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17 June 2014
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Norman Beaton Fellowship Archive
Who was Norman Beaton?
Norman Beaton was born in Gu-
yana in 1934. Educated at Queen’s College in Georgetown, he trained as a teacher, and moved to England at 26. He was the first black teacher employed by the Liverpool Edu-
cation Authority. His passion for theatre took him out of education.

In his youth he wrote musical plays, playing the lead in Sit Down Banna at the Connaught Theatre in Worthing, Sus-
sex. Over three decades, he took on leading roles at the National, the Royal Court and the Old Vic. His theatre roles included works by Brecht, Pinter, Beckett, Moliere and Gilbert & Su-
llivan. In 1974, he established the Black Theatre of Brixton –and was also involved in promoting black theatre through organi-
sations such as the Minorities Arts Advisory Service, the Consultative Committee for the Arts Britain Ignores and the Afro-Asian sub-
committee of British Actors Equity.

In the 1980s, he became immer-
sed in Television; starring with Len-
ny Henry in The Fosters - Britain’s first black situa-
tion comedy se-
ries, and in the all-black soap opera Empire Road. But it was for Desmond’s that he is perhaps most fondly re-
membered, as the eponymous Desmond Ambro-
se to critical acclaim in Channel 4’s classic sitcom. For this, he re-
ceived the Royal Television Society Best Comedy Performer award.

His many pro-
ductions for BBC Radio Drama include Came from the Sun (1966), Blues for Mister Charlie (1974), Remem-
(1981), The Comedians (1984), Cricket's a Mugs Game (1985) and Benjamin Zephaniah’s Hurricane Dub (1988).

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