Liverpool arts festival BlackFest returns at the end of September, but not as we know it. The annual showcase of talent from Liverpool and across the UK this year turns digital like many others in the cultural calendar.
Empowering and providing a platforms for Black artists each year, the 2020 programme includes music, theatre, film, performance poetry/spoken-word, panel discussions and book launches. The week-long event runs from 21st – 27th September with various live streams each day from different venues.
The festival aims to put Black artists from various communities in the spotlight, while highlighting the gap between marginalised communities and institutions.
Kicking off the festival on 21st September is writer, rapper and founder of RiseUpCic ASHLEIGH NUGENT, hosting a crucial discussion concerning the Criminal Justice System, and his new book Locks. Nugent is joined by performer TAYO ALUKO, and writer and social-worker D. HUNTER as they delve into the discrimination and racial profiling of the UK justice system.
The second day of BlackFest sees artist and art historian SUSAN GOLIGHER focusing on the significance of grassroots arts and protest, alongside artist EKAU BAYANU, and Joint Head of Architecture (Manchester School of Architecture) OLA UDUKU, discussing their own work, while leading a powerful conversation regarding the influence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
(Sub Blue features as part of BlackFest’s music night – Photo: Robin Clewley)
BlueCommitted to highlighting the disproportionate representation of marginalised communities, the second day of BlackFest also features children authors PHINA ORUCHE and PATRICK GRAHAM as they tackle the severity of the lack of diversity within the publishing industry while touching upon their personal experiences as established black authors.
Emerging and established poets and spoken word artists come together on 23rd as they propose their own pieces concerning significant aspects of 2020; politics, COVID-19, and Black Lives Matter, and how they affect Black and Brown communities differently. The line-up includes PARRI RICARDS, ADDAE G, NAAMI, JANE SOYA and special guest poet ZITA HOLBOURNE.
BlackFest continues by presenting discussion around Black LGBTQI+ lives, hosted by an impressive panel of artists, activists and speakers, in partnership with Homotopia Festival. Focusing on the subject of intersectionality, hate crimes, and personal experiences, the event features the likes of MANDALA RAE, FELIX MUFTI, and CRAIG ADAMS.
Kicking off Saturday evening is BlackFest Music Night; a showcase of Liverpool’s emerging and established musical talent hosted by YAW OWUSU and JENNIFER JOHN featuring TABITHA JADE, SUB BLUE, LeeTz, Shak Omar and DJ2Kind. Beginning with a pre-show discussion delving into the progress the music industry has made in regard to Black artists, the event aims to provide upcoming talent with a platform whilst still raising important points.
Wrapping up the festival on Sunday afternoon is a panel of artists, activists and academics discussing one of the most prominent debates within Liverpool of recent times; the city’s links to the Slave Trade. Dr LEONA VAUGHN, ZITA HOLBOURNE, ELLIA EYO THOMPSON, LAWRENCE WESTGAPH, and STEPHEN NZA join forces to discuss Liverpool’s possession of controversial signs, street names, monuments, and symbols and how they serve as a constant reminder of racism and segregation.
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