Bafta Fellowship winner Floella Benjamin's BBC children's TV past and suffering racist abuse

Baroness Floella Benjamin -Credit:Getty Images
Baroness Floella Benjamin -Credit:Getty Images

Baoness Floella Benjamin said she’s been “floating ever since” discovering she will receive the Bafta Fellowship at this year’s Bafta Television Awards.

The beloved children’s TV presenter is known to millions of Brits as the host of BBC children’s TV shows Play School and Play Away.

Now she’s set to be honoured for her “tireless support of children and young people” and “her unwavering championing of diversity”, Bafta chairwoman Sara Putt previously said.

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The 74-year-old was born in Trinidad before emigrating to the UK when she was 10-years-old as a Windrush child.

Having left school at 16 with the aim of becoming Britain’s first ever black woman bank manager, she 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.

Floella became a household name through her appearances in the iconic children's programmes Playschool and PlayAway, dedicating 49 years of her life to stage, film, radio and television.

The author and charity campaigner was introduced to the House of Lords in 2010 and given the full title of Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham in the County of Kent after being nominated by the Liberal Democrats. She collected her damehood for her services to charity at Buckingham Palace in 2020.

Floella is a well-known children's TV presenter -Credit:Getty Images
Floella is a well-known children's TV presenter -Credit:Getty Images

Floella has chaired the Windrush commemoration committee and advocated for tax relief for children's TV in the House of Lords. Her 1995 memoir, Coming To England, was adapted into an award-winning TV film.

She has also been a strong supporter and campaigner for charities such as Barnardo's, Sickle Cell Society and Beating Bowel Cancer.

Upon her arrival in the UK, Floella faced daily racism but confronted the discrimination with poise, grace and her renowned smile.

Now she is set to be honoured at the Bafta Television Awards, which is being held at the Royal Festival Hall on May 12, where TV shows including the final season of BBC drama Happy Valley, spy drama Slow Horses and the final series of Netflix’s royal drama The Crown will be hoping to take home gongs.

The BAFTA Fellowship represents the most prestigious recognition given by BAFTA to an individual.

Recalling the day she received the news, she told PA news agency she had been checking emails and saw one from Bafta, explaining: “It was the most incredible letter that said that Bafta had unanimously decided to offer me the Bafta Fellowship, their highest accolade, and it couldn’t go to anyone better.

Floella -Credit:PA
Floella -Credit:PA

“And lo and behold, I had to keep on reading. I said to my husband, ‘you won’t believe it’. I kept on reading it and reading it thinking they must have made a mistake. I’ve just been floating ever since, I just can’t believe this wonderful accolade is happening to me.”

Floella, who is one of six siblings, said she wishes her parents were here to see the “fruits of their labour”.

She told PA: “My husband (Keith) is coming with me and my beautiful daughter is coming with me. And, unfortunately, my son is abroad, so he can’t come.

“But all my family, brothers and sisters, will be tuning in and I just wish my mom and dad were here to see the fruits of their labour, you know, the sacrifices they made for their six children.

“For me to be awarded with this highest accolade in our industry this way, it’s due to them and their commitment, and their love and the confidence they instilled in me, that has made me where I am today. So, I wish they were here to bask in their glory.”