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Lenny Henry calls for broadcasters to match BBC’s £2.1m diversity fund

Lenny Henry, who will be hosting the Olivier Awards, in a scene from Fences. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Lenny Henry has welcomed the £2.1 million fund announced by the BBC last week to tackle black, Asian and minority ethnic representation, calling on other broadcasters to match this amount.

However, the performer described the raft of measures being introduced by the BBC to boost the number of BAME people working on and off screen as a “tiny step” and said that more needed to be done. He warned that the changes would take a long time to create a real difference in the industry.

He also urged producers working in “high-end drama”, comedy and in the West End to be more inclusive when casting and commissioning productions.

Speaking at London’s Hackney Empire to launch the stage adaptation of Rudy’s Rare Records which he is starring in, Henry said: “The measures at the BBC are very important. It’s a tiny step, it’s small but at least what he [BBC director general Tony Hall] has made very clear – with the BBC being an industry leader – is that steps are being taken and now the other broadcasters need to join in.

“£2.1million is a tiny fraction of the licence fee. Why wouldn’t the other broadcasters make up the numbers and provide matched funding?”

The actor also re-iterated his desire to see money ring-fenced by the BBC for BAME productions: “ I think £2.1million is great, but we are 14.3% of the population. 14.3% of the licence fee is not £2.1 million.”

He added: “The West End needs to represent and do more work. The Big Life and Five Guys Named Mo were great shows. People want to see great shows. We also need more dramas like Blue/Orange. I’m not just talking about BAME written things – we need to be more inclusive in the way we hire, create, produce and direct.”

Rudy’s Rare Records is adapted by Danny Robbins from his BBC Radio 4 series of the same name. It is directed by Paulette Randall, with musical direction by Joseph Roberts, design by Libby Watson and lighting by Mark Jonathan.

The show, which is co-produced by Birmingham Repertory Theatre, runs from September 4 to 20 at Birmingham Rep before transferring to Hackney Empire from September 24 to October 5.

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