Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jamaican Film Maker receives Lifetime Achievement Award at UK BEFFTA's

Article taken from: website

CWU recognised for setting Black History straight

CWU researcher Pauline Granstan has been recognised for setting the record straight on who Britain's first black TV journalist was. Following an amazing string of events - sparked by Pauline's intervention - journalist Barbara Black Hannah (pictured with Pauline) has now had a book of her life published and won the Black Entertainment, Film, Fashion & Television Awards (BEFFTA) Lifetime Achievement Award. She took Pauline as her guest to the glitzy award ceremony in London on Saturday 22nd October and in her speech thanked CWU for the events which brought her the recognition she deserves. Below, Barbara writes exclusively for the CWU...


In October 2008 Pauline Granstan of the Communication Workers Union emailed me to say that the Guardian newspaper had published a Black History Month timeline that listed Moira Stewart as Britain's first Black TV journalist. Pauline wanted me to confirm whether that was incorrect information, as she suspected I had achieved this very dubious distinction in 1968. I wrote her confirming I had made news in 1968 when I was appointed a reporter/interviewer in THAMES TV's new daily magazine show "TODAY - WITH EAMMON ANDREWS" that launched the station. I conducted daily interviews with a variety of famous and regular people for 9 months until my contract expired, going on to do a similar job with ATV "TODAY" in Birmingham and later working with BBC-TV's "Man Alive" and radio programmes "Wait a Minute" and "Petticoat Line".

She wrote to the Guardian informing then, and as a result of her intervention the newspaper invited me to write a Letter correcting their error which was published shortly thereafter. Thanks to Pauline the revival of this piece of Black history was a great blessing to me, as it brought my name and work to a wider audience 40 years and one generation after I had made this news. In Jamaica I had written four books, made 8 films, worked with three Prime Ministers and been appointed an Independent Senator in the Jamaican Parliament, but few outside Jamaica knew of these achievements. The Guardian article came to the attention of Black British publisher Hansib Publications, who in 2010 published 'GROWING OUT: BLACK HAIR AND BLACK PRIDE" my memoir of my life in England.

Co-incidentally, I had been working with a young English film archivist and reggae researcher Peter Gittins, and in 2008 we used his extensive collection of Reggae Films to present the first Reggae Film Festival in Kingston showcasing Jamaica's reggae music and culture in feature films, documentaries, music videos and animation. Having identified this new genre of 'reggae films' in 2008, we have since then successfully presented four annual Jamaica Reggae Film Festivals screening films from Jamaica and the world, honouring film makers from such diverse countries as Japan, Serbia, Spain and Poland, as well as the USA, UK, the Caribbean and Canada, even receiving an entry in 2011 from Iran. The event has become so popular that we intend to take it on tour to England, Canada and the USA in 2012 when Jamaica celebrates the 50th anniversary of its Independence from British colonial rule.

All this life work culminated on Saturday, October 22nd, when the Black, Entertainment, Film, Fashion  & Television Awards (BEFTTA) presented me with its Female Lifetime Achievement Award at a gala event in London. The lengthy ceremony was an eye-opener for me to behold the plethora of award winners in every category of Black entertainment arts. Indeed, no such ceremony could have been held in 1968, or if at all, would have been in a very small room. Black people struggled then to have their own TV shows, magazines, plays, fashions and films, as the battle then were to overcome endemic racism and become integrated into mainstream British life.

Having returned to Jamaica in 1972, I next returned in 1982 to publish a British edition of RASTAFARI - THE NEW CREATION, the first book on the religion written by a member of the faith. Jeremy Isaacs, who had been my producer at THAMES TV and was now head of the new CHANNEL 4, invited me to make a documentary on my view of Britain 10 years later. This resulted in RACE, RHETORIC, RASTAFARI a film in which I lamented the fact that race relations in Britain did not seem to have changed much in my absence.

Looking around in these few days in London, I see that much has changed. Voices on the streets speak languages I do not understand, the African presence is more pronounced and I search in vain for remnants of Caribbean culture that was so vibrant in the Sixties that our ska and blue beat music influenced a generation of 'mods and rockers' and brought colour to the fashions of the day. Thank heavens that our Jamaican athletes have reminded the world of how great our little nation is, promising to be the stars of the London Olympics in 2012. Multi-culturalism is a good thing that has brought the core values and ethics of British goodness to the fore and though I am aware that anti-Black racism has not been completely eradicated, it seems to have ceased to be the ogre that made our lives here a sad and bitter experience. Perhaps the lack of Caribbean visibility has happened because so many like me, have returned to our sunshine islands to build them and enjoy their bright future.

All this honouring of my work can be traced directly to Pauline Granstan, for picking up on that GUARDIAN mistake and contacting them and me in 2008. I can't thank her enough for opening up the window of my history and allowing my modest achievements to be highlighted and hopefully inspire other Blacks in Britain to aspire to higher heights. Keep up your good work on behalf of Black CWU members Pauline. You are a testament to the great good we Black people have done in Britain and will continue to do.


P.O.Box 727, Kingston, Jamaica

1 comment:

  1. Nuff respec Miss Barbara.