Lenny Henry’s Caribbean Britain, BBC2 (review)

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Ed Power (iNews) reviews Lenny Henry’s Caribbean Britain in “Lenny Henry’s Caribbean Britain, BBC2: The story of a blended culture with a personal twist.”

The next time we see Sir Lenny Henry on screen, it will be as a proto-hobbit in Amazon’s megabucks Lord of the Rings prequel. For anyone raised on Middle Earth and on Henry’s comedy, it feels like a match made in TV heaven. Henry is sure to bring much-needed levity to the fantastical but – let’s be honest – portentous world of elves, Balrogs and chattering trees.

Yet even as most Tolkien fans celebrated the casting news, it was impossible to ignore the ugly, knuckle-dragging backlash on social media. The idea of a non-white hobbit whipped many on the internet into incandescent fury.

They could accept actors with pointy ears and monstrously hairy feet – provided those ears and feet were a certain skin colour. And it was in that context that the weighty and thought-provoking Lenny Henry’s Caribbean Britain made its timely arrival.

The 63-year-old has always had a serious side, having played Othello on stage and a baddy in Doctor Who. And in the first of Caribbean Britain’s riveting two feature-length episodes, he was in full-ahead documentarian mode. This was a deep dive into the pivotal role played by the Caribbean community in British cultural life in all its dizzying facets.

He didn’t pull his punches in laying bare the racism faced by the Windrush generation seeking a better life in the UK. However, the film, featuring interviews with Trevor Nelson, Billy Ocean, Baroness Benjamin, Judi Love and others, doubled as a celebration of the contribution of migrants to the arts.

Henry drew a connection between grime music and calypso, the chatty Caribbean musical style those first immigrants had brought to their new home. “There is a relationship between the artist and the audience – it’s conversational,” said Mykaell Riley, director for the black music research unit at Westminster University. “We can connect that social commentary delivered with a sense of humour all the way back to calypso.” [. . .]

For full review, see https://inews.co.uk/culture/television/lenny-henrys-caribbean-britain-bbc2-review-1701182

Also see “Lenny Henry’s Caribbean Britain, review: how Windrush changed the country,
The comedian and actor fronted an informative and entertaining documentary about lesser-known black champions of arts and culture”
Anita Singh, The Telegraph, June 22, 2022

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTgytHff5Ic

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