Entertainment & Arts

Sir Lenny Henry to front black British theatre series

Lenny Henry
Image caption Sir Lenny Henry received a knighthood for services to drama and charity in 2015.

Actor and comedian Sir Lenny Henry is to present a 10-part radio documentary on the history of black British theatre and screen.

Raising the Bar will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in November.

The series is part of the BBC's On Stage season, celebrating theatre in the UK.

Sir Lenny said it will highlight the "history and struggle of black British creativity" over the last century.

Trinidadian playwright Mustapha Matura, actor and playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah and theatre director Paulette Randall are among interviewees.

"This Radio 4 series covers a huge span of black British theatre, TV and film - from Ira Aldridge to Steve McQueen and Nina Baden-Semper to Bola Agbaje - it's a great sweep of history that excites and stimulates the imagination," Sir Lenny said.

"It is easy to forget that there were precedents to our current age of BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) breakthroughs and by talking to the likes of Roy Williams and Mustapha Matura, we acknowledge that the young reach their current heights by standing on the shoulders of those that went before."

Image caption Lenny Henry was guest editor of the Radio 4 Today programme for a day, last year.

Sir Lenny has been a prominent campaigner for greater ethnic diversity in the arts.

He is part of BBC director general Tony Hall's working group - which includes broadcaster Floella Benjamin and DJ Nihal - to improve diversity at the corporation.

In December last year, he guest edited the Today programme on Radio 4.

It featured interviews with people who helped to break down racial barriers a generation ago, and asked what progress was still needed in fields such as broadcasting, sport and business.

Last year, delivering a lecture to Bafta, the comedian said funds should be set aside to boost the presence of BAME people in the broadcasting industry.

He put the presence of those from BAME backgrounds in the creative industry at 5.4%, a figure he described as "appalling".

BBC On Stage will be broadcast across radio, television and online in November as a push to get people involved in the creative arts.

The season will also include the previously announced adaptation of The Dresser starring Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

More on this story