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‘The English flag used to have a terrible presence’

Grief: Eamonn Walker stars as a father grieving for his murdered daughter (played by Pippa Bennett-Warner, pictured in photo frame)

INSPECTOR GEORGE Gently is back and this time, the detective (played by Martin Shaw) is delving into the racial undercurrent of 1960s North East England.

Tensions are high when a young black girl is found murdered outside a Newcastle nightclub.

After a lengthy spell in Hollywood, London-born actor Eammon Walker will star alongside Lenora Crichlow in episode one of the upcoming BBC murder mystery.

Famed for his roles in US dramas Oz and ER, Walker returned to UK shores to play Ambrose Kenny; a man grieving the loss of his murdered daughter Dolores ((Pippa Bennett-Warner). And according to the actor, it is the honest and in-depth depiction of black Britain in this episode that enticed him to come back to the UK.

“This episode really represents, for the first time, a story about the migrations of West Indian people and the British reaction to their arrival,” explained 50-year-old Walker. “It’s a murder mystery but the bigger picture is the contribution of black people in Britain and people’s attitudes at a time when a young black girl is murdered.”

Citing the connection to his latest role as personal, the actor recalled the racial torment that he experienced during his childhood, when it was assumed that black people did not contribute to the UK or could not be war heroes.

“I remember when I was a child, I was spoken to as if I didn’t know anything about England or the war because it was considered to be something only white English people knew about. History didn’t write that my people were an important part of the past, so I didn’t know how to fight back from all the racial abuse that I suffered as a child. But this story addresses it.”

Using his role as a way to pay homage to the generations that came before and stayed in England despite considerable odds, Walker believes it is imperative to retell the stories of the past, because according to the actor, many of today’s young people do not know their history.

“This episode shows a very different England to the one we know now, and it shows how far we have come. It’s really important to show the blood and tears that have been shed and are still being shed now. A lot of young people will not know what happened before. They take for granted that we live in a multicultural society, but it hasn’t always been so.”

He continued: “1968 was when [Britiish politician] Enoch Powell gave his [famed anti-immigration] Rivers of Blood speech. The power it held at that time meant that it was harder for the people who had migrated here or had fought for this country.

“And now the children and grandchildren of those people are fighting and winning Olympic gold medals under the banner of the English flag, which used to take on such a terrible presence for me. It really is an amazing thing.”

Episode one of Inspector George Gently is on BBC1 on August 26 at 8.30pm

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