It all started with a tweet, such is social media’s power to illicit debate now. Top Boy was the catalyst; that Channel4-come Drake-come-Netflix-rebirth of a certain brand of British black life…British black man’s life.
Top Boy was trending on its first screening since its airing on Netflix. It was being consumed and enjoyed by all as a legitimate triumph. How could a new series top the original, multi-award-winning, urban crime drama? But it did; unflinchingly, cinematographically, genuine, believable locations with even more genuine acting.
The continued success of programming is linked to its social media audience interaction. Like…to what extent are people live tweeting, posting and sharing content? Netflix’s Top Boy fulfilled that criteria too. Well, riding the crest of a wave princésca /@eyram_k had the temerity to add to the social media frisson and tweeted;
‘Someone should write a Top Girl’.
Little did she know that those few words would cause such consternation. The responses to the tweet suggested that a drama focusing on a British black women’s story in the same genre (let along any other!) would be ‘silly’, focus on sex or not be as important or as serious as a man’s story.
The tweet really opened up a can of (plenty) worms that wriggled their way around the arid lawn that is black British women’s representation (or lack thereof) in UK media. Okay, you won’t find worms in dry lawns – if only because of pesticides, that’s for another conversation, but you catch my drift.
Still, lucky for @eyram_k, there was back up in the form of @CandaceTheAngel Her response was;
“Loool people are getting onto her for this, but Black British girls’ experiences are invisible in fiction and real life conversations unless they’re a subplot to boys and men” It was followed by; “I touched on this on my disso; most of the discussions about race in Britain universalise Black male issues as Black issues, even when Black females aren’t necessarily directly affected to the same degree”
The tweets garnered thousands of likes and retweets such was the proverbial elephant tip-toeing in the room.
We have to ask why? Why are British black women so obscured in British media – and when they are visible,
they’re syphoned into narrow tropes? This happens in fiction and in real-life representations. Names which come to mind are the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, MPs Diane Abbott and Dawn Butler; Love Island contestant Yewande Biala – and all the other black women daring to take part in ‘reality tv’. Then there’s supermodel stalwart Naomie Campbell and the dire representations on Britain’s most popular soaps. Lawd, let’s not get started on what ‘they’ did with Naomie Harris in Pirates Of The Caribbean! The film Babymother recently enjoyed a 20-year anniversary; what happened to the actresses Anjela Lauren Smith, Caroline Chikezie, Jocelyn Jee Esien, Tameka Empson and acting elder Corinne Skinner-Carter? What really happened with the talent that is Marianne Jean-Baptise? Speaking of Marianne, is the trek to the USA worthwhile for black artists? Sophie Okonedo, Ruth Negga, Carmen Ejogo, Cynthia Erivo we have you in our sights!
Come and join Women Of The Lens Film Festival as we open our annual event on Friday 29thNovember as we ask and start to pick apart some of the vexed challenges about black women’s representation in UK media. We’ll have a delicious panel of industry expertise to include Lekia Lee the founder of Project Embrace, Shonay Shote the creator of the photographic exhibition A Black Actress and Myvanwy Evans, founder of Louder Than Words a non-profit creative agency.
And the writer of that tweet is on the panel too! Candace Skelton an international Relations graduate, has interests in race, capitalism and colonialism. Her undergraduate research project explored Black British women and self-identity construction. These lovely women will help to provide a no-holds-barred lay into the topic with gusto (other guests to be confirmed).
As if that wasn’t enough, we’ll open our event with RCL Graham’s S.O.U.L Of A Black Woman as part of our two-day film programme. A big shout-out goes to the the film’s creator RCL Graham as we use the production’s film poster as part of our main publicity package.
This film is accompanied by boundary-breaking, afro-futuristic, speculative fiction films, The Poetic And The Visual directed by Camille DeBose; Epigenetics directed by Diahnna Baxter and As Above directed by Sewra G Kidane.
Women Of The Lens Festival 2019 showcases six Themes – Future-In The Inner Self, From The Mouths Of Babes, Movement Of Identity, The Heritage Of Fabric, Well-Full-Ness and Inner Drama.
We’ll have Q&A panels with filmmakers too. So, please do stay close to our socials for important updates. We can’t wait to see you!