Arthur Wharton - A Light that never fades

AN actor who once played a role in racist character Alf Garnett’s controversial Till Death Us Do Part series has been picked to perform the role of former Rotherham Town player Arthur Wharton, the world’s first black professional footballer.
PORTRAYAL: Derek GriffithsPORTRAYAL: Derek Griffiths
PORTRAYAL: Derek Griffiths

Derek Griffiths is better known to viewers for his parts in children's programmes, TV dramas and films, but he also appeared in the 1972 Christmas Special of BBC’s Till Death Us Do Part, which featured the lead actor Garnett and his bigoted, reactionary views.Derek, who spent ten years presenting Play School became an MBE in the 2020 New Year Honours for services to drama and diversity.Now, aged 77, it has been revealed he will play the role of Wharton, who overcame racist jibes to become a professional striker and then goalkeeper in football, as well as starring in rugby, cricket, boxing, and athletics.Recently a blue plaque in Arthur’s honour was unveiled in Rotherham, 134 years to the day since he made his debut for Town.Now a foundation in his name has been given a grant by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to create “A Light That Never Fades”.It is being produced by Darlington company Broken Scar Productions, and filming begins shortly.The project will focus on exploring the latter years of Arthur’s life, and “how he came to understand the legacy he would leave behind”.The film will be shown in schools, colleges, and communities and used to educate about black heritage, equality, and diversity.Helen Featherstone, director, at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We’rere delighted to support The Arthur Wharton Foundation with this important project to explore and highlight the fascinating story of the world’s first black professional footballer.“Thanks to money raised by Lottery players, more people will be able to learn about the significant impact he had on the UK’s sporting and cultural heritage.”Shaun Campbell, founder of the foundation, said: “We are confident A Light that Never Fades will help people understand and appreciate the impact and legacy that Arthur left behind.”The sportsman, born in Ghana in 1866, arrived in the UK as a young man, and during his spell at Town, his team won the Midland League in consecutive years and were the first away side to play Liverpool in their debut season at Anfield.Arthur also ran two pubs, the Albert Tavern and the Plough Inn in Masbrough.After retiring from pro sport, he played amateur football for the Commercial Inn and cricket for the police in Greasbrough and Rawmarsh.The all-rounder died in 1930.The plaque was unveiled at the Clifton Lane ground last month, 18 months after the Advertiser published a story highlighting how few lasting tributes had been made in Rotherham to Wharton’s memory.That touched a nerve with the Rotherham District Civic Society, the plaque went up...and the rest is history.

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