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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Mixed Race Britain – introduction

Maureen and Dr Phoonoo Bezboruah with their daughter

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

Britain in 2011 has proportionately one of the largest mixed population in the Western world, but a hundred years ago people of mixed race lived on the edges of British society. With an exciting mix of drama and documentaries, this season explores the mixed race experience in Britain – and around the world – from the distant past to the present-day, using the testimonies of a range of people, both ordinary and extraordinary, to illuminate this seldom-told story.

Janice Hadlow, Controller of BBC Two, says: "It is 10 years since the full 'mixed race' category was added to the 2001 census and a timely moment to explore this subject matter. But this is not just a season for mixed race people, or those in a mixed race relationship. It's BBC Two's role to reflect contemporary society and the story of mixed-race Britain is a valuable exploration into the way we live now. I hope our audience will find it fresh and inspiring."

Chantal Badjie's parents Bianca and Ade Benjamin get married in 1959

2001 to 2011 – what a difference a decade makes
Season overview by Chantal Badjie, Editorial Advisor

On 29 April 2001 a new category was added to the census. Simply called "Mixed" it allowed mixed race people for the very first time to tick a full range of boxes to describe their identities. Being mixed race myself, this felt like a eureka moment… as if we had finally been accepted into the mainstream cultural landscape.

A few years later, while running some BBC career workshops at a South London school we noticed how confident and upbeat the young mixed race people seemed to be compared to those like me who had been born in the Fifties and Sixties. It seemed that life and aspirations had certainly changed for the better for young mixed people since my day. And this in turn became the seeds of the mixed race season. At the BBC we wanted to trace mixed race histories and the way mixed people in Britain have moved from the margins to the mainstream. We also wanted to look at why Britain has the world's fastest growing mixed race population.

The season as outlined below does not claim to examine every single mixed race issue and we don't pretend we've covered all the issues that affect mixed race people in the UK or that we have represented every combination of mixed race relationship. That would be impossible. What we wanted to do on BBC Two, is provide a snapshot of Mixed Race Britain past and present, and to demonstrate that this story is a key part of Britain's social and cultural landscape.

We wanted especially to look at: the experience of someone who was born mixed race in the Thirties and who also happened to be a great British cultural icon (Shirley); the science of genetic inheritance and the nature versus nurture debate (Twincredibles); the imperial and global history of mixing (How The World Got Mixed Up) plus a sharp close up look at mixed race relationships and wider society in the 20th and early 21st centuries (Mixed Britannia).

This year when I filled in the "Mixed" section of the 2011 census, it didn't feel like an earth shattering event – it simply felt perfectly normal to be British and mixed.


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