CARMEN MUNROE

CHAMPIONS

A regular fixture on both stage and small screen, Carmen Munroe is best known for her role in one of Britain’s most successful sitcoms, Desmond’s

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Born in Berbice, British Guiana, in 1932, Carmen Munroe, née Steele, settled in Britain in 1951. Within a few years she began studying drama with a group based at the West Indian Students Centre in Collingham Gardens, southwest London, making her professional debut at the Wyndham Theatre in Tennessee Williams’ play, A Period of Adjustment.

After appearing in a number of West End productions, Carmen found herself in demand on both stage and small screen and her CV includes an impressive list of credits, including, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, Jean Genet’s The Blacks, and James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner.

Carmen’s television work has been equally ground-breaking and saw her featured in popular drama series like Doctor Who and General Hospital. She was also a presenter of the children’s show, Play School. In 1976 she was cast in The Fosters, the first British sitcom to have an entirely black cast, which included Norman Beaton and Lenny Henry. Then came Mixed Blessings (1978-1980) in which she played the other half of an interracial couple navigating their marriage around their disapproving parents.

Carmen is perhaps best known for her role as long suffering wife Shirley in Desmond’s, which premiered on Channel Four in 1989 and ran for five years, winning critical acclaim for its humorous exploration of the conflict between British-born black people and the values of the older generation who grew up in the Caribbean.

Awarded an OBE in 2007, Carmen is credited with playing an instrumental role in the development of black British theatre. In 1985, she co-founded Talawa with Mona Hammond and Yvonne Brewster as a platform for black writing and black acting talent.

In the meantime, she directed Alas Poor Fred, a play by James Saunders, at the Umoja Theatre, and Derek Walcott’s Remembrance, at London’s Arts Theatre.

She also acted in work by some of the period’s leading black writers and directors – Barry Reckord’s In The Beautiful Caribbean (BBC Play for Today 1972); Horace Ove’s A Hole in Babylon (BBC, 1979); Caryl Phillips’ The Hope and The Glory (BBC,1984), Bacchanal (Channel 4, 1984) and The Final Passage (Channel 4 1996).

In 2013 Carmen appeared in the CBBC drama The Dumping Ground.

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