Arise ***** 5/5
Featuring guests Jason Roberts, Angellica Bell, Richard Blackwood and Host, Daddy Ernie
Sunday 28th April 2013
The latest of the ARISE series of interviews with well known celebrities featured an interesting and diverse mix of personalities. A Premier League Footballer, TV star and Actor-Comedian joined DJ and Radio Presenter Daddy Ernie for a cosy chat on the sofa at the Tabernacle, 28th April 2013.
First up was Reading Footballer Jason Roberts. His mood, considering his team Reading had just a few hours before the interview been relegated from the Premier League, following a goal-less draw with QPR, (also relegated), was relatively upbeat.
Naturally he expressed his sadness at that, but was sanguine and realistic knowing that his side had been struggling for months and had been bottom of the table for a number of weeks. It was highly improbable that Reading would have escaped the big drop.
In addition to discussing his long and distinguished career he talked about topical matters that have beset football this season. On the recent Luiz Suarez 10 match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, he felt it was quite long, maybe too long. However if the FA will be raising the tariffs for other misdemeanours to equate to this, then that’s fine by him.
He talked about his time playing for Grenada and the difficulty the country has competing on an international level, with the island being so small. With a relatively small pool of players to select from Grenada struggles to unearth sufficient good talent to compete with bigger nations.
The BBC ‘One show’ and former CBBC presenter was interviewed next. A local woman, from Ealing, she was educated at Notting Hill and Ealing Girls School. This is a top private school which she got into through an assisted place scheme. It was interesting to hear that although she’d been past the Tabernacle many times, she’d never been inside before. For a local person working in TV and media I found that pretty surprising considering all the good, cultural fare, the Tabernacle has provided over many, many years.
She said she found having goals useful as they kept her focussed.
Following University, where she read Politics (and was incidentally the first in her family to go), she managed to get her very first job at the BBC doing clerical and administrative work.
Her approach was to be friendly and chatty, often talking to people, anyone, about what they do etc… This marked her out as a little bit different, as it’s not behaviour that was expected at the BBC where it’s very middle class and people keep themselves to themselves and their own groups. This got her noticed and eventually lead to her presenting CBBC’s and then the One Show, where she is now their longest serving presenter, having been on since it’s started 6 years ago in 2007.
On racism at the BBC, she didn’t feel the BBC was racist as such, or even institutionally racist, more that some individuals within the corporation are.
On the subject of being a role model, she felt that can be difficult at times and she believes the best thing for her to do is just do the best she can and be seen to be doing so on TV. There are times she wants to be vocal and speak up on issues, but she’s been in the industry long enough to know that if she did we’d not be seeing her face on TV for much longer and she’d be out of work, so she just gets her head down and works away.
It’s quite worrying that Angellica and other BBC TV staff feel they can’t speak their mind. This is something of a theme we’ve heard a lot about in the last week and indeed the last year regarding bullying, sexism, harassment and worse at the BBC in the last year. Hushing things up. Not acting on instincts and actual knowledge.
This allowed the likes of the late Jimmy Savile and the disgraced Rapist and former BBC Broadcaster Stuart Hall to get away with their crimes for so long. In the light of the recent high profile sex scandals, many of which have not only hurt the victims, but sadly are destroying the reputations of these stars and also some of the happy memories many of us have of some of our childhood TV stars, I think this is something all staff at the BBC and other organisations have to think about personally. Namely, do they give voice to their conscience. Ask themselves if they consider that they have a personal responsibility to speak up about matters they have an insiders knowledge of and which perhaps should be raised at higher management levels to address – be that bullying, racial or sexual discrimination/harrassment in the workplace.
HR and senior management are meant to be there to listen to, respond and investigate complaints, allegations and concerns raised. Whistleblowing policies also exist for staff wishing to complain anonymously. I appreciate this is a delicate matter for people and can be easier said than done, but you could argue that staying silent is to be complicit. What do you think? Has this been an issue for you in the workplace?
She didn’t voice any particularly strong views on this, saying the most important thing is to be with someone you get on with. Her husband Michael Underwood was fostered and raised by a
White family, which caused some cultural difficulties for him as he got older.
Sometimes people spend too much time looking for the man/woman who ticks all their boxes so to speak, when the right person for you might be right under your nose. For instance with her Michael had been expressing an interest in her for years, but she never realised, or if she did, discounted him, until realising she should give him a chance and that happily resulted in marriage and children. She’s currently pregnant and expecting her second child with him.
The headline guest was Richard Blackwood, most well known for being a Comedian, but for the past few years he has been forging ahead with his acting career via roles in the West End hits ‘Cat on a hot tin roof’ and the musical ‘Shrek’. He was also in an episode of BBC’s ‘Casualty’ the night before this interview, called ‘Human Resources’. I’ve always thought comedy and HR strange bedfellows but there you go, even Richard Blackwood’s trying HR now!
Though I’ve followed his career for many years this evening was quite an eye opener as we got to know more about the man behind the personality we see on stage and screen.
Asked how he got into comedy, his answer was twofold. Firstly by being witness to the success of his Uncle, Junior Giscombe, who achieved musical and chart success in the 1980’s with hits such as ‘Mama used to say’. That first inspired him to believe success was possible.
His second cousin, Super Model, Naomi Campbell also inspired him through her modelling success to believe he too could be successful. So that’s two people close to him going from nothing to something.
He’s been in comedy for over 20 years now, starting out around 1992/93. Asked who gave him his first break, he said he attributes this to Geoff Schumann. Starting out, he performed 5-10 minutes for him and noticed Geoff deliberately stifling his laughter! He was a hard taskmaster! Later, once he’d done a few more shows Geoff invited him to do a big show in High Wycombe in front of 500 people. The biggest crowd he’d ever performed for at the time. He did well. That was the breakthrough and as they say, the rest is history.
Talking about cousin Naomi Campbell’s infamous temper he said what people have to know and keep in mind is that behind all the glamour and sophistication of the modelling world, she is still essentially a street girl and that will come out from time to time. It can happen with him too. We only see the public persona, but there’s a real person behind that. To highlight the point he related a story concerning himself.
He said there is a perception from some of the comedy going public that many Comedians are lazy. That many develop a good 20 minutes and just stick to it. Repeating the same set again and again. Some comedy fans might see that as cheating the audience and he tries not to do that. He prefers freestyling – feeding of the energy and vibe of the audience and with whatever’s going on in his life or his observations of the world.
Daddy Ernie asked him what happened for him to go bankrupt. Richard admitted this used to be a very touchy, off limits subject, but is happier to talk now, having come to the realisation that it was God’s purpose for this to happen in order to serve as a lesson to others, to ensure they learn from it and don’t make the same mistakes he did.
It was very apparent that his faith is a strong part of his belief system. He believes things happen for a reason, including success and the length of time one has in the spotlight. For instance, considering Michael Jackson and Prince’s hugely successful time as megastars, he said that served a purpose, for example to show and pave a way for others to come through after them e.g. Michael Jackson was the first Black artist played on MTV. That key breakthrough paved the way for many others musicians afterwards. That’s one of the major legacies he left behind.
On bankruptcy, he admitted to making extremely good money on MTV. And that was just for doing weekend work. He said when we make money we’re conditioned to share it e.g. with family and friends. “We don’t have to. I did. We don’t owe friends anything.” When he was in America he wasn’t earning – there were restrictions on his earning capacity and therefore he was spending all the money he’d earned in England. Spending and giving away lavishly he paid the ultimate price and went into bankruptcy.
It was interesting and a bit of a history lesson to recall how Ali G and Graham Norton’s success came to pass. Back in 1999 he had his own eponymously titled ‘The Richard Blackwood show’ on Channel 4. On Millennium night (31st December 1999) the show was on in the run up to mid-night. This led into the Graham Norton Show and following that success for Graham Norton, soon after Channel 4 dropped his show and retained Graham Norton.
Around the same time Ali G came onto the scene and became a huge hit. Richard pointed out that since then no other young Black guys have had a British TV show. That may be so, but I’m not so sure there’s a direct link between Ali G, Graham Norton and this. There were never many before 2000 with their own show. Other than Lenny Henry and Richard himself, I can’t recall any young Black comedians having their own solo TV show. Since then Stephen K Amos, Gina Yashere and Jocelyn Gee Esien have had shows. That is a whole new subject of debate that I could write for England on! The lack of Black comedic talent on TV was discussed at the Real McCoy 25th anniversary reunion last April 2012.
Choice FM to Shrek
In 2009 he was fired from Choice FM for what seemed, based on the explanation he gave, seemed to be foolish reasons that didn’t merit dismissal at all. Richard shrugged his shoulders and took it that they simply wanted him off air and found what to him and others seemed a seemingly lighweight reason. His view was that it was obviously meant to be. That it was God’s way of saying, ”your time is done on Choice”. Perhaps he was too much in his comfort zone there. Two months later he got the call to do Shrek, from contacts stemming from his acting in ‘Cat on a hot tin roof’. Shrek certainly took him out of his comfort zone and without knowing at the time, maybe that was just meant to be.
Richard spoke very eloquently and thoughtfully on this, as with all else. He said people need to concentrate less on the aesthetics of a man or woman and focus more on what else they have to offer you within a relationship – be that love, support, kindness, having your back etc…
He said it’s important for women not to give it up to easily. Make men work for it by getting to know them. Basically he’s advocating good old fashioned courtship!
At the end of the evening I presented Richard with his award for ‘Best Comedian Acting’ won at the 2012 Black Comedy Awards for his role in ‘Shrek’. Richard said he was delighted to be recognised for this award and looks forward to attending the 2013 comedy awards ceremony.
He was in ‘Casualty’ the night before this event (27th April 2013), can be seen in ‘Waterloo Road’ and has been filming for the movie ‘Still Waters’. He is also returning to his stand up comedy roots. He will be performing at an International Comedy line up at Harrow Arts Centre, for ‘Mek Mi Laugh’ on 5th May 20 13.
This was a tremendous evening of interviews with three different personalities. They all spoke openly and honestly, allowing the audience to get an insight into their lives, motivations and how they’ve gone from, to quote Richard, “from nothing to something.”
It shows that anything is possible with hard work and determination. All are role models in their own ways. It is for us and our children to learn from their example. They have shown us that success can be achieved. No one’s going to give it to you. It won’t last forever, but it can be done.
I look forward to the next Aspire evening in September 2013.
©Tiemo Talk of the Town
5th May 2013
Richard Blackwood will be a nominee and defending champion, so to speak, for ‘Best Comedian Acting’, in The Black Comedy Awards 2013.
For news about the Black Comedy Awards 2013 nominations and awards ceremony please keep an eye on this Blog as well as http://www.tiemo.co.uk where news and information on the awards will be posted in due course.