Leytonstone News

Leytonstone film editor celebrates BAFTA TV award win

Zeb Achonu edited Channel 5 documentary White Nanny Black Child, which won the Specialist Factual category last night

By Marco Marcelline

Zeb Achonu (centre), holds the BAFTA while director Andy Mundy-Castle (right) gives an acceptance speech, Credit: BAFTA/YouTube

A film editor who grew up in Leyton and lives in Leytonstone has said she is “speechless” after winning a BAFTA TV award last night. 

Zeb Achonu edited Channel 5’s White Nanny Black Child, a ground-breaking documentary on the fostering practice known as “farming” that saw over 70,000 West African children fostered by white Britons between 1955 and 1995. 

The documentary shows a workshop retreat with nine former foster children who meet to discuss their experiences and trauma, mostly for the first time ever.

Zeb grew up in Leyton and attended George Mitchell Secondary School and George Monoux Sixth Form College in Walthamstow before studying creative arts at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Speaking to the Echo after her win in the Specialist Factual category, she said: “I don’t think I’ve ever been this speechless in my life.”

“White Nanny Black Child is a remarkable film because it tells such a huge, important part of British history that people don’t know about. Every single time we’ve screened it, we’re met by people who have said ‘I’m one of those foster kids.’”

Praising the film’s team, she said: “The amount of talent and love that came from everyone on that set was incredible. Everyone that was there to record those stories did it with such respect. It’s such a team effort, and hopefully people will watch it, take it to heart and realise that you don’t know what people are going through.”

Zeb on the BAFTA TV awards red carpet wearing a dress by M.A.DKollection, a Manchester-based African clothing brand

As a young girl Zeb was “always very creative” but had her eyes set on becoming a pop star instead of working in the television industry. In the late 1990s she toured Europe with drum n’ bass duo Euphonic before balancing a demanding career in film with leading her own solo Soul/R&B venture called Neech. She dropped her debut album in 2007, and continued to perform and tour around the UK and Europe. 

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Across her now two-decade career in film and TV, Zeb has edited BAFTA and Emmy award winning content like Bear Grylls Survival School, and a number of British classics such as EastEnders, and Blue Peter.

Her recent efforts include work on BBC Two’s Africa Rising with Afua Hirsch, and Channel 4’s David Baddiel: Jews Don’t Count.

Zeb, who identifies as mixed-race, said navigating the film industry has at times been a challenge. “I’ve missed out on jobs because I was told that my [would-be colleagues] didn’t want to work with a woman.” In another situation, which was triggered by her racial and working class background, Zeb was handed a coffee cup by prejudiced colleagues.

It’s meant she has often found herself having to prove herself worthy of being in a room, a task she has grown more reluctant to do with age. “I love challenging the stereotype and proving people wrong but as I’ve got older I’ve noticed that it’s a waste of time to constantly have to put that pressure on yourself.”

Accepting the award last night from singer Mika, White Nanny, Black Child director Andy Mundy-Castle said: “This is nothing short of amazing, thank you BAFTA. The cast and crew have been on a journey and it’s been absolutely amazing.”

He continued: “I’d like to dedicate this award to two people; Ben Chijioke, the rapper known as Ty, and Jess Search, the founder of the Doc Society. Sadly Ben passed away during the production and Jess passed away last year. Jess was one of our first founders and then came in Channel 5, the broadcasters who stepped in when we needed to be listened to most.”

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