Lenny Henry “always surprised by lack of Black faces” in audience at Glastonbury and UK festivals

"Wow, that's still very much a dominant culture thing"

Sir Lenny Henry has commented on the apparent lack of diverse audience members at Glastonbury Festival.

The comedian, actor and TV presenter said that it’s “interesting” to see what he claims is a lack of “Black and brown faces” at the festival and other UK events.

He made the remarks while speaking to BBC journalist and presenter Clive Myrie for the Radio Times. “It’s interesting to watch Glastonbury and look at the audience and not see any black people there,” he said.

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Henry’s perceptions were backed up somewhat by Glastonbury co-organiser Emily Eavis, who said in a new BBC documentary that Stormzy’s headline performance in 2019 came “a little bit late”. The rapper was the first Black solo British headliner in the festival’s history.

Glastonbury The Park stage
Glastonbury Festival crowd. CREDIT: Jim Dyson

Emily, who is the daughter of Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis, said in the programme: “He was representing the black community in a very predominately white festival and obviously that’s a really important moment for us, but it’s also a little bit late maybe. We should have probably done it before.”

Henry added to Myrie: “I’m always surprised by the lack of black and brown faces at festivals. I think, ‘Wow, that’s still very much a dominant culture thing.'”

He went on to speak to Myrie about the latter’s promotion to present the long-running BBC quiz show Mastermind as well as general representation in British media. Myrie is Mastermind‘s first ever Black host.

“It’s great to have [historian and presenter] David Olusoga on television talking about black British history that goes back to Hadrian’s Wall,” Henry said.

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“Somewhere the gatekeepers have changed, because now we’re allowed to have you on Mastermind. But how long did that take?

“We still want more representation because we deserve it. We are British citizens, we are colonials. We’ve been in this country, we have grown up in this country, we’ve contributed and a lot of us feel it still isn’t being reciprocated enough.

Lenny Henry
Lenny Henry Credit: Getty

Henry is fronting a new two-part documentary about Caribbean culture in the UK called Henry’s Caribbean Britain, which premieres next Wednesday (June 22) on BBC Two.

“That’s also what this documentary is about,” Henry said in reference to the forthcoming show. “It’s about that feeling of, ‘Well, come on, I fitted in. Now what? I’ve integrated, now what happens?'”

In other news, the BBC has shared further details of its coverage for this month’s Glastonbury Festival, which takes place from Wednesday (June 22) until Sunday (June 26).

Billie Eilish, Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamar are headlining this year’s event.

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