TV | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Lolly Adefope Review – Soho Theatre

Lolly Adefope
Star rating: ****
Soho Downstairs, Soho Theatre
London W1
Review: Monday 16th January 2017

Next Show Wednesday 1st March 2017, 9.30p.m Booking and further information
£12 (£10)

If Lolly Adefope suffers from a split personality crisis that would not be a surprise. Nor happily would it be a bad thing for this fine, young comedian as character comedy is what she does and she is comfortable going in and out of so many different characters.

During this sold out show at the lovely intimate Soho Theatre (Downstairs) Lolly took the audience through a wide range of entertaining characters. The singing call centre worker was especially good, with the added bonus that attendees got to hear Lolly’s exquisitely beautiful voice. There was more from that singing voice later in the hour long show. It sounded so good at times I wondered if I was hearing a backing tape! This girl can sing and if the comedy ever dries up, we won’t have heard the last of her on stage that’s for sure.

Lolly Adefope

Lolly Adefope

The fine comedy was interspersed with a few good quizzes thrown in for laughs. This reviewer even partook and eventually won the ‘Last Man Standing’ competition which was good fun .I’m still waiting for my prize, so if you’re reading this Lolly Adefope, do the right thing LoL!

An occasional running theme humorously referenced the fact she has not acknowledged her racial heritage and issues of race in her previous shows. Why should she? Just because she’s African-British there is no rule saying she’s got to. Her job first and foremost is to make people laugh, which she did with aplomb. I found Lolly to be a wonderfully refreshing new talent on the comedy scene. There aren’t too many doing multi-character comedy and the constant laughter reverberating around showed that many found her a real joy to behold. Lolly Adefope is for sure one to watch out for and I for one can envisage a bright future ahead for her.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Due to popular demand Lolly Adefope is back at the Soho Theatre on 1st March 2017 in Lolly Adefope: Lolly 2 Extra Show.

No unauthorised publication or reproduction of any part of this article is permitted without the permission of Tiemo Talk of the Town.

Thank you for reading our review. We hope you enjoyed it and that if you did, will post a comment and/or share it with others who have the same interest in this topic and may also appreciate the chance to read it and comment.

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Are We Entering a Brave New World That’s Black and British?

  • Black & British
  • TV Rating: ***** 
  • November – December 2016
  • Channels: BBC2, BBC3 & BBC-1Xtra

A Brave New TV World

For so long, decades, many people have complained about the scarcity of Black programming on television. Many have forlornly pined for the repeat of ‘The Real McCoy’. That show ended an era ago back in 1996.  Television and society has moved on and arguably we’re entering a brave new world of television that’s that’s going to be more inclusive, more Black and British. Fans can enjoy old clips on You Tube, but they need to stop talking about old, hit shows and instead focus on the new programmes being broadcast, be that on TV or YouTube. The stunning success of the critically acclaimed Black and British season from the BBC offered a taste of what can be delivered when a major TV station puts its heart into a dedicated focus on understanding and valuing diversity.

I found the season to be an absolute joy, as it offered hours and hours, of wonderfully diverse, educational and entertaining programming across the BBC’s television and radio stations. There was something for everyone.

We had contemporary documentaries like ‘Black and British’ featuring a galaxy of highly successful Black Britons across a span of industries – comedy, fashion, law, politics, sport and TV, including Sir Trevor McDonald, Les Ferdinand, Gina Yashere, Ozwald Boateng, Baroness Patricia Scotland QC and Beverley Knight. I watched this feeling so proud to hear the stories of so many talented, high achieving, hugely regarded individuals, many of whom I could identify with in the sense we had similar, Black and British upbringings. That was the thread linking them and I’m sure most viewers of African-Caribbean heritage. It was uplifting to hear their stories and their journeys. It was also a leveller to hear how despite their success and fame, they could still be brought back down to earth and reminded of their colour by everyday racist incidences.

David Harewood

David Harewood

David Harewood’s, ‘Will Britain Ever Have A Black Prime Minister?’ offered a fascinating, hard-hitting but clear statistical analysis of getting to the top professions; That was a real highlight as its analysis, courtesy of Faiza Shaheen and the Centre for Labour and Social Studies (Class) showed just how difficult it will be for a Black Briton ever to become PM. I actually don’t think it’s impossible given the right circumstances. For instance, if Chukka Umunna hadn’t quite the Labour leadership race in 2015 he could have posed a far greater challenge to David Cameron during the 2015 general election and could quite feasibly have been PM now and we’d not be looking for the door marked Brexit, but that’s another story and one for another Blog altogether!

I loved ‘Back In Time For Brixton’ which followed a family as they are whisked through the decades in south London, from Windrush in 1948 to today. We saw through this modern day family re-enacting life through the decades as an immigrant family, just how life was for African-Caribbean’s arriving and settling in London.

David Olusoga

David Olusoga

Going much further back, there were historical documentaries, most notably, ‘Black and British: A Forgotten History’ by Historian David Olusoga. This highly watchable, 4 part series was a revelation in so many ways; for instance, discovering that the African-Caribbean presence in Britain dates back to Roman times and in the far Northern and South Eastern parts of these Islands.

On a lighter note there was comedy from rising star Dane Baptiste. ‘Sunny D’ is a brilliantly funny sit-com. If nurtured well, the BBC have a long term hit on their hands.

The role of Caribbean nurses was celebrated in ‘Black Nurses: The Women Who Saved the NHS’ and music was covered in the excellent ‘Story of Soul II Soul’ told by Jazzie B, with DJ Trevor Nelson. The latter was one of a number of musical programmes and debates featured on BBC TV and radio stations like Radio 1Xtra.

The Black and British season was produced in collaboration with a range of partners: the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic England, The National Archives, Black Cultural Archives and the British Film Institute (BFI). All also participated in the BBC’s Black British Hero social media campaign as well as running their own complementary campaigns.

The Future

Sir Lenny Henry, has campaigned heavily for the past few years for greater diversity on TV. He must be applauded for this and given a good deal of credit, as without his passionate and goal focused campaigning, I suspect that this Black and British series might never have got made.

I celebrate and thank the BBC wholeheartedly for this too as ‘Black and British’ is without a doubt the biggest, most comprehensive series of original Black TV programming in the entire history of British television history.

Sir Lenny Henry

Sir Lenny Henry

I hope it won’t be seen in years to come as historical blip, but instead as the rocket fuel that will launch many other Black programmes onto our TV screens, with many more original commissions and programmes of the highest quality this year and for years to come.

For this to come to pass is obviously down to the TV commissioners at the BBC and other stations, but that doesn’t mean the viewer at home can’t influence what happens next. Whilst the likes of Sir Lenny Henry and Idris Elba can get their voices heard by the powers that be and get their own programmes and films to screen more easily than many others, I see this as a collaborative team effort from them, the black community and in fact all viewers of whatever culture who want to watch more diverse programming on TV.

The ordinary viewer can assist their efforts in 4 simple ways:

  1. By simply watching these and other Black programmes when they are broadcast. As we know, TV is all about the ratings and all must be done to achieve the best possible ratings. Whilst I wouldn’t expect this genre of programming to challenge the likes of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and ‘The X Factor’ in the battle for ratings, they should at least mirror a decent percentage based upon the African-Caribbean population of Britain.
  1. Spread the word about them. Often they are not advertised that widely even on the channels broadcasting them! So the ordinary viewer and those involved in the productions, on and off screen, should be encouraged to do all they can to self-promote their own shows. In this day of free email, texting, social media such as FaceBook and Twitter, it really isn’t that difficult, yet the pay off could be huge and out of all proportion to the effort required.
  1. Most important. Viewers must provide feedback directly to the TV stations. They are not reading your social media posts or listening in on viewer water cooler conversations, so a few minutes spent completing their on-line feedback forms could be worth its weight in gold. We all like to receive positive feedback and praise after all and TV stations are no different. This, or the lack of it, could be the difference between a show getting re-commissioned or not. BBC Feedback  ITV Feedback
  1.  Provide comments and feedback on Tiemo Talk of the Town and other media reviews of these shows. That way in one or more central places, readers can follow the trail of interest in a show, which will be visible to all, including the TV commissioners. This could be similar or more in-depth comments that viewers have already provided to the TV stations, so there is no need to reinvent the wheel with new feedback.

This isn’t just about the BBC either. ITV have run a series of 4 pilot shows in the run up to broadcasting the MOBO Awards of 2015 and 2016. So far out of those 8 programmes, not one has been re-commissioned. That needs to change otherwise the pilot episodes will develop a reputation for just being that and will never amount to anything. Perhaps the solutions offered up here were not followed.

Tiemo Talk of the Town demonstrated in its own small way the power of making the viewer voice heard last December by simply making the BBC aware, via Twitter, that it’s 4th and final episode of ‘Sunny D’ wasn’t actually available for download via TV although it appeared to be available via television. The BBC immediately looked into this and within 48 hours it was available to view.

I don’t know about ‘Orange being the New Black’ or what on earth ‘Black is the new Black’ means, but I do know that the power to ensure the BBC’s Black and British season is not just a one hit wonder, to a degree lies in the hands of the viewer. I hope this article in some ways helps ensure that viewers can provide the stimulus for more programming that entertains, educates and makes Black Britons feel proud and see their story as a vital part of a thriving and vibrant British TV landscape.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Links:

  1. Black and British – The entire season available on iplayer for a limited period of time.
  2. Sunny D – Episodes 1-4 , further information and clips – November 2016
  3. All About the Mckenzies ITV2 pilot – Tiemo review – 21 November 2016
  4. Dropperz the Pilot – review – 21st November 2016.
  5. Are You Being Heard? Representing Britain on TV – Video featuring Sir Lenny Henry and Michael Peters – Part of the Future for Public Service Television Review – 22nd March 2016
  6. Exclusive reviews of ITV2’s four pre-MOBO 2015 Black and Minority Ethnic shows.
  7. No Laughing Matter – Black Stand Up Comedy article – Michael Peters – 23rd November 2015
  8. Why Black TV Failed to Progress Beyond the Real McCoy – article – 30 December 2013

 

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Collateral Beauty: Review

Film Rating: 12A ****
Director: David Frankel
Writer: Allan Loeb
UK Release: Boxing Day 2016

Review date: 27th December 2016

Death will visit all of us at some point in time. At what is meant to be an uplifting, joyous time of Christmas festivity, many of us have also been mourning the death of a number of much loved and revered people. Curiously these are people we didn’t personally know. I speak of course of recently deceased world renowned celebrities George Michael and Carrie Fisher, plus the many other celebrities who have passed away this Christmas and consistently throughout 2016.

Collateral Beauty is a timely reminder of the fragility of life as we reflect upon our own lives and those of the many dearly departed stars  in 2016.

Though their deaths have been untimely and mostly unexpected, they happen to tie in with the theme of Will Smith’s latest film, ‘Collateral Beauty’,  made by New Line Cinema. It mainly focuses on one man’s grief, Howard, a New York advertising boss played by Will Smith, represented by a period of mourning that leads him to retreat from life. Written by Allan Loeb and directed by David Frankel, the film revolves around three central themes of love, time and death and how they become interwoven threads that impact on the grieving process  and Howard’s marriage and business relationships.

This relatively simple premise has resulted in a beautiful, touching movie based in New York. This is in no small measure down to some fine performances from a galaxy of familiar faces including Dame Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Kate Winslet, Naomie Harris and Edward Norton. Dame Helen Mirren demonstrated compassion and wisdom in her scenes with Will Smith, whilst Naomie Harris was exemplary as a cool, calm, professional Therapist. The awe inspiring and famous New York skyline with its bustling streets and traffic provided a suitable backdrop to the drama. The fast paced, big city lifestyle contrasted with and illuminated the ponderous stagnation of Will Smith’s character.

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As we observe Howard’s withdrawal from life, witness his refusal to make any decisions at work, such as buying and selling shares or doing deals, which, when you’re company CEO is a little bit of a problem! His colleagues and friends are forced to try and help him make decisions for his own benefit and their’s too. Tense meetings between them result in an unusual and somewhat unorthodox approach being adopted. I quite liked their novel approach and was hooked wondering whether or not it will work.

Concurrently Howard is also trying to help himself and decides to seek answers from the wider universe by writing letters to ‘Love, Time and Death’. Will Smith is highly convincing in his role. His mannerisms, single mindedness and hard-hearted approach clearly portray a man in no mood to have his mind changed on anything. For that to happen it is going to take some considerable effort.

Watching how this unfolds is a joy, thought provoking and at times very amusing. The devices by which the themes are brought to life require a little suspension of disbelief, but to zone in on that would be missing the point.

 

At an hour 40 minutes it was overly long. A good twenty minutes or so could have been cut without losing any of the film’s impact and meaning.

Ignore the many negative reviews out so far. I think they’ve missed the point, particularly if you consider its release date. Its release at Christmas is deliberate in my opinion as there are echos of Charles Dickens’  famous ‘A Christmas Carol’ novella in which Scrooge is confronted by the ghosts of the past, the present and the future.

Collateral Beauty is a good, grown up, serious movie on grief that is emotionally moving without being schmaltzy or over dramatised. It works not just because of its great cast, acting and New York setting, but because it subtly highlights the domino effect tragedy can have upon one’s life and how that grief that can result in stagnation that hurts not just the person grieving, but negatively affects others around them too.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Feel free to let us know what you think of the film by posting your comments here.

Links:

  1. A Christmas Carol review: Scrooge – The Comics Edition – 27th December 2013
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