Celebrating Black History Month – Warren Nettleford

Name: Warren Nettleford

Occupation: TV Presenter / Reporter

Ethnic Background: Black British

Family Origin: Jamaica

As part of our Black History Month series, we interview national television presenter and reporter Warren Nettleford about his background, career and family.

Warren has graced our TV screens for a number of years including presenting for the BBC and Channel 5. Originally from Dudley in the West Midlands, Warren now lives in London, where he also runs his own production company, Right Thing Films.

Celebrating Black History Month - Warren Nettleford

TV presenter Warren Nettleford near his workplace in London

In what generation did your family come to the UK?

My Grandfather came to England from Jamaica in 1952.

Can you tell us a bit about your home town?

I’m from Dudley in the West Midlands. It’s a small town which is known for being at the heart of the industrial revolution more than 200 years ago. Today it’s recovering and finding it’s way from massive de-industrialisation that began in the 1980s.

Dudley has a castle which was listed in the Domesday book, and also has a zoo. It’s listed as being one of the 50 most important architectural buildings in the UK. You should visit it.

What do you do now?

I’m now a TV journalist. I’ve presented the news on national television for Channel 5, reported for the BBC and now I run Right Thing Films – my own TV production company making documentaries and factual programmes.

What inspired you to pursue a career as a reporter?

I always liked to read books, read newspapers and find out what’s going on. So when I used to watch TV at home and see the jobs that reporters did, travelling the world or making great TV programmes, I knew it was something that I’d like to do too.

I didn’t know anybody who worked in TV, or even had a clue about how the industry worked, but it didn’t stop me from finding out and then going for it.

Do you feel there is a proportionate representation of minorities within your chosen field?

Nothing should stop you from doing what you want to do. It’s widely known that, statistically, the numbers of people from ethnic minorities in the world of journalism and programme making are below the national average, but things have changed and are definitely improving. Arguably, now is the best time if you come from a different background to get into the world of TV as there is at least an understanding at the highest levels that things have to change.

Are there any aspects of your family’s culture that you feel were particularly prominent or evident in your upbringing, or that you are particularly fond of?

My father was born in the UK, and my Mom was born in Jamaica, but the one thing that they both have from their Jamaican families is a sense of duty and responsibility. They volunteered for many years at our local youth and community centre. That sense of responsibility was ingrained from a young age. My grandfather was a Church Minister too so he was a pillar of the community in many ways. People respected him because he helped others and took an interest in their lives.

How are you currently/or do you plan to preserve an awareness of their background and heritage in your children & future generations? Is this something that you consider important?

My parents used to send me to Saturday School every week where we used to get taught about the American Civil Rights Movement and Black History in general. If I’m honest, I hated it! I didn’t like it because I didn’t get on with many kids there really, but now I see that it was important to go, and I did enjoy what I was taught. Back then, learning about slavery or civil rights wasn’t really on the National Curriculum so the school was actually useful in helping children from all backgrounds learn about these issues. If I have children I’ll be sure to share with them how my grandparents came to the UK and why, and also how we’ve contributed to the national story. I’ll also be keen to share the many different forms of the British Black experience as well as Black America.

Who would you consider to be the most iconic, pivotal or inspirational figure in black history & why?

Martin Luther King is the obvious answer I guess. Leading the transformation of the culture throughout a nation is hard to beat.

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