Our Forgotten Black TV Drama season at BFI Southbank continues on Saturday 23 February at 8.30pm with a double bill of plays from the mid-1970s. Black Feet in the Snow (BBC2, 8 April 1974) was made for the BBC’s Open Door series by the Radical Alliance of Poets and Players and was based on a stage show by the West Indian poet Jamal Ali about the experience of arriving in the UK from the Caribbean. Written and narrated by Jamal Ali this was the first drama in the Open Door series, comprising an innovative mix of film and video, dramatised footage and documentary archive material, dance, music and poetry, which attempts to show how the experience of West Indians arriving in Britain – the ‘Promised Land’ – only resulted in frustration and rejection.
In Carbon Copy (ATV, 3 August 1975), Albert Sharpe II (Don Warrington) is a gifted musician from Kingston, Jamaica who has come to Britain to develop his musical career and has been ‘adopted’ by a cultured white middle-class family with connections to the classical music industry. However, Albert feels increasingly uneasy about his place in English middle-class society and develops a black consciousness, giving up his white girlfriend to go and live with Beryle (Cleo Sylvestre), a British-born black woman with a cockney accent who doesn’t share his new belief that blacks have to remain separate and retain their own identity, believing instead that “we’ve got to get together with people who’ve been screwed just like we are.” Written by Howard Schuman – a year before Rock Follies (1976) – and directed by Piers Haggard – who later directed Dennis Potter’s Pennies from Heaven (1978) – Carbon Copy was produced as part of ATV’s Against the Crowd anthology series, a ‘forgotten’ series that also included plays by Fay Weldon, Nigel Kneale and Kingsley Amis.
We are pleased to announce that Howard Schuman, Piers Haggard and Cleo Sylvestre will attend the screening. Howard Schuman and Piers Haggard will provide a short introduction to a play they have not seen since it was first transmitted.
For more on Carbon Copy and the other plays in the season see Steve Rose’s article in The Guardian: ‘When the kissing stopped: why did Britain turn its back on black TV?’ (7 February 2019).
Lez Cooke (Season Co-Curator)