Around 5,000 members of the U.K.’s film and TV industry have signed an open letter calling on gatekeepers to make a number of “strategic commitments” to reshape the landscape and improve representation.
Organizers of the letter — which comes just one week after the U.S. Black Film Collective issued a similar open letter to Hollywood — include “The Boy with the Topknot” producer Nisha Parti, actor and writer Meera Syal, “Patrick Melrose” actor Indira Varma, playwright Tanika Gupta, actor-director Pooja Ghai and presenter Anita Rani.
The group credits the U.S. Black Film Collective’s initial “powerful and eloquent” open letter, sent last week and signed by hundreds of supporters. “As the U.K. TV and Film industry suffers from the same lack of diverse representation in front of and behind the camera, we, a group of women of color working in the industry, have revised it to address particular concerns more relevant to us here in the U.K.,” reads an introduction to the letter.
In the last three days, the letter has gained thousands of signatories, including “I May Destroy You” creator Michaela Coel, “Luther” star Idris Elba, “12 Years a Slave” actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, “The Irishman” star Stephen Graham, “Blinded By the Light” director Gurinder Chadha, “Amy” director Asif Kapadia, actor-writer Sanjeev Bhaskar, “Save Me” actor Lennie James, “A United Kingdom” director Amma Asante and actor David Oyelowo, “Giri/Haji” actor Will Sharpe, “American Son” director Rapman, “Delhi Crime” director Richie Mehta, new BAFTA chair Krishnendu Majumdar, “Four Weddings and a Funeral” actor Nikesh Patel and actor Adwoa Aboah, among many others.
“Alongside those are unexpected signatures from white industry members who we hope can become active allies in bringing about change,” reads the letter.
They include the likes of actors Sandi Toksvig, Colin Firth, Samantha Morton, Bill Nighy, Ruth Wilson, Ben Whishaw, Sue Perkins and Vicky McClure, as well as “Line of Duty” creator Jed Mercurio, “Chernobyl” producer Jane Featherstone, “The Crown” writer Peter Morgan, “Harry Potter” director David Yates and Sony’s Wayne Garvie. A full list of signatories can be found here.
Further reinforcing the momentum behind the initiative is the fact that it comes just days after a separate letter from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic TV Taskforce was issued to U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden with a list of objectives and proposals for improving representation in the TV sector.
However, this letter, like its U.S. counterpart, has four demands: Banish Your Weak Excuses; Empower Black and Brown Independent Producers; Expand Your Vision; and Be More Demanding.
The specific directives are catered to the U.K. industry, which has its own unique issues in navigating the on and off-screen representation of Black and Brown creatives. As the letter indicates, “Only 5% of the producers supported by the BFI in 2018/19 were producers of colour.”
“This letter is from your colleagues in the U.K. – Black and Brown (inc. all Asians) independent producers, writers, directors and actors in alliance with many advocates for change. As one extended community, we require your active engagement to tackle structural and systemic racism in our industry, in the UK and around the world,” reads the letter.
“While messages condemning racism and advocating for solidarity on social media may inspire hope, the UK Industry must put its money and practices where its mouth is. A direct line can be drawn from the stories and voices that are silenced and ignored, to the discrimination and biases that are pervasive in the entertainment industry and larger society,” the letter continues.
“This moment in history presents an opportunity for you to be a positive partner for change. Our aim is that this letter produces strategic commitments from you to reshape our industry into one whose words are supported by action.”
Pictured: BBC’s “The Boy with the Topknot”