Attribution: David Spender, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Baroness Floella Benjamin DBE was born in Trinidad in 1949. She joined her parents in Britain in 1960 and experienced a huge culture shock. “I expected everyone to treat me kindly and with respect, but Britain was cold, unwelcoming, violent and bleak. I had to learn to live in two cultures fast if I was going to survive.” A stable and loving home made Floella resilient. Of her parents she says, “My beautiful mother showed all her six children masses of love which gave us confidence. She told us each day before we went to school that education was our passport to life and to go to school and learn everything the teachers told us. I did just that and loved my time at school because my mum set us that goal! My dad was a jazz musician and a great philosopher. He opened our minds to the world and taught us how to think outside the box.”
How did this little girl go on to become a life peer?
Floella left school at sixteen to work in a bank until she auditioned to go on a national tour of a hit musical and was successful. She took part in numerous London shows before her move into television. She appeared on Playschool for “twelve wonderful years and loved every moment of it”. A few years later, she started her own television production company which went on to make dozens of programmes including Coming to England, based on the book Floella wrote in 1995 about “what it’s like to be different, to come as a child from a different culture to a new country where you are rejected and have to face adversity day after day. How to survive and win through.” In 2001, Floella received an OBE and in 2004, she received a BAFTA Special Lifetime Achievement Award, both for her contribution to television. Floella has also worked closely with charities for children and young people. She started Touching Success which aims to give young people the chance to meet role models who have achieved success in their chosen field. She campaigned for high standards in children's broadcasting and more diversity in the creative industries. She was the Chancellor of Exeter University for a decade and “got the opportunity to touch future leaders and policy makers”. In 2008, she was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London. In 2010, she received a Damehood for her services to charity. In 2020, after forty years of charitable work, Floella was made a life peer and was introduced to the House of Lords as Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham.
To get a real measure of this lady, listen to Podcasts ‘From the Heart with Floella Benjamin’.
The first episode is dedicated to the first ever Windrush day and the rest of the mini-series explore topics such as emotional resilience, knowing yourself, and the power of positivity. https://www.globalplayer.com/podcasts/42KqTV/
Learning about Baroness Floella Benjamin has been awe-inspiring. She reminds me of Shakespeare’s words from Romeo and Juliet.
“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.”
I particularly enjoyed listening to her podcast on Awareness and Compassion.