In a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph, Lenny Henry bemoaned the absence of Black actors at the BAFTA Television awards of 12th May 2013. The 54-year-old told the Telegraph: “There weren’t any black people at the Baftas; there was no black talent.” What’s the matter with those people? What were the judges doing? There’s just not enough programmes with black people in them.”
He has a point. I watched the awards ceremony and apart from David Harewood presenting an award there were no other Black people on stage. Or even amongst the audience. Furthermore, there was not one single Black nominee in any category.
The Baftas could and should have been more inclusive and it is commendable of Lenny Henry to have spoken out to highlight this. The continued failure to recognize Black talent in the mainstream TV and awards ceremonies explains why we have awards such as The Screen Nation Film and Television Awards and the BEFFTA’s to recognise the best in Black British acting talent. The same applies with comedy. The British Comedy Awards, for instance, rarely, if ever, nominate, let alone award any Black talent and you hardly see anyone of colour either on stage or in the audience. Perhaps this is not that surprising as those awards primarily recognise TV comedy and there are no Black comedy shows on terrestrial TV. This is one of the reasons why we have The Tiemo Entertainment Black Comedy Awards.
These annual awards honour and celebrate the best in Black British and International comedic talent as well as the best in Black comedy acting.
Lenny Henry will be a nominee for a ‘Best Comedian Acting’ at the forthcoming Tiemo Entertainment Black Comedy Awards 2013 scheduled for autumn 2013. If he wins, for his acting in roles such as Shakespeare’s ‘The Comedy of Errors’ and ‘Fences,’ this will be a mark of public recognition for Lenny, or indeed for whichever actor wins. Richard Blackwood won last year for his role in ‘Shrek’. The winners are decided by the votes of the general public in these annual awards.
All too often it seems Black entertainers have to leave England to get the recognition and acceptance their talent merits. Adrian Lester, Aml Ameen, David Harewood, David Oyelowo, Eamon Walker, Idris Elba, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Naomie Harris and Marianne Jean-Baptiste have all left our shores to make a living in the USA. Each one left saying there are far greater opportunities for them there and so it has proved, as each has achieved far greater success and recognition out there than they ever did in England.
On the comedy side, one of our top comedians, Gina Yashere, left in 2007 to develop her career in Los Angeles and hasn’t looked back. In 2008 Kojo also left for America and has now returned to go onto achieve bigger and better things, including two sold out shows at Hackney Empire, a DVD release and become presenter of his very own Choice FM Breakfast show.
In a recent interview for ‘The Voice’, 16th May 2013, Gina criticized what appears to be a “one in one out” policy for Black comedians when it comes to the issue of them getting their own TV shows. Until such time as the mainstream starts to recognise and acknowledge Black comedians and Actors organisations such as Tiemo Entertainments will have to continue doing so. It is hoped that as a result of being nominated for and winning awards at these awards ceremonies, our most talented performers will achieve the wider public exposure and credibility their talent deserves, which, in turn, may ultimately create opportunities for career development.
Stephen K Amos has joked for years that there seems to be a policy that says until Lenny Henry dies there’ll be no TV openings for Black comedians. It’s quite ironic that right now, Lenny himself is questioning the lack of Black talent represented on our TV screens.
The Tiemo Entertainments Black Comedy Awards 2013 take place in autumn 2013. Further details and the nominations process will be announced in July.
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.
©Tiemo Entertainments – Review and Richard Blackwood photograph
©Nobby Clark – Lenny Henry Photograph