Baroness Lawrence at the BBC. Copyright Paul Hampartsoumian 2014.
The joint Royal Television Society / BBC event 'In Conversation With Baroness Doreen Lawrence: In The Eye Of a Media Storm' ,was an in depth discussion with Baroness Lawrence exploring what lessons TV and the media should learn from her family's story.
Held at the Radio Theatre at the BBC's New Broadcasting House, It was presented by Mark Daly, the BBC reporter who revealed racism within the police in the documentary 'The Undercover Policeman' and has made documentaries on Stephen Lawrence.
The event was part of a series of events across the BBC called 'Reflect and Represent', exploring how diversity can be a powerful creative driver.
The room was scattered with influential power players like BBC Director of TV Danny Cohen,Pat Younge (former BBC), Marcus Ryder (BBC Scotland), Ade Rawcliffe (Channel 4), Michelle Matherson (former BBC now ITV) and RTS new chief executive Theresa Wise.
From the start the chat was lively with Doreen revealing that Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre only turned around to support her families fight for justice after she and her husband called him up to protest anearly story that the DM had run and Mr Dacre realised Stephens father/ Doreen's husband Neville had done some building work at his home in the past.
Doreen added that the early lies of the police were a blessing in disguise
''If that original police officer hadn't lied I wouldn't have been so angry as to pursue justice and there may have never been an enquiry into my son's death".
The same day of this conversation, the BBC were launching a new scheme with the Stephen Lawrence Trust to give 20 young BAME (black and minority ethnic) apprentices an opportunity into the media. "Its great but should've happened years ago" Doreen hit out.
My own question is 'would there be any real progression routes for these 20 apprentices or would they be flung back out a few months down the line?' I guess time will tell.
There was one moment where I wanted to stand up and applaud as Baroness Lawrence emphasised that she wasn't sure all the diversity quota initiatives were working as she glanced around the theatre at the caucasian male camera crews and stated
"look around us here today...your cameramen here at the BBC -this doesn't reflect our society make up fairly!"
Then presenter Mark started an area of questioning about Doreens relationship with her now estranged husband Neville, that a few of us found awkward and unnecessary.
Doreen responded ''I'm not being disrespectful to Neville but people found it easier to talk to him back then than me because I asked the right questions and didn't let them off the hook, he didn't. My relationship with Neville is still very strained, but here's still no one else in my life".
To which Mark responded ''do you think that's because some men might find you intimidating?'' It took all my willpower not to jump up in protest!. I found this very offensive. Does being a strong woman mean you're intimidating? Or is it because she is a strong woman of colour? Would he have suggested a man was intimidating in the same situation?
A colleague and myself approached Mark post conversation to ask him about this and voiced our displeasure. He stated that Doreen herself had suggested, in one of their past conversations, that maybe it was because men found her intimidating. We informed him that then he should have put that into context to the audience, as it hadn't come across positively. He accepted this.
Doreen did say that whilst the media get bashed about a lot (especially in recent years with the Levinson enquiry), that ''the media played an important role in keeping the enquiry and our story alive. ''The corruption was deep in the Met at the time. I hate the attention and media as I'm a very private person but I do publicly what I do as I know I need to do it. I'd like to be a voice for people who don't have a voice. In the House of Lords I will speak out about things that matter. Things haven't improved since 20 years back. How can police get away with saying Mark Duggan was killed lawfully when he had no weapon? How was Joy Gardner killed with 15 meters of tape wrapped around her mouth?"
Pat Younge asked whether she felt the world was a safer place today for her grandchildren. "I question whether the world's a safer place for my grand children. My granddaughter told another child that she wasn't pleased with 'its one of you who killed my uncle Stephen', that shocked me as we don't want one of our children growing up with an unjust, incorrect sense of the world around them and had to sit her down explain that this was not how life was".
After over two decades of campaigning Doreen admitted,
"I am tired but if there's a chance of seeing the rest of those men convicted I'd like to see it through- it was joint enterprise. And as long as I still have breath I will keep on fighting".
A moving and personal story from a mother that has fought the fight of a gladiator to see justice done for her beloved son.
Danny Cohen is launching a partnership with the Stephen Lawrence Trust to train new talent in broadcasting and production skills. Twenty socially diverse, BAME individuals will join the BBC at the beginning of their career. The scheme will complement current initiatives The Mama Youth Project and the Apprentice scheme, and together will provide a clear path way to entry level employment at the BBC.