BRITAIN’S MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE OF AFRICAN AND AFRICAN CARIBBEAN HERITAGE.
Sir Lenny Henry
Actor; writer; campaigner
Sir Lenny Henry is one of the UK’s best-known and most beloved performers. As well as his comedies, which gave birth to many iconic characters, he has written several books, been a BBC Radio 1 DJ, performed Shakespeare and other plays on stage, and starred in films. In 1988 he founded Red Nose Day, the now annual comedy-fest to support the charity Comic Relief. The charity has since raised over £1billion for good causes at home and abroad. Off-stage he is one of the country’s leading advocates in the campaign for increased diversity in British television and the arts. At this year’s Bafta Awards, he was honoured with the Alan Clarke Award for his outstanding contribution to television. Collecting his prize in front of a star-studded audience, he said: “I am truly hopeful that this award is a pan-industry acknowledgement that diversity must be at the heart of our industry if we are to reflect British society now and, most importantly, in the future.” Earlier this year, he repeated calls for part of the licence fee to be ring-fenced to boost diversity. He also voiced concerns that BME talent continues to be “ghetto-ised” with people from those backgrounds being pigeon-holed into making programmes about ethnic-specific issues. As part of the discourse on the BBC Charter renewal he called for ethnic diversity to be entrenched into any new Royal Charter to address “systemic failure” in representing minorities on screen and behind the camera. In July it was announced that Sir Lenny had been appointed chancellor of Birmingham City University. He said the role was a “superb opportunity” to promote the West Midlands and help young people.