Sixties TV shockers: An inter-racial kiss and ‘the Negro next door’
Footage of what is believed to be the earliest known inter-racial kiss on British television has been unearthed in the BFI’s archive, 53 years after it aired.
You in Your Small Corner was shown on ITV in June 1962 as a Granada play of the week and has not been seen since, the BFI said.
The drama was rediscovered by a researcher ahead of an discussion event called Race And Romance In Television and will be shown in full at a special screening next month.
It pre-dates an inter-racial kisses on Emergency Ward 10 in 1964 and the famous clinch between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura, played by William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols, in a Star Trek episode in 1968.
It was a period in which TV companies were just starting to extend the boundaries of what was permissible. The 1966 edition of ITV’s yearbook lists the “controversial” subjects tackled over the previous 12 months by Rediffusion TV on its long-running current affairs series, This Week. Among them were “Sex and the Catholic Church”, and “The Negro next door”, a programme made in Leeds by Dame Esther Rantzen’s late husband Desmond Wilcox, dealing with the reactions of people in a row of terraces to their new black neighbours. Some of their comments would probably not be transmittable today, even in their historical context.
You in Your Small Corner follows a young man’s arrival from Jamaica to Brixton, south London, where he is staying with his mother before going up to Cambridge to study for an undergraduate degree. He meets a young woman on the rebound and they become lovers.
It was an adaptation of a play by Jamaican-born Barry Reckord, which had originally been staged at the Royal Court, and saw an on-screen kiss between actors Lloyd Reckord, the playwright’s brother, and Elizabeth MacLennan.
Heather Stewart, creative director of the BFI, said: “This ground-breaking TV play is such an important rediscovery. A document of British social history, it demonstrates the role of progressive television drama as a reflection of our society and underlines the vital work of the BFI National Archive as the guardian of our national memory.
“Fifty years on, diverse on-screen representation is still an urgent issue and we must continue as an industry to effect much-needed change.”
A screening of the drama will take place at BFI Southbank on Sunday December 13.