The Baroness Benjamin
|Member of the House of Lords|
|Assumed office |
26 June 2010
Floella Karen Yunies Benjamin
23 September 1949
Pointe-à-Pierre, Trinidad and Tobago
|Political party||Liberal Democrats|
|Occupation||Actress, author, businesswoman, politician, presenter, singer|
Floella Karen Yunies Benjamin, Baroness Benjamin  (born 23 September 1949) is a Trinidadian-British actress, author, businesswoman, politician, presenter and singer. She is known as presenter of children's programmes such as Play School, Play Away and Fast Forward. On 28 June 2010, Lady Benjamin was introduced to the House of Lords as a life peer nominated by the Liberal Democrats.
When her father, "a policeman and a talented jazz musician", decided to emigrate to Britain, the children were left in the care of family friends. In 1960 the children went to join him in Beckenham, Kent. She has discussed the racist experiences she had when arriving in Britain as an immigrant.
Having left school to work in a bank, she studied for A-levels at night school. After a spell as a stage actress in West End musicals, she began presenting children's television programmes in 1976, notably Play School for the BBC.
Benjamin has appeared in Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Black Mikado and The Husband-In-Law, as well as several pantomimes. On screen, she appeared in the 1975 horror film I Don't Want to Be Born and starred in the 1977 film Black Joy. Her television credits include Angels, Within These Walls, Crown Court, The Gentle Touch and Dixon of Dock Green. She appeared as Juniper in the first episode of Bergerac (1981).
Benjamin read two stories for the Story Teller magazine series (1983 and 1984). She was chief executive of Floella Benjamin Productions Ltd, which had produced television programmes since 1987 and was dissolved in 2014. She had done the voice work of "U" and "PG" Video Standards Council information clips. In 2006, she appeared in an episode of The Line of Beauty.
Between 2007 and 2011, she guest-starred in the Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures as Professor Rivers of the Pharos Institute in the stories The Lost Boy, The Day of the Clown, The Eternity Trap, and Sky. She also narrated three "making-of" documentaries on the Doctor Who DVD boxed set The Black Guardian Trilogy. In 2007, she played a small role in the British comedy Run Fatboy Run.
She is the singer for a rock and blues band Damn Right I Got The Blues, and says: "When I sing I am in my element."
|Run Fatboy Run||Libby's Mum||2007|
|Brand Spanking (short)||School Tannoy||2004|
|I Don't Want to Be Born||1st Nurse||1975|
|Chuggington||Mayor Pullman||2010-present||UK Voice|
|The Sarah Jane Adventures||Professor Rivers||2007-11||5 episodes|
|Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies||Mama Mirabelle||2007-08||UK Voice|
|The Line of Beauty||Mrs Charles||2006||TV Mini-Series|
|Coming to England||Teacher||2005||TV Movie|
|Little Miss Jocelyn||Herself||2006||TV Show|
|Fetch the Vet||Kara||2000-01||TV Show, Voice Role|
|Family Fortunes||Tiddles||1990||Celebrity Christmas Special 2|
|Roland Rat: The Series||BBC 3 Announcer||1986||Episode 1.11|
|Father's Day||TV Interviewer||1984||episode: "Liberty, Equality, Paternity"|
|Strangers||Rosy Baker||1982||episode: "With These Gloves You Can Pass Through Mirrors"|
|Bergerac||Juniper||1981||episode: "Picking It Up"|
|Maybury||Kayreen||1981||episode: "Hugo & Colin"|
|CBeebies: A Christmas Carol||Party Guest||2013||TV Movie|
|The Gentle Touch||Gloria||1980||episode: Shock|
|Play for Today||Norma / Marie-Louise / Solicitor's clerk||1975-79||3 episodes|
|Angels||Marigold Glasspole / April Yallop||1978-79||3 episodes|
|Kids||Ella Buckley||1979||episode: "Laurie"|
|Mixed Blessings||Karen||1978||episode: "The Housewarming"|
|Send in the Girls||Melody||1978||episode: "The Wild Bunch"|
|Within These Walls||Barbara||1974-75||5 episodes|
|Dixon of Dock Green||Mrs Dallas||1975||episode: "Target"|
|Crown Court||Jenny Marsh||1974||episode: "Victims of Prejudice: Part 1"|
Benjamin's 20th book, a memoir, Coming to England, about moving from Trinidad, was published in 1997, and is now used to teach modern history to young people. It was made into a television film by CBBC in 2005.
Other books written by Floella and published by various houses include titles such as Floella's Fun Book, Why the Agouti Has No Tail, Caribbean Cookery and Snotty and the Rod of Power. Many of her titles are aimed at children and development.
Honours and offices
Benjamin was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to broadcasting in the 2001 New Year Honours. At that time she was chairperson of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). She has also won a Special Lifetime Achievement award from BAFTA. She was chairperson of the Women of the Year Lunch for five years and a Millennium Commissioner. She is president of the Elizabeth R Commonwealth Broadcasting Fund and a governor of the National Film and Television School. She was a governor of Dulwich College, where her mother once worked and her son attended.
In 2006, she was awarded the degree of honorary D.Litt. (Exon) by the University of Exeter for contributions to the life of the United Kingdom. Benjamin succeeded Lord Alexander of Weedon as Chancellor of the University of Exeter. She famously hugged graduates instead of traditionally shaking their hands during the graduation ceremonies. Benjamin stepped down from office in winter 2016 after ten years in the post. A statue of Benjamin is outside the University's student guild.(shown on the right) The plaque reads Consideration ~ put yourself in the place of others and show empathy and respect. Never be judgmental.; Contentment ~ Don't be jealous and envious, but be satisfied with what you have. That way you are open and ready to receive what is right for you.; Confidence ~ Be a decent human being, feel worthy and like the person you are. Give and love unconditionally and more will come back to you. This is the only public statue of a named black woman in the UK.
In 2008 she was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London. In the 2010 Dissolution Honours List, she was appointed a Liberal Democrat life peer, being created Baroness Benjamin, of Beckenham in the London Borough of Bromley on 26 June 2010. In 2010, she was appointed chair of governors at The Isle of Sheppey Academy until her term in office expired at the end of 2011.
In 2010 Benjamin was raised to peerage as Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham as the first actress to become a peer in the House of Lords. In her maiden speech she spoke of choosing Beckenham to reflect the legacy of her mother and father, and the importance of childhood. She referenced her support of the charities NSPCC, Childline, Sparks and Barnados and their work to protect and support the health and wellbeing of vulnerable children.
In the 2020 Powerlist, Benjamin was listed in the Top 100 of the most influential people in the UK of African/African-Caribbean descent in the UK. The same year saw Benjamin appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2020 New Year Honours for services to charity. On 12 March 2020, in an Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, she received the award from Prince Charles.
Educational and charitable interests
Benjamin is vice-president of NCH Action for Children and Barnardo's, and was in the NSPCC's Hall of Fame. She runs the London Marathon to raise funds for Barnardo's and the Sickle Cell Society. She was a cultural ambassador for the 2012 Summer Olympics. In September 2011, she participated in the Great North Run. She features in the BBCs CBeebies animation Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies.
In July 2007 she spoke of what she saw as the low standard of children's television and in March 2013, she used a speech marking International Women's Day to warn of the impact on children of the availability of violent pornographic material online, claiming this was leading to the increasing objectification of women.
In October 2015 in a talk to migrant children, Floella Benjamin said that dropping her accent was the key to her success and that migrant pupils should do the same to avoid racism and bullying.
- "Floella Benjamin OBE: About Me". Floellabenjamin.com. Archived from the original on 6 January 2010. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
- GRO Register of Marriages: SEP 1980 14 0207 LAMBETH – Keith D. Taylor=Floella K.Y. Benjamin
- "Floella Benjamin, OBE – About Me". Floellabenjamin.com. Archived from the original on 7 January 2010. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
- Floella Benjamin profile, Historical Geographies; 3 September 2011; accessed 21 March 2014.
- Ahmed, Samira (13 January 2011). "Swinging racism: Floella Benjamin's memoir of 60s London". samiraahmed.co.uk.
- "Floella Benjamin - Activist, Actress and Producer". h2g2. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
- "Bergerac" Picking It Up (TV Episode 1981), retrieved 9 June 2017
- "FLOELLA BENJAMIN PRODUCTIONS LIMITED - Filing history (free information from Companies House)". beta.companieshouse.gov.uk.
- Floella Benjamin biography and credits, BFIScreenonline.org; accessed 21 March 2014.
- "Floella Benjamin – About Me 2". floellabenjamin.com. Archived from the original on 5 May 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
- "Union Blacks – a portrait of Black Brits", unionblacks.co.uk; accessed 21 March 2014.
- "Literary Information" Archived 7 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Floellabenjamin.com.
- "No. 56070". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 2000. p. 10.
- "Women of the Year Lunch and Awards - Celebrating women since 1955". Women of the Year. Archived from the original on 17 June 2013.
- Office of the Chancellor, University of Exeter; accessed 21 March 2014.
- Exeposé - Going with the Flo-ella Archived 25 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine 16 October 2013
- "University of Exeter Chancellor Baroness Floella Benjamin steps down after ten fantastic years". University of Exeter. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
- Shepherd, Luke. "'Baroness Floella Benjamin (Portrait Bronze statue)'". ArtParksInternational. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
- Shepherd, Luke. "Bronze of Floella Benjamin". CreativeTorbay. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
- "No. 59476". The London Gazette. 1 July 2010. p. 12451.
- "Dissolution Honours: John Prescott made a peer". BBC News. 28 May 2010. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
- Mills, Kelly-Ann (25 October 2019). "Raheem Sterling joins Meghan and Stormzy in top 100 most influential black Brits". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
- "No. 62866". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 2019. p. N8.
- Clarence House (2020). "Today, The Prince of Wales held an Investiture Ceremony at Buckingham Palace on behalf of The Queen". twitter.com. London: Twitter. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
- Christian Moon (16 April 2008). "Liberal Democrats: The 4Rs Commission". Liberalengland.blogspot.com. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "In pictures: Great North Run 2010 celebrities", BBC.co.uk; accessed 21 March 2014.
- "Press Office: CBeebies press pack: Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies and the Sarah Jane Adventures". BBC. 19 March 2007. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
- Staff (26 July 2007). "Floella raises banner to save children's TV". Telegraph. Retrieved 29 May 2010.[dead link]
- "Floella Benjamin becomes Patron of Beating Bowel Cancer" Archived 12 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine, beatingbowelcancer.org; 16 January 2013.
- Woolcock, Nicola (31 October 2015). "Ditch your accent in school, presenter tells migrant pupils". The Times. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
- Floella Benjamin at the British Film Institute
- Floella Benjamin profile, TV.Com; accessed 25 March 2014.
- Floella Benjamin at IMDb
- Floella Benjamin official website
- University of Exeter webpage
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Floella Benjamin.|