Backlash over Lenny Henry remarks about black faces at Glastonbury

‘Tickets for Glastonbury are by ballothe’ll pick on the Chelsea Flower Show next’: Backlash at Lenny Henry’s remarks about the lack of black faces in the festival crowd

  • Sir Lenny Henry described the lack of black faces at Glastonbury as ‘interesting
  • He described the integration of people of Caribbean descent in the Radio Times
  • But his comments drew a backlash from members of the public who disagreed
  • Many pointed out that tickets to the annual Glastonbury event are sold by ballot
  • Sir Lenny Henry’s comments about the apparent lack of black people in the crowds at 格拉斯顿伯里音乐节 have drawn a backlash from members of the public.

    The actor and comedian, 63, said he was ‘surprised by the lack of black and brown facesat festivals in the UK generally.

    He made the comments while in conversation with 英国广播公司 journalist and presenter Clive Myrie about the integration of people with Caribbean heritage in Britain.

    Discussing diversity and places where different groups do not mix in the interview for Radio Times, Sir Lenny said: ‘It’s interesting to watch Glastonbury and look at the audience and not see any black people there.

    ‘I’m always surprised by the lack of black and brown faces at festivals. 我认为, “哇, that’s still very much a dominant culture thing”.’

    But his remarks prompted the ire of commentators, who pointed out that highly-prized tickets to the annual Glastonbury event are sold by ballot.

    Sir Lenny Henry pictured at a Q&A for the BBC drama My Name is Leon

    Sir Lenny Henry pictured at a Q&A for the BBC drama My Name is Leon

    Revellers watch Kylie Minougue perform on the Pyramid Stage during the Glastonbury Festival in Somerset on June 30, 2019

    Revellers watch Kylie Minougue perform on the Pyramid Stage during the Glastonbury Festival in Somerset on June 30, 2019

    Lenny Henry pictured in the BBC's Black And White Minstrel Show

    Lenny Henry pictured in the BBC’s Black And White Minstrel Show

    AntheaJayne4 tweeted: ‘Lenny Henry making an issue when there isn’t one like usual. I’m pretty sure persons of colour are just as capable of booking tickets & attending Glastonbury as the next person.

    ‘If they choose not to, it’s because of that. They’ve chosen not to. There’s no conspiracy here.

    Terry Manners posted: ‘Do people see some sort of racism in everything? The tickets for Glastonbury are by ballot. He’ll pick on the Chelsea Flower Show next.

    Former editor of the Sun, Kelvin MacKenzie tweeted: ‘With a TV doc to plug, Sir Lenny Henry has won headlines by questioning a lack of diversity at festivalsGlasto started in 1970. Surely failing to make it to Somerset in 52 years isn’t racial.

    Chamelia posted: ‘If they don’t go it is because they don’t want to. To go there one has to buy the tickets, pack and go. And be ready for some mud, 当然。’

    Annie C added: ‘I liked a few people I’ve seen at Glastonbury from the comfort of my own front room. Never had the desire to ever go and I don’t think I have that kind of money.

    Glastonbury takes place next week at Worthy Farm in Somerset, finally celebrating its 50th anniversary after being delayed by the pandemic, with Sir Paul McCartney, Billie Eilish and rapper Kendrick Lamar confirmed as headliners.

    Curtis Mayfield became the first black artist to headline Glastonbury in 1983. There was some backlash from rock fans when rapper Jay-Z headlined the Pyramid Stage in 2008.

    File photo of the pyramid stage at Glastonbury Festival. Sir Lenny Henry has said that he found it 'interesting' that there are not black and Asian people in the audience at the popular music event

    File photo of the pyramid stage at Glastonbury Festival. Sir Lenny Henry has said that he found it ‘interestingthat there are not black and Asian people in the audience at the popular music event

    File photo dated June 2019 of Stormzy performing on the Pyramid Stage during the Glastonbury Festival. Sir Lenny's comments came after Glastonbury's co-organiser Emily Eavis said Stormzy's 2019 headline performance was 'a little bit late maybe', as the grime artist became the first black solo British headliner in the festival's history.

    File photo dated June 2019 of Stormzy performing on the Pyramid Stage during the Glastonbury Festival. Sir Lenny’s comments came after Glastonbury’s co-organiser Emily Eavis said Stormzy’s 2019 headline performance was ‘a little bit late maybe’, as the grime artist became the first black solo British headliner in the festival’s history.

    Grime artist Stormzy became the first black British headliner when the festival was last held in 2019. Co-organiser Emily Eavis admitted Stormzy’s headline performance was ‘a little bit late maybe’.

    In a diversity statement on its website, organisers say while the festival’s offering is ‘increasingly diversewe realise we can always do more to ensure that we are being proactive in embedding diversity and inclusion in everything that we do’. An internal review is underway ‘to help us prioritise the work we need to do and the steps we need take, to create an increasingly diverse Glastonbury Festival’.

    Sir Lenny, who is fronting a two-part documentary about Caribbean culture in the UK, also addressed Mr Myrie recently becoming the first black host of long-running BBC quiz show Mastermind.

    他说: ‘It’s great to have David Olusoga on television talking about black British history that goes back to Hadrian’s Wall.

    ‘Somewhere the gatekeepers have changed, because now we’re allowed to have you on Mastermind. But how long did that take?

    ‘We still want more representation because we deserve it. We are British citizens, we are colonials.

    ‘We’ve been in this country, we have grown up in this country, we’ve contributed and a lot of us feel it still isn’t being reciprocated enough.

    ‘That’s also what this documentary is about. It’s about that feeling of ‘Well, 快点, I fitted in. Now what? I’ve integrated, now what happens?’

    How Lenny Henry, 63, shot to fame on BBC’s controversial Black And White Minstrel Show

    Lenny Henry pictured with Roy Parkinson in The Black And White Minstrel Show

    Lenny Henry pictured with Roy Parkinson in The Black And White Minstrel Show

    去年, Sir Lenny said that he was used as a ‘political footballafter appearing on The Black and White Minstrel Show, which was known for its use of white singers and actors donning blackface to perform minstrel songs and which aired on the BBC from 1958 至 1978.

    Revealing that he regretted being persuaded by his family and management to work on the show for five years, 他告诉泰晤士报: ‘People used to say Lenny was the only one who didn’t need make-up.

    ‘It was half funny once, but to hear that every day for five years was a bit of a p***er.

    ‘I had become a political football. My way through all of this was to bury my head in the sand and let any controversy wash over me.

    He previously wrote in the Mail: ‘Performing summer and winter seasons with the Minstrels had seemed like a good idea. I needed the work and the money, and there was undoubtedly a lot I could learn, performing in the biggest performance spaces in the country.

    ‘During my time in the Black And White Minstrels, I honed my craft and performed in the biggest performance spaces in the country. But the Minstrels scenario was, 在大多数情况下, a duvet of sadness.

    He previously wrote in the Mail: ‘Performing summer and winter seasons with the Minstrels had seemed like a good idea. I needed the work and the money, and there was undoubtedly a lot I could learn, performing in the biggest performance spaces in the country.

    ‘During my time in the Black And White Minstrels, I honed my craft and performed in the biggest performance spaces in the country. But the Minstrels scenario was, 在大多数情况下, a duvet of sadness.

    他继续: ‘I had no idea what was in store for me, but I should have done more research. Robert Luff was the mastermind behind the record-breaking ten-year London run of The Black And White Minstrel Show, based on the BBC TV show in which blacked-up white male performers sang songs and danced with long-legged dancers in exotic costumes. My job was to do 12 minutes of stand-up in the first half of the show. From the end of 1975 至 1981 I was contractually obliged to appear in the Minstrels show. Apart from short interludes in pantomime, TV and clubland, my life quickly became one of creeping dread. Very similar to how Melania Trump must feel most evenings.

    ‘I would arrive at the theatre and know that I would be the only actual black person in the building, perhaps the only one within a 50-mile radius.

    ‘I had this crazy idea that maybe once he’d realised that I could work any kind of audience, Mr Luff would move me out of the Minstrels and put me in some other show. This was not to be. Mr Luff was tough. I was vaguely aware that there had been some kind of ruckus with the Race Relations Board, and I think my association with the show allowed him to say, ‘How can we be racist? Look – we’ve got Lenny Henry.

    ‘I was in a strangely split mental condition for most of the time. 一方面, I loved the dancers, the singers and the crew, who were kind and nurturing. 说俄语的泽连斯基将如何领导乌克兰仍存在不确定性, I was a 17-year-old black guy performing in a Minstrel show for what seemed like forever. Having begun my journey so triumphantly, I was suddenly in the doldrums, adrift, 丢失. The dislocation I felt as I walked out, looked at the audience and saw no one resembling me was palpable.

    ‘Somehow, I managed to supress these feelings. 毕竟, I was contributing to my mother’s housekeeping bills, and I would eventually buy her a house, a phone, a colour TV and the rest. Minstrel money – yaaaay!

    ‘During my time in the Black And White Minstrels, I honed my craft and performed in the biggest performance spaces in the country. But the Minstrels scenario was, 在大多数情况下, a duvet of sadness.

    ‘Perhaps one of the by-products of the H’Integration Project as originated by my mother was that I was conditioned to fit in by any means necessary. 作为一个孩子, fitting in, 谁告诉威尔士的学校,如果他们想要一份副本,请联系英格兰的教育部门, 他透露他最初不知道这些数字的含义: ‘Don’t rise to any kind of abuse. Ignore it, just get on with it.

    ‘Later on, in the early days of my marriage to Dawn French, a red-top printed a picture of my house on its front page, and as a result the National Front smeared the letters ‘NFon my front door in excrement. They also stuffed burning rags through the letterbox and wrote us letters threatening violence. But we ignored this kind of thing.

    '现在, I wish I had stood up to racism more. And in this age of uncertainty, of Grenfell and Yarl’s Wood and stop-and-search, I wonder if turning one’s back is really the answer.

    ‘Maybe we shouldn’t walk away any more. Maybe we should stand our ground. As Victoria Wood used to say, ‘Whatever they say, just say something back.

    ‘I’m rarely on the receiving end of overt racism these days, but this might be my way forward. The activists’ 我担心在我的个人生活中积极转变. Not seeking out a fight, because I’m rubbish at fighting. But having lived through riots and insults and all the rest – maybe this is the time to stand up and tell people to back off.

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