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Actress Mona Hammond dies aged 91

Broadcasting

Actress Mona Hammond dies aged 91

The Jamaican-British actress co-founded Britain’s first professional Black theatre company.

It has been announced that the actress Mona Hammond has died aged 91.

Mona was born Mavis Chin to a Chinese father and Jamaican mother. She came to Britain in 1959 on a scholarship to work with an architect’s firm but was soon involved in black theatre productions as Mona Chin.

The African version of Macbeth by Peter Coe was her first major role at the Roundhouse in 1970. She went on to appear in a number of plays by up and coming black writers, including Sweet Talk by Michael Abbensetts, 11 Josephine House by Alfred Fagon, and As Time Goes By by Mustapha Matura. She also performed in productions including Fuente Ovejuna and Peer Gynt, directed by Declan Donnellan, and The Crucible at the Royal National Theatre.

In 1980, she played her first major part on television as Mrs Wolcott in Wolcott (1980-81), a 3-part ATV mini-series about a black detective based in East London. Many will know of her for her subsequent, plentiful appearances in sitcoms including Susu in Desmond’s (1990–94) and its spin-off Porkpie (1995–96); Us Girls (1992–93) in which she played Grandma Pinnock; Chef! (1996), and Grandma Sylvie Headly in The Crouches (2003–05).

Desmond’s (1990)

Us Girls (1993)

Chef! (1996)

The Crouches (2003)

She also had roles in The Sweeney (1976); Black Silk (1985); Juliet Bravo (1985); Playboy of the West Indies (1985), Casualty (1986) and When Love Dies (1990).

In 1994, she was cast in the high-profile role of Blossom Jackson in EastEnders. Blossom was the grandmother of Alan Jackson (Howard Anthony) and became a matriarchal figure to the popular Jackson family during her time in the soap.

In 1997, Mona left the soap due to exhaustion, her character being wooed into a trip to Israel by Polish barber Felix Kawalski. Despite finding the Beeb soap opera’s schedules gruelling, she agreed to a one-off reprisal of the character in 2010 as Blossom attended her grandson Billie’s funeral.

The role of Blossom was Mona’s second in the BBC One soap as she was the midwife who delivered Vicky Fowler in an episode in 1986. Before returning to the soap as a regular, she made an appearance in Coronation Street as Shirley Armitage’s mother, Velma, in 1988.

EastEnders (1996)

Babyfather (2001)

The Lamplighter (2003)

Holby City (2005)

In 1985, Mona co-founded Britain’s first professional Black theatre company, Talawa Theatre Group with fellow actresses Yvonne Brewster and Carmen Munroe.

Later credits included Brothers and Sisters (1998), Babyfather (2001), White Teeth (2002) and Doctors (2009).

In recent years, Mona has been living at Brinsworth House, a care home in Twickenham that was set up by the Royal Variety Charity.

She was made an OBE in 2005 for her services to drama in the UK. In 2018, she was awarded the Women of the World Lifetime Achievement Award for her long and distinguished theatre career and for championing Black British actors through the Talawa Theatre Company.

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