UK’s BAME creatives call for action
An open letter calling for key decision makers in the UK film and TV industries to commit to tackling structural and systemic racism has been signed by more than 4,000 people.
Inspired by the Black Film Collective’s recent open letter to Hollywood, a group of women of colour working in the UK industry have penned a revised version of the letter addressing particular concerns relevant to those working in the UK.
The group includes producer Nisha Parti, actor and writer Meera Syal, actor Indira Varma, playwright Tanika Gupta, actor and director Pooja Ghai and presenter Anita Rani.
The letter, available to read in full here, sets out various “strategic commitments” for gatekeepers to reshape the industry “into one whose words are supported by action.”
Like the US version, it has four demands: “Banish your weak excuses; empower black and brown independent producers; expand your vision; and be more demanding.”
This includes commissioning more work from new black or brown writers as opposed to “the same white man (who has made a string of flops after his one hit 10 years ago).” It also calls for more black and brown independent producers and new diverse talent, both on screen and off, to be supported.
“Our stories and experiences can no longer be limited to bring backdrops for white narratives and protagonists. Until we are able to show our FULL joy, grief, fear, history, pride and all the other myriad of emotions and experiences, then you are simply upholding the status quo and enabling a society that keeps white people comfortable in their racism and black and brown people perpetually dehumanised,” the letter adds.
“Until we are allowed to make mistakes and try again like many of our white counterparts, we will never succeed in the same way. You are a large part of the problem and it is time to be honest about it.
“Your messages in support of Black Lives Matter are a first step. But after decades of enabling racism in your ranks and beyond, it is time to do more. If black lives really matter to you, our stories must as well. Please help us tell the whole truth. Black and brown lives all over the world depend on it.”
Those to have signed the open letter include Michaela Coel, Noel Clarke, David Oyelowo, Sophie Okonedo, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Meera Syal, Gurinder Chadha, Asif Kapadia, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Harewood and Himesh Patel.
The writers add that there have also been “unexpected signatures from white industry members who we hope can become active allies in bringing about change.”
These include Sandi Toksvig, Colin Firth, Stephen Graham, Bill Nighy, Ruth Wilson, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Feinnes, Vicky McClure, Jed Mercurio and Jane Featherstone. The full list of signatories can be found here.
The letter comes after a task force representing UK television’s black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) members sent a letter detailing five proposals to tackle discrimination in the industry to the country’s biggest broadcasters as well as Netflix, Amazon and YouTube.
That letter, available to read here, highlights numerous examples of cultural problems within the UK television industry, both on screen and off, and refers to casual and overt racism being “brushed under a rug,” resulting in BAME people, and BAME women in particular, changing careers.