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Lenny Henry: Without media diversity who knows what stories we're missing?

The stories we tell each other and about each other define who we are. Who tells those stories shape the narratives and our shared identity

Sir Lenny Henry, Adrian Lester OBE, Meera Syal CBE, Ade Adepitan, Nadine ME and Marcus Ryder deliver a letter to 10 Downing Street calling for tax breaks to increase the representation of women, BAME and disabled people working behind the camera in the film and television industry Credit: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Live News

The Windrush is one of the most important events in modern British history, nearly everyone agrees on that.

But here is the point that few people realise. One of the reasons its importance has been passed down from generation to generation is because a nameless TV news editor decided to send a camera crew down to the docks and film it.

Imagine if it hadn’t been filmed, photographed or written about by journalists at the time. In all likelihood, its significance would have been lost forever. We would be poorer as a nation – not just black people, but everyone.

Only one per cent of TV directors making prime-time programmes are black.

That in a nutshell sums up why I fight for media diversity.

Without media diversity, both the people working behind the camera and the people the audience see on their screens, who knows what important stories we are missing? Who knows what future historical events are being lost forever?

The fact is less than five per cent of people who work in the British film industry are people of colour, and only one per cent of TV directors making prime-time programmes (the very type of people who would have filmed the Windrush arrival) are black.

The stories we tell each other and about each other define who we are. Who tells those stories shape
the narratives and our shared identity.

We owe it to the Windrush generation that their stories are not lost and the history made by their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren is recorded.

One way I am trying to increase media diversity is by campaigning for TV and film diversity tax cuts.

This means productions about and made by underrepresented groups such as women, BAME and disabled people will be eligible for tax relief.

This should mean that not only are historical events like the Windrush not missed but people who are all too often marginalised are actively encouraged to tell their stories.

I went to Downing Street with fellow campaigners to argue the case and over 100 industry figures signed an open letter calling for the tax breaks. This is not a fringe idea and there are versions of it in France and several states in America.

It is important to remember the Windrush and for me one of the best ways to honour them is to fight for as many of their descendants as possible to tell their stories in their own voices.

I believe diversity tax breaks are the best way to do that.

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