Screen Nation honour for sitcom and soap star Walker

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The Independent Culture

Rudolph Walker, the actor who first found fame in the 1970s sitcom Love Thy Neighbour, was last night honoured with a tribute at Britain's "Black Baftas".

Walker, 63, who starred in the first significant British television show to feature a key black character, received the Trailblazer Award at the Screen Nation Film and Television Awards.

Love Thy Neighbour revolved around a black man who lived next door to a white racist and was eventually dropped as it was deemed politically incorrect. Trinidad-born Walker said he was delighted with the award. "Don't call me a veteran because I still have a long time to go," he said.

He is best-known for his work on EastEnders and is currently starring in The Crouches, BBC1's first black family sitcom, screened this week and panned by the critics. Walker defended the BBC1 sitcom, in which he plays Grandad Langley. It was criticised for using a white writer to tell the story of a black family from south London.

"I have no objections, the colour of the writer doesn't matter. Shakespeare was white - did his colour matter?

"About 90 per cent of the work I have done has been from white writers. Should I have said no to The Thin Blue Line because it was written by Ben Elton? Of course not."

The awards, now in their second year and backed by The Independent, honour black actors and performers.

Organisers hope they will become as established as the Mobos, which began as a low key event and have now become one of the biggest fixtures in the showbusiness music calendar.

Angela Griffin won favourite female TV star and favourite male was Kwame Kwei-Armah, from Casualty. Naomi Harris, who appeared in White Teeth, won best TV actress and Lennie James, last seen in the prison drama Buried, was voted the best TV actor. June Sarpong was voted best presenter and Caroline Chikezie, from the teen drama As If, won the emerging talent award.