One of the great speeches on race and the screen sector

The remarkable British television historian who revealed the horrors of Windrush and the way the wealth of slavery created the empire is measured, personal and simply magnificent.

The James MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival is always a major event, passionate, thoughtful, diverse and sometimes completely surprising. 

But this one, delivered by David Olusoga, is a standout even though he talked to himself in a virtual event. Olusoga is fabulously honest and exquisitely insightful. There is so much I could quote, but this lecture is full of hope for us all, scattered across the globe:

‘There is one thing about this generation, that I have learnt while lecturing and talking to students, and to young people who read my books or watch the programs I present. It is something that I don’t think we in this industry yet appreciate. This generation’s attitude to race and discrimination is profoundly different from that of previous generations. They don’t just oppose racism, they are repelled by it – disgusted by it.’

David Olusaga is an extraordinary figure. According to Patrick Holland, head of BBC2 in his introduction to the speech, Olusoga is: 

Our preeminent television historian who combines BAFTA wins with some of the biggest audiences for the genre over the last decade. David is a unique podcaster and academic, whose work calls for a radical reappraisal of our shared history, from Britain’s forgotten slave owners to Unwanted, the Secret Windrush Files; from A House Through Time to his magisterial black and British forgotten history. David’s meticulous evidence-based approach, coupled with his unsurpassed skills as a storyteller, takes his audience into the minds and lives of our forebears, confronting us with the often terrible consequences of their actions.

The Guardian has published the complete speech and it makes fine sense as text, but the full presentation is also on the net. Settle back and enjoy it for its truth, its ceremony and its sense of hope if we change what we already control.

David Tiley was the Editor of Screenhub from 2005 until he became Content Lead for Film in 2021 with a special interest in policy. He is a writer in screen media with a long career in educational programs, documentary, and government funding, with a side order in script editing. He values curiosity, humour and objectivity in support of Australian visions and the art of storytelling.