Floella Benjamin is a much-loved TV presenter, stage actress, author, producer, businesswoman, and diversity speaker.
She is probably best known for being the iconic presenter on BBC’s children’s programmes Playschool (1976-84) and Playaway (1977-84), through which she became a nationwide star.
Thanks to her media career and charity work, Floella was awarded a BAFTA Special Lifetime Award in 2004 and the J.M. Barrie Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.
Floella Benjamin was born in Trinidad but was raised in England, where she was educated. Leaving school at 16, she began working in the banking industry, but after just three years, she decided it didn’t suit her, and she dipped her toe into the world of show business.
She has since appeared on the West End stage in shows including Jesus Christ Superstar, The Black Mikado, and The Husband in Law, and pantomimes Puss in Boots, Aladdin, Peter Pan, and Babes in the Wood.
Whilst best known for her children’s TV presenting, Floella has appeared as an actress in TV shows The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007-11), Chuggington (2008), Bergerac (1981), and The Line of Beauty (2006), and feature films Black Joy (1977), Run Fatboy Run (2007) and Rendition (2007).
She has gone on to present shows such as A Houseful of Plants (1987-88) and BBC Daytime Live (1987-89), as well as her own current affairs show on Radio London’s Black Londoners programme for several years. She has lent her voice to narration jobs for several international orchestras, including the Northern Symphony, East of England, Welsh Chamber, and Jersey Chamber orchestras. In 2019, Floella launched her podcast From the Heart in honour of Windrush Day. Each episode explored key social topics such as emotional resilience, the power of positivity, and the importance of knowing yourself.
She set up her own television production company in 1987, and since then, has produced hundreds of programmes aimed predominately at children, including Treehouse (1987-89), Playabout (1990-91), Jamboree (1998-2000) and Hullaballoo (1994-95). She has also produced cookery programmes Caribbean Kitchen (2000), A Taste of Barbados (2000), Great British Picnics (2001), Africa on a Plate (2001), and A Taste of Cuba (2001), as well as historical programme Statues and Monuments (2002), When I Came to Britain (2004), and Coming to England (2003) – which would go on to win a Royal Television Society award.
Not content with being a popular children’s TV presenter, Floella is also a successful fiction and non-fiction author. She has written over 30 children’s books, including Floella’s Fun Book, Fall About With Flo, Floella’s Cardboard Box Book, and Snotty and the Rod of Power, cookbooks Caribbean Cookery, and Exploring Caribbean Food in Britain. Her first adult novel Sea of Tears was published in 2012. Her most successful adult books have been non-fiction publications about her own life. Coming to England (1995) looked at how her family moved to England, and the follow-up Coming to England – The Arms of Britannia (2010) covered her teenage years in London.
Floella uses her high profile to help support and campaign for several causes and charities. She is particularly concerned with human rights, education, and children’s welfare worldwide. She created the initiative ‘Touching Success’ to help support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and culturally diverse communities.
She has sat on various boards, including OFCOM, National Film & Television School, the Royal Mail Stamp Advisory Board, BBFC Children’s Advisor Panel, Dulwich College, Isle of Sheppey Academy, and Waitrose’s Diversity board.
She is a Vice President of Barnardos, and the RHS, patron of Beating Bowel Cancer, Sickle Cell Society, and Transplant Links, is President of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, was Chairman of BAFTA Television, and is an RHS ambassador. She has supported many other charities, such as The Book Trust, Oxfam, NSPCC, Save the Children, Macmillan, WATCH, and Turning Point.
I wanted to take this opportunity to say a warm thank you to Baroness Benjamin for a truly thought-provoking, powerful and amazing inspirational talk at this year’s Deloitte Black History Month celebration. I can honestly say everyone is still buzzing from last week. Here is just a sprinkle of some of the wonderful feedback I have been inundated with following Floella’s inspirational talk:
‘It shook me to my core – the strength of Baroness Benjamin’s story and experience, and the power of her inspirational message abo ut changing the future – I laughed, cried (lots) and came away feeling truly inspired’.
‘I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the event and was certainly not expecting to be taken on such a rollercoaster of emotions. I was completely enthralled by the Baroness. Truly inspirational lady and a beautiful human being’.
Brian, Risk Advisory IT Business Partner, Deloitte LLP