Channel 4 is hosting a one-off Black to Front event this September which will see popular shows being “taken over” by Black talent, both in front of and behind the camera.
Black to Front will see dusk to dawn programming celebrating Black contributors in a bid to champion Black voices and showcase Black talent across the British TV landscape.
The ground-breaking project will feature Bafta award winning comedians and seasoned journalists among others, who will front primetime programmes, offering viewers an opportunity to see their favourite TV hosts presenting much-loved programmes.
Sir Trevor McDonald: Image credit: Channel 4
The takeover, scheduled for a single day, has been a year in the planning and has broader goals for diversifying the Channel 4 media landscape both in front of and behind the camera.
Viewers will be treated to a veritable who’s who of media celebrities from legendary journalist and broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald to Bafta award winning comedian Mo Gilligan.
Sir Trevor will host Channel 4’s longest running programme, the iconic quiz show Countdown. Sir Trevor will be joined in the Salford studio by acclaimed poet and playwright Lemn Sissay OBE who will adjudicate the words from Dictionary Corner. Joining him will be special guest, award-winning journalist and beer sommelier, Marverine Cole. Maths prodigy Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE will bring her arithmetical expertise to the numbers section, as host of the maths round.
Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE
Image credit: samandsimonphotography.com
Presenter AJ Odudu and Mo Gilligan will take the helm as co-hosts of The Big Breakfast and newsreader Phil Gayle will return to read the news.
Channel 4 has worked together with programme makers, production partners and the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity to identify and address the barriers for inclusion and progression for talent from underrepresented groups. Significant off-screen commitments were made to increase Black representation on the Black to Front programming.
The Black to Front project is another step in the channel’s commitment to accelerate significant and lasting change in the industry. The highlights reel for Black to Front commits to:
New commissions for the day to aim for 100% Black representation behind the camera
To fund at least 10 progression placements which offer fully paid jobs with credits and ongoing career development
Work with indies on hiring practices to ensure meaningful employment for Black staff on new and existing commissions
Commitment to publish learnings that will impact policy going forward with manifesto for change.
However, not everyone is in support of the project. Comedian London Hughes has slammed the project as “performative tokenism”. In a series of tweets, she said: “As a black person in the UK TV industry all i wanted was a fair and equal shot as my white counterparts.. don’t just give us “Black to Front” days just so you can feel better about not including ppl of colour in your tv output for the rest of the year it’s insulting.”
She added: … “if you want to shine a light on black talent… HOW ABOUT JUST NORMALLY BOOKING AND HIRING MORE BLACK TALENT.’”
Not everyone takes this stance, with a number of those associated with Black to Front publicly commenting on their enthusiasm for the project. AJ Odudu said: “I absolutely can’t wait to get stuck into The Big Breakfast. It is such an iconic show to be part of and I am buzzing it is finally coming back! I’m so looking forward to working with Mo and I can’t wait to wake up the nation! I’m thrilled to be part of Channel 4’s Black to Front – which quite rightly gives a platform to deserving Black British TV talent across our industry, both on and off-screen. It’s going to be really special.’”
Sir Trevor McDonald said: “I am proud and delighted to be presenting Countdown on this special day; I have always enjoyed watching Countdown, a show that has been around for almost as long as I have!”
Black to Front is expected to air in September.