Leonie Forbes was born on the 14th of June at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston, to parents Roderick Wedderburn and G. Forbes-Wedderburn. Leonie Forbes grew up in Kingston as an only child. She received her education at the St. George’s Preparatory, Merrywood Elementary School, Mico Practising School, Kingston Senior School, Excelsior College and Durham College.
Ms. Forbes is an actress and former radio and television broadcaster. Her first job after leaving school was with Sir Philip Sherlock. She worked as a typist at the then recently incorporated University College of the West Indies (UCWI). After a while she went to work with Barry Reckord, a playwright.
At this point she would type Mr. Reckord’s plays and at times accompany him to the studios of the Government Information Service (presently Jamaica Information Service) to watch the recording sessions. It was here that she got her first exposure to radio as she started to do parts in the programmes produced for Government broadcast.
Leonie would do parts in the programmes produced for Government broadcast and in 1955 began work as an announcer at the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC). She was one of the first voices on the radio along with known journalists such as Dennis Hall, Desmond Chambers, Erica Allen and Beverly Anderson.
The late Rita Coore, Leonie reflects, was the first one to say to her, “You have a very nice voice, but you can’t talk. Come and see me.” Coore were one of several individuals who assisted her in developing her voice and craft.
Excited and willing to give the theatre everything she had, Leonie left for London, spending six years of study and practice at the RADA, where she pursued a diploma course in Radio Television and Stage. Leonie also worked on scripts for the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) Caribbean Service.
Leonie appeared in several RADA productions, including the pantomime Cinderella. She also played in Unknown Woman of Arras, Days of the Lion, and Antony and Cleopatra in which she was the lead female actor.
She has also featured in television drama series on the BBC and Independent Television networks such as Z Cars, Odd Man, Public Eye, Hugh and I, Desperate People and Harper’s West.
Leonie Forbes returned to the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation in 1966 after the completion of her training at the Royal Academy. She left again for Australia in 1968 with her husband Dr. Keith Amiel. While there, she appeared in the production of the Shakespearean play “Merchant of Venice”.
She also took part in ABC radio plays. As an actress, Ms. Forbes has played leading roles in twelve pantomimes and has acted in plays such as “Sea Mama”, “Miss Unusual”, “The Rope and the Cross”, “Old Story Time” and “Champagne and Sky Juice”. She has also appeared in films such as “Children of Babylon”, “Club Paradise”, “The Orchid House”, “Milk and Honey”, “What My Mother Told Me” and “Soul Survivor”.
With her role in the development of theatre and broadcasting in Jamaica, the story of Leonie Forbes is certainly one of those tales which cannot be allowed to fall into the gap of forgetfulness.