Harewood

Harewood House - robin denton

Designed by the architects John Carr and Robert Adam, Harewood House was built from 1759 to 1771 for wealthy trader Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood. 

Still home to the Lascelles family, Harewood House is a member of Treasure Houses of England, a marketing consortium for ten of the foremost historic homes in England.

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And since white speech is generally considered “educated” and “proper”, how wonderful to hear a variety of accents and voices on BBC of all things! A whole plethora of non-standard accents telling a story about the outcasts and magical denizens of a London filled with strange and wonderful places. These accents imply to the listeners that London Below, and therefore the world of magic and fantasy, do not belong solely to white people, but rather to everyone. And that’s a pretty important message.

So it matters a lot that even in the list of the main three characters (Richard, Door, and the Marquis), one of them is a person of color. It matters that Hunter, the greatest fighter and survivalist the world has ever known, who slew the tiger of Calcutta, and a thousand other mighty beasts since time began, is voiced by Sophie Okonedo. It matters that the BlackFriars are predominantly voiced by men of color, and led by George Harris as the Abbott.

Actually, I want to pull the BlackFriars out as a particular example, because I absolutely love how they’re done in this version. Like it says above, in the book the BlackFriars have no determined race. They have weird funny names, and they like tea, and they’ve been guarding their keys and secrets for a thousand years or more, but we don’t know a whole lot about what they look like or who they really are. They’re rather minor characters, all told.

Which makes it all the cooler that the directors here made an intentional choice to give the BlackFriars identifiable non-English accents. If I had to take a guess, I’d say they sound West African, but I am by no means an expert. Whatever the actual origin of the accents, the men are clearly identified by their voices as non-white, and potentially non-native. Only they’re monks who guard a secret underneath London and belong to a society that’s been in place for thousands of years. And they’re not white.

Cue the screams of joy and gladness that a fictional work is acknowledging the presence of black people in London prior to the eighteen hundreds!

from “The Art of Colorblind Casting and BBC Radio’s Neverwhere” on KissMyWonderWoman.com