Linden Kemkaran

The royal wedding exposed the media’s tokenism

I was lucky (or unlucky, depending on your sensibilities) to be in a prime spot for Saturday’s royal wedding. Wearing my BBC producer hat, I worked on the huge outside broadcast on the Long Walk in Windsor.

Thursday and Friday was all bunting, dogs sporting union jack collars and the Household Cavalry rehearsing. I interviewed people who’d come to camp out, weaving my way through the increasingly packed streets, observing, gathering material and soaking up the atmosphere. It seemed very much like any other big ceremonial occasion. But on Saturday, something changed. Colour. People of colour to be precise, at first just one or two, but as the clock ticked towards midday, everywhere I turned in the area behind the BBC and ITV purpose-built studios, I saw black and brown faces. In my 20 years of working in TV news, I have never seen so many non-white faces on the telly. It felt less like the privileged world of ‘media’ and more like walking down an average high street. And it wasn’t just well-known people of colour who the TV exec producers wanted on screen; for every Emeli Sandé, there was a black or brown skinned member of the public, plucked from the crowd and invited backstage to be interviewed. Unfortunately they were only being asked to comment on one issue: race. How refreshing if I had seen an expert on tiaras or dress design or lip reading who also happened to be black or mixed race.

Watching the ceremony itself on a small monitor in a hot tent, I started counting the number of black and brown faces inside the Chapel, starting with the bride, of course, and her wonderfully stoic mother, but also guests like Idris Elba and Oprah. There was Bishop Michael Curry, brilliant, bold, prolific, he just did his thing without regard to stiff royal protocol or timings, quite the breath of fresh air. 

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