Charlene White: Empire’s Child, review: personal, powerful and important
ITV’s attempts at representation often come across as cack-handed. If they’re not shoehorning BAME actors into The Larkins, they’re giving black writers their own drama series but limiting the episodes to just 15 minutes each (last year’s Unsaid Stories). Earlier this week, Ashley Banjo: Britain in Black and White culminated in a walk-out by Jim Davidson, which felt like a cheap stunt.
Charlene White: Empire’s Child was much better. It was, essentially, an episode of the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? but with a specific purpose: tracing White’s roots to establish how the British Empire shaped her history. “It’s a story about who we all are as British people,” she said at the end, which is one way of looking at it, but it’s certainly a story that will be shared by many black Britons.
White, who you may know as a news presenter and member of the Loose Women panel, was born in south-east London to parents who arrived here in the 1960s as part of the Windrush generation. They were the first black family to move into their street and “not every neighbour was happy about that fact but Mum and Dad worked through that and we were loved on that road, we really were.” White tracked down a man who had given her parents lodgings when they first came to Britain: he was still alive and well at 91, still living in the same house, and still with the same stair carpet.