Baroness Floella Benjamin – I was told to shut up or I would never work again

Baroness Floella Benjamin recalled how she was warned to “shut up or she would never work again” as she described championing diversity and inclusion over the course of her long television career.

The beloved children’s presenter, 74, known to millions of Britons as the host of BBC children’s TV shows Play School and Play Away, was honoured with the Bafta fellowship at the annual television awards.

Collecting the highest honour from the television academy, she said: “I feel blessed as I stand on the summit of the life’s mountain, looking back at my adventurous journey sparkled with affection, but also with challenges and adversities.

“I’ve been told ‘shut up, or you’ll never work again’ when I spoke out. But my mission over the last 50 years has been to get broadcasters and organisations to have diversity and inclusion in their DNA, paving the way for future generations.

“I am so proud of my work for children, making them feel loved, confident, hopeful, worthy, as I took them through the windows of imagination, inspiring to grow up and make a difference for others.”

Offering a call to action, Baroness Benjamin added: “I believe everyone in our industry has that same responsibility, as we are privileged to be able to influence society’s thinking and behaviour, which in turn affects the nation’s children.

“So it’s important that we provide high quality regulated content that reflects children’s lives, no matter where or how they’re watching.

BAFTA TV Awards 2024 – London
Baroness Floella Benjamin (Ian West/PA)

“Oh, how I wish my beloved mum and dad were alive to celebrate this part of my family’s Windrush journey.”

The veteran star received a video tribute from the Prince of Wales, who is the president of Bafta, who hailed her “remarkable achievements” as well as her “commitment to television broadcasting, and her work as an unwavering champion of inclusion”.

William added: “In a career spanning more than five decades, she has touched the lives of millions.”

The award was presented to her by newsreader Clive Myrie, who paid tribute to her “illustrious career”, adding: “She has proven to be a multifaceted talent, excelling in everything from theatre to film, to public service.

“Yet, no matter where life has taken her, Floella has remained true to the spirit of kindness, compassion, and inclusivity that endeared her to audiences worldwide.”

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