Can a Black, working class woman succeed in a White, male dominated industry? Filmmaker Liana Stewart joins Industry Voices to tell her story

Liana Stewart is a Filmmaker and Director specialising in observational and character-led documentaries for television. Her work has been shown on channels including BBC1, BBC3, Channel 4 and Channel 5. Programmes Liana has worked on include Channel 4 News, Ambulance, Panorama, Black and Welsh, and Take Your Knee Off My Neck, a series commissioned in response to the death of George Floyd.

Born in Butetown (also known as Tiger Bay), Cardiff to a Jamaican father and Chinese, Bajan and white Welsh mother, Liana enjoyed a culturally rich upbringing, though she experienced a clear divide between the working and middle classes at university. Liana continued to observe this divide when she started out in the White male dominated TV industry, but worse was to follow.

Working as a runner, Liana was subjected to a racist jibe. No action was taken by her employers when she called it out. Sadly, this was the first and last time she reported anything to do with race.

Moving on, Liana struggled to see how she could break into documentaries, an area of the industry in which there were very few role models for someone who was female, Black and working class. Despite expectations that things would be different when she made the switch from Cardiff to London, the same barriers remained.

As an aspiring director, Liana had to tackle the popular opinion that making it as a producer was as far as many women could go. Despite overcoming this, she sees the same barriers blocking progression for a Black female director to become a controller or commissioner. Black Lives Matter doesn’t yet appear to have had an impact. For these reasons, Liana is less worried about the industry’s ability to attract young, diverse people into the industry than its ability to keep them.

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