October is Black History Month and with that in mind we have chosen Lenny Henry as our Inspirational Diversity Champion of the Month.
Lenny is one of Britain’s best known and best loved personalities. He’s an actor, writer, comedian and television presenter who co-founded Comic Relief in 1985.
He shot to fame in 1975 aged just 17. After doing impressions to amuse his classmates as a child, Lenny won a place on the TV talent show ‘New Faces’, doing a Frank Spencer impersonation. He won, and was subsequently offered numerous contracts including The Fosters and Tiswas. From there he joined the touring ‘Black and White Minstrel Show’ alongside ‘blacked up’ whites. After 5 years he left, admitting “I’d like to do anything else rather than that” and went on to star and write alongside Tracey Ullman in ‘Three of a Kind’ (1981), through which Lenny first met TV producer Paul Jackson who introduced him to the Comic Strip team.
Lenny hosted the pilot ‘Saturday Night Live’ in 1985 which starred French and Saunders as well as Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson. Later that year he performed at the Edinburgh Festival and starred in the second series of ‘The Lenny Henry Show’.
Following numerous TV appearances and shows Lenny was the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the British Comedy Awards in 2003 and went on to win Outstanding Newcomer at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards for his portrayal of Othello (2009). He has subsequently appeared in A Comedy of Errors, and FENCES, to critical acclaim.
Lenny is also an energetic campaigner for the greater representation of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in the entertainment industry.
He has also been one of the driving forces behind Comic Relief’s growth right from the very beginning and was a trustees for over 27 years. In 2017, Lenny resigned as a Trustee and was appointed by trustee as an Honorary Life President of Comic Relief.