Floella Benjamin

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The Baroness Benjamin

Official portrait of Baroness Benjamin crop 2.jpg
Personal details
Born
Floella Karen Yunies Benjamin

(1949-09-23) 23 September 1949 (age 69)
Pointe-à-Pierre, Trinidad and Tobago
OccupationPresenter, actress, author, singer, businesswoman, politician

Floella Benjamin, Baroness Benjamin, OBE, DL[1] (born 23 September 1949)[2] is a Trinidadian-British actress, author,[3] television presenter, singer, businesswoman and politician. She is known as presenter of children's programmes such as Play School, Play Away and Fast Forward. On 28 June 2010, Lady Benjamin was introduced to the House of Lords as a Life Peer nominated by the Liberal Democrats with the title of Baroness Benjamin, of Beckenham in the County of Kent.

Early life[edit]

Benjamin was born Floella Karen Yunies Benjamin in Pointe-à-Pierre, Trinidad, one of six siblings, with three brothers and two sisters.[4]

When her father, "a policeman and a talented jazz musician",[4] decided to emigrate to Britain, the children were left in the care of family friends. In 1960 the children went to join him in Beckenham, Kent. She has discussed the racist experiences she had when arriving in Britain as an immigrant.[5]

Having left school to work in a bank, she studied for A-levels at night school.[6] After a spell as a stage actress in West End musicals, she began presenting children's television programmes in 1976, notably Play School for the BBC.

Entertainment[edit]

Benjamin has appeared in Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Black Mikado and The Husband-In-Law, as well as several pantomimes. On screen, she appeared in the 1975 horror film I Don't Want to Be Born and starred in the 1977 film Black Joy. Her television credits include Angels, Within These Walls, Crown Court, The Gentle Touch and Dixon of Dock Green. She appeared as Juniper in the first episode of Bergerac (1981)[7].

Benjamin read two stories for the Story Teller magazine series (1983 and 1984). She was chief executive of Floella Benjamin Productions Ltd, which had produced television programmes since 1987 and was dissolved in 2014.[8] She had done the voice work of "U" and "PG" Video Standards Council information clips. In 2006, she appeared in an episode of The Line of Beauty. In 2007–09, and again in 2011, she guest-starred in the Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures as Professor Rivers from the Pharos Institute in the stories "The Lost Boy", "Day of the Clown", "The Eternity Trap" and "Sky". She narrated three "making-of" documentaries on the Doctor Who DVD box-set The Black Guardian Trilogy.[9] In 2007, she played a small role in the British comedy Run Fatboy Run. She is the singer for a rock and blues band Damn Right I Got The Blues, and says: "When I sing I am in my element."[10]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Title Role Year
Rendition CIA Staffer 2007
Run Fatboy Run Libby's Mum 2007
Brand Spanking (short) School Tannoy 2004
Black Joy Miriam 1977
I Don't Want to Be Born 1st Nurse 1975

TV[edit]

Title Role Year Notes
Chuggington Mayor Pullman 2010-14 UK Voice
The Sarah Jane Adventures Professor Rivers 2007-11
Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies Mama Mirabelle 2007-08 UK Voice
The Line of Beauty Mrs. Charles 2006 TV Mini-Series
Coming to England Teacher 2005 TV Movie
Jamboree Presenter 1998
Family Fortunes Tiddles 1990 Celebrity Christmas Special 2
Roland Rat: The Series BBC 3 Announcer 1986 Episode 1.11
Father's Day TV Interviewer 1984 episode: "Liberty, Equality, Paternity"
Strangers Rosy Baker 1982 episode: "With These Gloves You Can Pass Through Mirrors"
Bergerac Juniper 1981 episode: "Picking It Up"
Maybury Kayreen 1981 episode: "Hugo & Colin"
The Gentle Touch Gloria 1980 episode: Shock
Play for Today Norma / Marie-Louise / Solicitor's clerk 1975-79 3 episodes
Angels Marigold Glasspole / April Yallop 1978-79 3 episodes
Kids Ella Buckley 1979 episode: "Laurie"
Mixed Blessings Karen 1978 episode: "The Housewarming"
Send in the Girls Melody 1978 episode: "The Wild Bunch"
Within These Walls Barbara 1974-75 5 episodes
Dixon of Dock Green Mrs. Dallas 1975 episode: "Target"
Crown Court Jenny Marsh 1974 episode: "Victims of Prejudice: Part 1"

Publications[edit]

Benjamin's 20th book, a memoir, Coming to England, about moving from Trinidad, was published in 1997, and is now used to teach modern history to young people.[11] Other books written by Floella and published by various houses include titles such as Floella's Fun Book, Why the Agouti Has No Tail, Caribbean Cookery and Snotty and the Rod of Power. Many of her titles are aimed at children and development.[12][10]

Honours and offices[edit]

Floella Benjamin in 2007

Benjamin was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to broadcasting in the 2001 New Year Honours.[13] At that time she was chairperson of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). She has also won a Special Lifetime Achievement award from BAFTA. She was chairperson of the Women of the Year Lunch[14] for five years and a Millennium Commissioner. She is president of the Elizabeth R Commonwealth Broadcasting Fund and a governor of the National Film and Television School. She was a governor of Dulwich College, where her mother once worked and her son attended. She is a Vice-President of the Royal Commonwealth Society.[citation needed]

In 2006, she was awarded the degree of Hon D.Litt (Exon) by the University of Exeter for contributions to the life of the United Kingdom. Benjamin succeeded Lord Alexander of Weedon as Chancellor of the University of Exeter.[15] She famously hugged graduates instead of traditionally shaking their hands during the graduation ceremonies.[16] Benjamin stepped down from office in winter 2016 after ten years in post.[17]

In 2008 she was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London. In the 2010 Dissolution Honours List, she was appointed a Liberal Democrat life peer, being created Baroness Benjamin, of Beckenham in the County of Kent on 26 June 2010.[18][19] In 2010, she was appointed Chair of Governors at The Isle of Sheppey Academy until her term in office expired at the end of 2011.

Educational and charitable interests[edit]

Floella Benjamin
Floella Benjamin in 2009

Benjamin's interest in education has also seen her on the "4Rs Commission"[20] established by the Liberal Democrats to look into primary education in the UK.

Benjamin is vice-president of NCH Action for Children and Barnardo's, and was in the NSPCC's Hall of Fame. She runs the London Marathon to raise funds for Barnardo's and the Sickle Cell Society. She was a cultural ambassador for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. In September 2011, she participated in the Great North Run.[21][22] She features in the BBCs CBeebies animation Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies.[23]

In July 2007 she spoke of what she saw as the low standard of children's television[24] and in March 2013, she used a speech marking International Women's Day to warn of the impact on children of the availability of violent pornographic material online, claiming this was leading to the increasing objectification of women.[25]

She is a Patron of the charity Beating Bowel Cancer, having lost her mother to the disease in 2009.[26]

In October 2015 in a talk to migrant children, Floella Benjamin said that dropping her accent was the key to her success and that migrant pupils should do the same to avoid racism and bullying.[27][28]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Floella Benjamin, OBE: About Me". Floellabenjamin.com. Archived from the original on 6 January 2010. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  2. ^ GRO Register of Marriages: SEP 1980 14 0207 LAMBETH – Keith D. Taylor=Floella K.Y. Benjamin
  3. ^ "Floella Benjamin, OBE – About Me". Floellabenjamin.com. Archived from the original on 7 January 2010. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  4. ^ a b Floella Benjamin profile, Historical Geographies; 3 September 2011; accessed 21 March 2014.
  5. ^ Ahmed, Samira (13 January 2011). "Swinging racism: Floella Benjamin's memoir of 60s London". samiraahmed.co.uk.
  6. ^ "Floella Benjamin - Activist, Actress and Producer". h2g2. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  7. ^ "Bergerac" Picking It Up (TV Episode 1981), retrieved 2017-06-09
  8. ^ Companies House entry
  9. ^ Floella Benjamin biography and credits, BFIScreenonline.org; accessed 21 March 2014.
  10. ^ a b "Floella Benjamin – About Me 2". floellabenjamin.com. Archived from the original on 5 May 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  11. ^ "Union Blacks – a portrait of Black Brits", unionblacks.co.uk; accessed 21 March 2014.
  12. ^ "Literary Information" Archived 7 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine., Floellabenjamin.com.
  13. ^ "No. 56070". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 2000. p. 10.
  14. ^ Women of the Year Lunch. Archived 17 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ Office of the Chancellor, University of Exeter; accessed 21 March 2014.
  16. ^ Exeposé - Going with the Flo-ella Archived 25 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine. 16 October 2013
  17. ^ "University of Exeter Chancellor Baroness Floella Benjamin steps down after ten fantastic years". University of Exeter. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  18. ^ "No. 59476". The London Gazette. 1 July 2010. p. 12451.
  19. ^ "Dissolution Honours: John Prescott made a peer". BBC News. 28 May 2010. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  20. ^ Christian Moon (16 April 2008). "Liberal Democrats: The 4Rs Commission". Liberalengland.blogspot.com. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  22. ^ "In pictures: Great North Run 2010 celebrities", BBC.co.uk; accessed 21 March 2014.
  23. ^ "Press Office: CBeebies press pack: Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies and the Sarah Jane Adventures". BBC. 19 March 2007. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  24. ^ Staff (26 July 2007). "Floella raises banner to save children's TV". Telegraph. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  25. ^ Staff (7 March 2013). "Internet porn is leading children on an 'unstoppable march into a moral wasteland', warns ex-Playschool presenter Floella Benjamin". Daily Mail. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  26. ^ "Floella Benjamin becomes Patron of Beating Bowel Cancer" Archived 12 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine., beatingbowelcancer.org; 16 January 2013.
  27. ^ Woolcock, Nicola (31 October 2015). "Ditch your accent in school, presenter tells migrant pupils". The Times. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  28. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3298013/Migrant-pupils-ditch-accent-learn-speak-received-pronunciation-says-trailblazing-black-TV-presenter-Floella-Benjamin.html

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
The Lord Alexander of Weedon
Chancellor of the University of Exeter
2006-2016
Succeeded by
The Lord Myners