Lenny Henry takes over BBC Radio 4


Well not quite, but he did for 3 hours with the UK’s leading political and news radio programme ‘The Today Programme on radio 4.

Never afraid to push the boundaries, Henry at the helm as Editor banished the white presenters such as James Naughtie and John Humphreys and in their place were Radio 4’s Mishal Husain, and Nkem Ifejikca.

Not only were the presenters Black and minority ethnic but many of the main news subjects chosen were issues of race equality. The first BME Secretary of State Sajid Javed was interviewed about lack of diversity in the media, and the Asian Ukip spokesman MEP Amjad Bashir was quizzed by Henry himself about why an Asian should support an anti immigration party. There were also very moving accounts from both the first Black Savile Row tailor, Andrew Ramroop, and Diane Abbott MP the first Black female UK politician on their trials and tribulations of breaking barriers.

Henry’s core message editing the programme was that the nation loses out of its very own talent by not embracing diversity. He argued that politics, art and business benefits from nurturing and supporting greater diversity. It was a strong powerful message.

How the Radio 4 listeners took to be hearing about race inequality for 3 hours is anyone’s guess. I suspect a few just simply switched off. My own preference would have been a more subtle approach which was undertaken by Joseph Harker when he took over the Guardian newspaper for one day earlier this year during Black History Month.

His modus operandi was Black writers talking about every day issues which included race but was not dominated by it. This led many readers to barely notice what was going on. They just read good stories that happened to be written by Black writers.

In the end Harker’s media take-over might have been slightly more subtle than the other but both have been brilliant and brave. The status quo in any society is never changed unless action of one sort or another occurs. Our starting and end point is always: Our success is the nation’s success. It’s a shame not more people get that.

Have a listen, see what you think of Lenny’s Today programme editorial role.


Well done Lenny!

Simon Woolley