Press Office

Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

Press Release

BBC Two explores what it means to be mixed-race in Britain

Mixed-Race Britain is put under the spotlight this autumn on BBC Two in a collection of revealing and compelling new programmes.

Britain in 2011 has proportionately the largest mixed population in the Western world, but 100 years ago people of mixed race lived on the fringes of British society, an invisible community unacknowledged by the wider world.

With an exciting mix of drama and documentaries, the programmes provide a window into the varied and surprising lives of mixed-race people in the UK and help us understand what the increasing rise in mixed-race people means for the way we live now in Britain.

Janice Hadlow, Controller, BBC Two, said: "I'm delighted to announce this new collection of programmes that, in their different ways, help paint an intimate picture of what life is like for mixed-race people and couples in Britain – past and present.

"It's BBC Two's role to reflect contemporary society and as it's now 10 years since the full 'mixed-race' category was added to the 2001 Census, it is a timely moment for us to explore this subject matter with a collection of programmes."

Leading the programming is Shirley Bassey – A Very British Diva (working title), an intimate and revealing drama that tells the extraordinary life story of Dame Shirley Bassey – one of Britain's national treasures and one of the world's most enduring and successful divas. But her rise from poverty to international stardom is no ordinary rags-to-riches story.

Born in Tiger Bay in Cardiff, Shirley was one of seven mixed-race children from a poor family. Spotted by an astute manager as a teenager, she soon had a No. 1 song under her belt and was firmly on the road to stardom. But beneath the wealth, diamonds and furs, her life would swing between triumph and tragedy.

Set against the backdrop of mixed-race Britain from the Thirties to the Sixties, this is a story of love, loss and ambition.

In a three-part series, journalist and TV presenter George Alagiah leads viewers through the remarkable and untold story of how Britain's mixed-race community has become part of everyone's lives today. With previously unseen footage and unheard testimony, Mixed Britannia (working title) uncovers a tale of illicit love, marriage, children, tragedy and triumph.

Charting events from the turn of the 20th century to the present day, George explores the social factors that have influenced the shape of the mixed-race Britain we see today.

He'll find out about the flourishing love between merchant seamen and liberated female workers during the First World War; how the British eugenics movement physically examined mixed-race children in the name of science; how pioneering white couples – including English aristocrats – adopted mixed-race babies; and how Britain's mixed-race population exploded with the arrival of people from all over the globe – making them the fastest-growing ethnic group in the UK.

Mixed – Sex, Race And Empire is a one-off documentary exploring the social, sexual, economic and political issues that led to the race mixing of people across the world. From India to West Africa via South America and the USA, this programme reflects upon the stories and consequences of racial mixing across the world.

Twincredibles tells the surprising story of two-tone twins. There's only a one in a million chance that black and white parents will have twins of different skin colour, and 50 years ago these twin births were almost unheard of in the UK, but with the number of interracial relationships increasing, so too are the number of cases.

From toddlers through to two sisters in their fifties, this documentary explores the life experiences of five sets of two-tone twins, who are identical in every other way, but lead very different lives because of the colour of their skin. The film captures the effects this genetic phenomenon has had on their personal and professional lives.

Production credits

The commissioning lead across all programming is Martin Davidson, Commissioning Editor, History and Business.

Shirley Bassey – A Very British Diva (working title) is a 1 x 60-minute drama made by Prospect Cymru Wales. The Executive Producer is Charles Thompson and it is written by Shelagh Stephenson. The Commissioning Executive Producer for the BBC is Maxine Watson.

Mixed Britannia (working title) is a 3 x 60-minute series made by BBC Vision productions. The Executive Producer is Darren Kemp and the Commissioning Editor is Clive Edwards.

Mixed – Sex, Race And Empire is made by BBC Vision Productions. The Executive Producers are Michael Poole and David Olusoga. The Commissioning Editor is Martin Davidson.

Twincredibles is a 1 x 60-minute documentary made by Blast Films. The Executive Producer is Edmund Coulthard and the Commissioning Executive Producer for the BBC is Maxine Watson.

The Editorial advisor for BBC Two's Mixed-Race Britain is Chantal Badjie.


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