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BBC Radio 4 series to explore personal history of Colston protester Jen Reid

The woman’s statue replaced that of slave trader Edward Colston after it was toppled during a protest.

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A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020, by prominent British sculptor Marc Quinn (Ben Birchall/PA)

A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020, by prominent British sculptor Marc Quinn (Ben Birchall/PA)

A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020, by prominent British sculptor Marc Quinn (Ben Birchall/PA)

BBC Radio 4 is to explore the personal history of Black Lives Matter protester Jen Reid, whose statue replaced that of Edward Colston, in a new series.

Descendants, narrated by spoken word poet and writer Yrsa Daley-Ward, will explore the legacy of slavery in modern Britain.

Daley-Ward, who co-wrote Beyonce’s visual album Black Is King, said she was drawn to the project by “the great resonance and deep importance” of its stories.

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James Cleverly will also feature in the series (Liam McBurney/PA)

James Cleverly will also feature in the series (Liam McBurney/PA)

James Cleverly will also feature in the series (Liam McBurney/PA)

The series will air in seven parts and is made with the support of University College London’s Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery.

Starting on May 28, each episode will introduce listeners to people connected, often in surprising ways, to one another and slavery, visiting Detroit, Bristol, Barbados and London.

The story will starts with a personal history of Reid, whose statue replaced that of slave trader Colston after it was toppled during a protest in June 2020.

Artist Marc Quinn created the life-size black resin and steel piece of Reid after seeing a photograph of her standing on the empty plinth.

The series will then turn the spotlight on 14 other figures, including Gayle Heron, sister of poet and musician Gil Scott Heron, Conservative MP James Cleverly and Mark Cropper, a descendant of abolitionist James Cropper.

Daley-Ward said: “As someone whose parents hail from Jamaica and Nigeria, the deep horror of enslavement was likely part of my family history. So much of the history of a people was lost and subsequently, so much of the truth doctored.

“I was drawn to this project because as an author and performer I have come to understand the great resonance and deep importance of our stories, of finding future in history, of tracing bloodlines, ancestry and the paths of those who came before us.

“Although I recognise how connected we are, the very extent to which these stories interlink and touch each other still caught me by surprise.

“The series is informative and hopeful, and I’m so happy to be a part of that, bringing these stories of everyday people together and to life.”

Richard Knight, commissioning editor for factual at Radio 4, said: “By scrolling backwards and forwards through personal histories, the producers of Descendants have created an astonishing snapshot of the degree to which the legacy of slavery touches, and connects, so many British people today.”

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Descendants airs on Fridays from May 28 to July 9 at 11.00am.

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