EastEnders writer and acting duo join forces to plug TV’s diversity gap


Tony Jordan teams up with Jimmy Akingbola and Fraser Ayres to set up TriForce, a production company promoting diversity in television.

Life on Mars and EastEnders writer Tony Jordan has teamed up with actors Jimmy Akingbola and Fraser Ayres to help set up a new production company aimed at promoting diversity on television and behind the camera.

After Lenny Henry’s call a year ago for new legislation to reverse the “appalling” proportion of black and Asian people in the creative industries, broadcasters have come up with plans to improve the situation, such as quotas and training programmes.

However, Akingbola, who appeared in the BBC2 hit Rev and is in the Channel 4 satire Ballot Monkeys, said: “You need to do something different that’s not been done before. I believe now’s the time to make the difference.”

Jordan said: “The issue with diversity in the industry is not a lack of talent, just a lack of avenues for that talent to be reached. We are delighted to provide creative backing to TriForce Productions, to help broadcasters access that talent and engage their audiences with programming that better reflects our contemporary culture.”

“Just because they didn’t go to a particular school, a lot of talent is being missed,” said Ayres, who is starring in NBC’s epic AD: The Bible Continues. He said while it was good that the BBC director general, Tony Hall, was keen to promote diversity, more than training programmes were needed, and TriForce could provide access to “all sorts of people”.

Jordan’s company, Red Planet Pictures, will incubate Akingbola and Ayres’s company Triforce, providing a home, production experience and back-office facilities.

More than a decade ago, Ayres and Akingbola set up a networking event called the TriForce Creative Network, which stars such as Ben Whishaw and James Corden have attended. It aimed to bridge the gap between broadcasters and emerging TV talent, holding events in Stratford East in London and leading to the discovery of writers such as Sophie Petzal, one of the authors of CBBC hit Wolfblood.

The new company will draw on the network, making it what TriForce’s chief operating officer, Minnie Crowe, explained was the only one “with a readymade pool of diverse talent to draw from”.

Henry triggered a rethink in the industry with a speech at Bafta last March, when he said the situation has “deteriorated badly” with the proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic people working in the UK television industry falling by 30.9% between 2006 and 2012.

Ayres said people found it difficult unless they had enough money to live in London, arguing that television needed “diversity of experience”. He said: “I’m from Leicester, I’m a working-class boy; it was my mum who supported me. She wasn’t in the industry.”

Ayres said one of their directors had four jobs, including selling meat, until he was offered the chance of working with the new company. “We’ve all made it and are all middle class now. The further we go up, we can look back and pass on our experience,” he said.

He argued previous quotas had not worked (“It ended up with positive discrimination and it backfired … at the end of the day you run out of percentages”), hence the need for a specialist production company.

Akingbola, originally from Newham in east London, said it was important to give opportunities to a new, diverse range of people who want to work in television, in front of and behind the camera.

TriForce Productions is working on developing programmes and is collaborating with the BBC, ITV and ITV Studios to find new writers in a competition called WriterSlam.

Ayres said even small changes could make a difference, explaining that in previous events they had advised broadcasters to cut their entry requirements to 10 pages as most “working-class people haven’t got the time” to write a full script.

Since Henry’s campaign, three senior TV executives have formed Sugar Films, an independent production company that aims to put race, gender and sexual diversity at the top of its agenda.

Source: The Guardian –



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