Una Marson Our Lost Caribbean Voice

Katie Rosseinsky (Stylist) writes about Jamaican poet, editor, producer, and broadcaster Una Marson and a new documentary about her life and career in “Una Marson Our Lost Caribbean Voice: this new BBC documentary follows the story of a trailblazing Black broadcaster.” [Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.]

You might not have heard of Una Marson, but that’s about to change thanks to a new documentary shining a light on the extraordinary life and work of the BBC’s first Black producer and broadcaster at the BBC.

As part of the BBC’s centenary celebrations, a new documentary is shining a light on the pioneering work of Una Marson, the corporation’s first Black producer and broadcaster.

Though much of Marson’s work has been lost, meaning that she has been overlooked by history, Una Marson: Our Lost Caribbean Voice will use her surviving writing and letters, as well as details from her BBC personnel file, to tell her extraordinary story and give this important figure the credit she deserves.

Seroca Davis plays the broadcaster in the programme’s drama segments, while academics and Marson’s friends will provide insight on her life as a Black woman in broadcasting during the Second World War. 

Born in Jamaica in 1905, Marson became the assistant editor of the political journal Jamaica Critic at the age of just 21 in 1926, before setting up The Cosmopolitan Monthly Magazine two years later, becoming Jamaica’s first ever female editor.

Her first poetry collection followed in 1930, and two years later she travelled to London, hoping to find a wider audience for her literary work. When she arrived, she found that her opportunities were limited by her race, prompting her to campaign against discrimination as part of The League of Coloured Peoples. She also wrote about the racism she and other Black women faced in England.

Marson was hired by the BBC Empire Service in 1941 to work on Calling The West Indies, a programme where soldiers’ letters would be read out to their families, becoming the show’s producer the following year.

She eventually turned the show into Caribbean Voices, a programme which celebrated literature from the Caribbean, and wrote and produced At What A Price, a play about a mixed-race relationship, which was performed in the West End.

Returning to Jamaica after the war, she went on to set up her own publishing company, but sadly little evidence remains of her work in her later years.

The film, which has just aired on BBC Two has been produced by Lenny Henry’s Douglas Road production company. Writing about Marson’s legacy for the BBC, the actor and comedian said: “When I think of Una Marson, I think of a trailblazer – a pioneer who connected the Caribbean to the world through her radio programmes. But most people don’t even know who she was, let alone anything about her work at the BBC.”

By making a film about her life, Henry added, “My team and I are choosing to say her story is important. She deserves to be lauded and I hope we have added to her legacy.” The film has also been widely praised by viewers for shining a light on a figure who has long been forgotten by the history books. 

[Above: Una Marson: Our Lost Caribbean Voice: Seroca Davies as Una Marson.]

For original article, see https://www.stylist.co.uk/entertainment/tv/una-marson-our-lost-caribbean-voice-bbc-two-documentary/721657 Also see https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-63215113 and https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001dht8

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