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Empire Road (BBC Two 1978-1979, Norman Beaton, Wayne Laryea)

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Empire Road Norman Beaton

BBC series Empire Road was the first British television series written by a black writer (the Guyanese Michael Abbensetts) for an all-black cast, and took place on a street populated mostly by West Indians and Asians in the suburbs of Birmingham.

The central character Everton Bennett (Norman Beaton), originally from Guyana. His son Marcus (Wayne Laryea) dated an Asian girl, Ranjanaa (Nalini Moonasar). Walter (Joseph Marcell), Bennett’s stuttering brother-in-law was also on the scene.

The series real life setting was on Westbourne Road in Handsworth and ironically, part of the 15 per cent of Westbourne Road’s white residents were angry because they didn’t want their street to be labelled an ‘immigrant’.

Critics praised the writing of Abbensetts and the strong performance of Norman Beaton and in season two Rudolph Walker also appeared playing the none too likable Sebastian Moses.

The last episode focused on the marriage of Marcus and Ranjanaa and the hope they raised for racial harmony.

Empire Road lasted for 15 half hour episodes and aired on BBC Two between 31 October 1978 and 25 October 1979.

Cast: Norman Beaton, Wayne Laryea, Joseph Marcell, Corinne Skinner-Carter, Nalini Moonasar, Rudolph Walker