Baroness Floella Benjamin
Best known for:
Baroness Floella Benjamin DBE DL is a Trinidadian-British actress, author, television presenter, singer, businesswoman and politician. She is known as presenter of children's programmes such as Play School, Play Away and Fast Forward.
Baroness Floella Benjamin was born in Trinidad in 1949 and came to England as a 10 year old child in 1960. She left school at 16 with the aim of becoming Britain's first ever black woman bank manager, but changed direction and became an actress, presenter, writer, independent producer, working peer and an active advocate for the welfare, care and education of children throughout the world. She has also headed a successful film and television production company for the last 28 years.
This year Baroness Floella Benjamin is celebrating 45 years in Children’s television and is still appearing on Children’s television across the world.
She is best known for the iconic children’s programmes Playschool and Play Away and is loved as a national treasure and adored by generations especially those over 35!
Apart from being appointed in 2006 as the first black woman Chancellor of a top UK University and business woman. She is quite unique and is perhaps the only woman in the UK to have been not only an actress in TV & film drama, a children’s presenter, writer, author, independent producer, but a regulator and a policy maker in government as well.
She started off her career in show business 46 years ago, first appearing on hit stage musicals before moving on to numerous dramas for both BBC and ITV.
She starred in the 1977 British Cannes entry film Black Joy and was critically acclaimed. She also appeared in Run Fat Boy Run and Rendition.
As well are her stage film and television appearances, in 1987 she founded her own television production company and produced hundred’s of chåildren’s programmes for all the major broadcasters, several received nominations and were award winners. Her most recent programmes include Mama Mirabelle’s Home Movies, Chuggington, Sarah Jane Adventures and is a regular on CBeebies Bedtime Stories.
She has also had experience as a regulator, she sat on the Ofcom Content Board for three years and was a member of the BBFC Advisory Board for several years and sat on the NFTS Board for 17 years.
She was Chair of BAFTA - Television and created the Children’s BAFTA Awards which are now in their 20th year.
Since 1973 she has been campaigning for diversity both in front and behind the camera and now advises the BBC on their diversity policies.
She sits in the House of Lords where she passionately promotes children’s television and UK film, the only person doing so. In government she fought for tax credit for UK Kids productions and animation and secured changes to child performance regulations, which were welcomed by all the broadcasters and independent production companies.
In past years she has received numerous awards including, an OBE for her contribution to children’s broadcasting, a Special Lifetime BAFTA an RTS Award, a BKSTS Fellowship, an Honorary Fellowship of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the ACA-JM Barrie Award for her lasting legacy to children.
She is the Chair of the Windrush Commemoration Committee which is charged with creating a National Windrush Monument. The unveiling will take place at Waterloo Station on June 22 2022.
In 2020 she was made a Dame and her best selling book ‘Coming to England’ which she wrote 25 years ago - the picture book edition went to number one in the amazon best children’s books category. She recently spoke about it on Zoom to 30,000 schoolchildren across the country. The book has now been adapted as a stage musical and will open at the Birmingham Rep on the 31st March 2022.
Publication: Coming to England 1995 and Picture book edition 2020 amazon bestseller 2020