Baroness Floella Benjamin DBE

Actress, author, television presenter, singer, businesswoman and politician

Baroness Floella Benjamin DBE

Floella left school at 16 with the aim of becoming Britain’s first ever black woman bank manager but changed direction and became an actress, presenter, writer, award winning independent producer, politician and an active advocate for the wellbeing, care and education of children throughout the world.  For the last 50 years she has appeared on stage, film and television, working with some Britain’s top drama directors. Her most recent film credits are Run Fat Boy Run, Rendition and Sarah Jane Adventures for CBBC. But she is best known for her in the iconic children’s programmes Playschool and Playaway, which she starred in 45 years ago. She has written over 30 books including My Two Grannies and My Two Grandads but her best known book is Coming to England, which she wrote 26 years ago. It is used in schools and covers Windrush history and was adapted in a film for the BBC in 2003, it won a Royal Television Society Award. The 20th anniversary edition of the book was a Guardian Children’s Book of the Year.  The picture book version for young children was published in 2020 and immediately became a number on best seller. Her creative work has been recognised with an OBE, a Special BAFTA Award and the JM Barrie Award for lasting contribution to children’s Arts. From 2006 to 2016 she was Chancellor of the University of Exeter, the first Afro-Caribbean woman to be a Chancellor in the UK. In 2010 she became the first Trinidadian woman to become a Baroness in the House of Lords where speaks on children’s, diversity and media issues.  She successfully persuaded the government to bring in legislation for Child Performance Regulations, tax credit for Children’s programming and legislation for Public Service broadcasters to commission UK made television productions.  The Prime Minister has appointed her as Chair of the Windrush Commemoration Committee, to create a lasting monument to celebrate the contribution to Britain made by the Windrush Generation.  After 44 years she still appears regularly on children’s television programmes. In December 2019 she was awarded a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by the Women in Film & Television.  She was made a Dame of the British Empire in the Queen’s New Year Honours in 2020.