Running from 4 – 25 February at BFI Southbank, FORGOTTEN BLACK DRAMA ON TV will be a season of ground- breaking black British television dramas. The season showcases the work of some of the most outstanding African and Caribbean writers of their generation, such as Barry Reckord and Trix Worrell, and features pioneering black British actors including Norman Beaton and Carmen Munro. The season will focus on black British TV dramas from 1961-1985, many of which have not been screened since they were first aired decades ago.
A highlight of the season will be the first screening since 1961 of The Day of the Fox (Drama ’61, ITV, 1961), which was written for the legendary American entertainer Sammy Davis Jr, in a rare dramatic role. Another highlight will be an onstage discussion with guests including actor Susan Wokoma, Trix Worrell (creator of Desmond’s) screenwriting duo Daniel Fajemisin-Duncan and Marlon Smith (Run) and season co-curator Stephen Bourne. This will take place following a screening of Just Like Mohicans (Channel 4/Holmes Associates, 1985), the compelling story of a black youth thrown into a conflict of loyalties when he teams up with two white friends and breaks into the home of a feisty black elderly woman.
Other key titles screening in the season will include Club Havana (Second City Firsts, BBC, 1975) starring Don Warrington as a son who, after 12 years away, returns home to Birmingham from Jamaica. It will screen alongside You in Your Small Corner (Play of the Week, ITV, 1962) which Barry Reckord adapted for TV and in which his brother Lloyd plays the central character who begins a relationship with a white woman, bringing him into conflict with his mother. The screenings on Monday 11 February will be introduced by season co-curator Lez Cooke, producer Tara Prem, script editor Peter Ansorge and we hope to also welcome actor Don Warrington. Other titles will include The Museum Attendant (Centre Play, BBC, 1973), a powerful, funny and shocking exposé of the racism faced by a black museum attendant, Mustapha Matura’s acerbic and offbeat dramatic monologue Nice (Channel 4/Central TV, 1984) starring the charismatic Norman Beaton, and Carbon Copy (ITV, 1975) about a Jamaican man, played by Don Warrington, who is no longer at ease with the cultured white family who have virtually adopted him.
This is an opportunity to rediscover some neglected dramas from the past, appreciate their continuing relevance and participate in a debate about the current and future possibilities for black British drama in a rapidly changing digital landscape.
Just Like Mohicans + Q&A with screenwriters Trix Worrell, Daniel Fajemisin-Duncan, Marlon Smith and Stephen Bourne, and actor Susan Wokoma (work permitting), chaired by broadcaster Brenda Emmanus
Channel 4-Holmes Associates 1985. Dir Faith Isiakpere. With Mona Hammond, Gary Beadle, David Doyle, John Fowler. 40min
Trix Worrell won Channel 4’s Debut ’84 prize for best script with this compelling story of a black youth thrown into a conflict of loyalties when he teams up with two white friends and breaks into the home of a feisty black elderly woman. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion examining what the fantastic plays in the season can teach us about black drama, and what opportunities lie ahead for black creatives and writers in a modern digital landscape.
With thanks to Holmes Associates for this BFI restoration
MON 4 FEB 18:10 NFT3
The Big Pride
Drama ’61. ITV 1961. Dir Herbert Wise. With William Marshall, Johnny Sekka, Barbara Assoon, Nadia Cattouse. 60min
In Jan Carew and Sylvia Wynter’s gripping drama, three Guyanese jail breakers escape, not only from the law, but from the harsh realities of their pasts.
+ The Day of the Fox
Drama ’61. ITV 1961. Dir Herbert Wise. With Sammy Davis Jr, Zia Mohyeddin, Joseph O’Conor, Yolanda. 60min
In Jan Carew’s explosive drama, Sammy Davis Jr gives a memorable performance as a proud but disillusioned revolutionary who
aims to destroy the remnants of white colonial rule in a new African nation. The political themes explored remain incredibly prescient.
SUN 10 FEB 17:20 NFT3
Club Havana + intro by season co-curator Lez Cooke, producer Tara Prem, script editor Peter Ansorge and actor Don
Warrington (work permitting)
Second City Firsts. BBC 1975. Dir Pam Brighton. With Don Warrington, Mona Hammond, Julie Walters, Alfred Fagon. 30min
After 12 years away, Mrs Jordan’s son arrives in Birmingham from Jamaica. Writer Barry Reckord returns to the theme of an
interracial relationship which causes conflict within a Jamaican family.
This print has been reconstructed from the surviving unedited studio footage by Simon Coward, Research Manager, Kaleidoscope
+ You in Your Small Corner
Play of the Week. ITV 1962. Dir Claude Whatham. With Lloyd Reckord, Elizabeth MacLennan, Charles Hyatt, Ida Shepley. 82min Barry Reckord adapted his stage play for TV and his brother Lloyd plays the central character – a Jamaican new to London. When he begins a relationship with a white woman (MacLennan), he finds himself in conflict with his mother (Shepley), who has great expectations for him. The very early intimate portrayal of this interracial relationship broke new ground.
MON 11 FEB 18:00 NFT2
The Museum Attendant + intro by season co-curator Stephen Bourne
Centre Play. BBC 1973. Dir Derek Bennett. With Horace James, Tony Selby, Kwesi Kay. 32min
Michael Abbensetts’ first play for TV is a powerful, funny and shocking expose of the racism faced by a black museum attendant in his place of work.
+ The Light of Experience
BBC 1983. 15min
Perfectly setting up the background to her Crown Court drama, The Ju-Ju Landlord, Buchi Emecheta talks about her life as a
Nigerian writer who made her home in Britain.
+ Crown Court: The Ju-Ju Landlord
ITV 1976. Dir Stephen Butcher. With Taiwo Ajai, Thomas Baptiste, Suzanne Stone, Louis Mahoney. Eps 1-3 TRT 75min
Buchi Emecheta draws on personal experience for this drama about a young Nigerian mother who flees her husband and finds refuge in the house of a fellow countryman. When her landlord wants her out, he finds himself in the dock charged with harassment.
FRI 15 FEB 18:00 NFT3
Against the Crowd. ITV 1975. Dir Piers Haggard. With Don Warrington, Nadia Cattouse, Cleo Sylvestre, Judy Campbell. 60min
In Howard Schuman’s contribution to the Against the Crowd series, Jamaican Albert Sharpe II (Warrington) is no longer at ease with the cultured white family who have virtually adopted him.
+ Black Feet in the Snow
Open Door. BBC 1974. Dir Brian Skilton. With Shango Baku. 55min
Written and narrated by Jamal Ali, this impressionistic, innovative drama shows how Britain – ‘The Promised Land’ – offered only frustration and rejection to Caribbean settlers in the 1950s.
SAT 23 FEB 20:30 NFT2
The Hope and the Glory
BBC 1984. Dir Graeme Harper. With Rudolph Walker, Maurice Denham, Carmen Munroe. 60min
Sam (Walker) is a quiet London Transport worker who prefers studying law in the evenings to socialising, until he meets Joe
(Denham), a lonely elderly neighbour. But their growing friendship is tested when Joe takes Sam along to his local club. Caryl
Phillips’ poignant drama is a masterpiece of understated writing.
Here and Now on Four. Channel 4-Central TV 1984. Dir Michael Hayes. With Norman Beaton. 26min
In Mustapha Matura’s acerbic and offbeat dramatic monologue, the charismatic Norman Beaton is outstanding as a well- mannered man who’s tested to the limit as he struggles to come to terms with life in the ‘Mother Country.’
MON 25 FEB 18:15 NFT3
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