When film-maker Liana Stewart was growing up in Butetown, Cardiff, there were few black and Welsh role models on TV. For a long time she’s wanted to make a film that brings people together from across Wales to share their experiences of what it means to be black and Welsh. And now she’s done just that with new documentary Black and Welsh.
The programme weaves together a collection of emotional and engaging stories from across the nation, from Newport in the south to Snowdonia in the north. Among others, Liana speaks to 19-year-old international model Laiqah Omar, YouTuber Gonth, Newport actor Alexandria Riley (The Tuckers, End of the F***ing World, In My Skin), Wales’ first Rastafarian beekeeper Phillip Henry, Gaynor Legall, the first black female city councillor in Wales, comedian Leroy Brito and a 92-year-old whose arrival in Wales predates the Empire Windrush.
From a working-class family in Ely, Executive Director of the Financial Conduct Authority and Chair of Stonewall Sheldon Mills, opens about how he pursued a career in law. Inspired by boxes of University prospectuses he found at his school’s library, Sheldon declared to his history teacher one day that he was going to become a lawyer and attend King’s College, London, only to be told that he would never go to that college.
Sheldon said: “Role models shouldn’t just be movie stars or singers or athletes. They need to have role models who are politicians, lawyers, accountants, doctors and so on. Because those are the people, actually, who make up society.”
Alexandria Riley talks about her journey from a young actress hiding her Newport accent and being the only cast member asked to do their own hair, to the joy of landing her first leading role in a comedy.
In Black and Welsh, the conversation never shies away from talking about the uncomfortable and difficult situations people have been through, but also celebrates the humour, pride and ‘Welshisms’ familiar to all Welsh people regardless of background in this snapshot of a multicultural nation.
Black and Welsh airs Monday, 26 October on BBC One Wales, 8:30pm