One of my guilty viewing pleasures has been, since its beginning, Mr Selfridge. It is complete escapism. A soap-ish storyline, gorgeous period fashion, a glamorous cast. I generally don't watch soaps but dress them up as historical pieces and I am a sucker for it. Downton Abbey, Mr Selfridge. Bring 'em on. Nice glass of wine and a box of Maltesers and I'm happy for an hour.
However, there is a storyline in the current series of Mr Selfridge which has fascinated me. There is a new dressmaker named Tilly Brockless. She is Afro-Caribbean and in London in the 1920s. A marvel with a needle and a frock, Miss Brockless is recruited thanks to her eye for fashion - she has no references - and is then put to work in a room underneath Selfridges (by the looks of it) with a team of white machinist girls.
The character has appeared in most episodes this series. Always stoically enduring casual bullying which seems clearly related to her difference in skin colour from her colleagues. In last Friday's episode (spoiler alert) she was sacked, thanks to her supervisor. And I am very curious to see if that is the end of the story of Miss Brockless. I do hope not. However, the programme makers do not seem to have valued this side story as much as I would have hoped. In fact, I have found it quite impossible this morning to find an internet image of the actress Mimi Ndiweni, who plays Miss Brockless, in costume/on set for the show. There are plenty of stills from the current series but none of Tilly Brockless. Hence, I include, above, a beautiful publicity shot of Mimi Ndiweni.
The storyline has shown just how accepted such bullying and racism was at that time. The worrying thing is, despite legislation, it still goes on. And racism is endemic. On social media this week, a girl in the US posted a copy of a letter from her father in which he told her that he would never forgive her affair with a black man and that a half black was a terrible thing. Now, this family are in Texas. But once the piece went viral, the item received as many similar threats as those made by the father as it did supportive comments. Somehow, it seems people feel it okay to be racist in such forums. They cannot indulge in the streets or in workplaces so much. But they can join in with online situations.
I really want to see how the writers of Mr Selfridge resolve Miss Brockless's storyline. I will be very disappointed if her sacking is the end of her appearance in the series. I think more could have been made of the character, her significance and the actress playing her.