Evelyn Dove was a singer and actress, heralded as Britain’s black cabaret queen. She belongs among such greats as Josephine Baker. The daughter of a Sierra Leonean barrister and his English wife, Dove studied singing, piano and elocution from an early age, and graduated from the Royal Academy of Music.
She joined the Southern Syncopated Orchestra – West Indian, West African and American musicians – but in 1921, 9 of them drowned in an accident at sea. Dove toured Western Europe, the US and India. She was the first black female singer on the BC, and one of her shows was so successful they turned it into a TV show. By the 1940s Evelyn Dove was a household name.
Una Marson was a poet, playwright, editor, the first black woman programme maker at the BBC, and an activist.
Marson’s work was anti-colonial, antiracist, working class, feminist and Pan-Africanist. Writing in both English and Jamaican patois, her work addressed the lived realities of working class Jamaicans and the wider Caribbean diaspora community in the UK. She wrote about being a colonial subject who comes to the ‘Motherland’ only to find it alienating and racist. She broke down racist, Eurocentric beauty standards and the negative impacts they have.
Marson took over a BBC radio show, which had been a way for soldiers to send messages to their families, and turned it into Caribbean Voices, a key international platform for Caribbean literature.
Jocelyn Barrow was a founding member and General Secretary of the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination, the organisation responsible for driving the Race Relations legislation of 1968.
As a teacher trainer in the 1960s, Barrow pioneered the introduction of multicultural education into the British schools system.
Barrow was also the first black woman Governor of the BBC, and the founder and Deputy Chair of the Broadcasting Standards Council, which set standards and investigated complaints into TV, press and radio, as well as leading on studies into the effects in society of what people see on TV. The BSC later became Ofcom.