Alison Hammond: Back to School discovered some untold stories from black British history in a fun, emotional hour

I still have the resonating cackle of Alison Hammond bouncing around my brain, long after I watched her black British history primer, Alison Hammond: Back to School (ITV, Tues, 9pm).

Friday, 9th October 2020, 6:00 pm

The perma-smiling woman off daily bland-fest This Morning – who can make even taciturn sourpuss Harrison Ford crack a smile – might seem an odd choice to front a documentary about the glaring hole in the national curriculum where the contribution of people of colour to Britain’s history should be.

However, her commitment to the issue was clear, and if Hammond wasn’t laughing, she was crying, as she journeyed across the country discovering the stories of black people who played important roles in British history.

From the Roman emperor Septimius Severus – born in North Africa and the man who helped keep England in Roman hands – to Tudor trumpeter John Blank, Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole and Walter Tull, the first black outfield player in the football league, and the first black commissioned officer in the British Army.

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Alison Hammond: Back to School looked at black British history

Some of the ‘All Lives Matter ‘persuasion may claim that the programme only serves to emphasise division and disharmony.

However, as Hammond was at pains to point out, this is actually about inclusivity and unity – young pupils seeing a wide range of faces and a wide range of experiences can only feel they belong, that history is about them and not just white people.

As she says: “If I’d seen this when I was younger, I would’ve felt like I belonged.”

As a serious history doc, Back to School was bottom of the class, but as a fun, emotional retelling of stories which deserve greater recognition, it deserves top marks.

I have binge-watched Life (BBC1, Tues, 9pm) and while it’s glossy kitchen sink drama, with some good performances, the ending seems a little too neat, given all the mess that’s gone before.

Murder Case (BBC2, Weds/Thurs, 9pm) was pretty grim viewing, although it did highlight the care and dedication that went into every case – care for the grieving, as well as the victim.