Black Lives Matters protests inspire special Liverpool festival

Cultural organisations across Liverpool have come together to curate an exciting programme of outdoor and virtual events which celebrate Black History Month this October.

Supported by Culture Liverpool, the Creative Organisations of Liverpool (a network of city arts venues) have curated a special programme which responds to the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter campaign, highlighting the power that the arts can play in affecting change.

A number of brand new commissions will promote equality and justice through a range of art forms and will also be a celebration of Liverpool’s black community which is the oldest black community in Europe.

The commissions include:

  • A live online soundscape by BlackFest which fuses afro beats and jazz with a collection of poetry and spoken word exploring what it means to be black.
  • Schools will be able to benefit from anti-racism workshops courtesy of sculptor Faith Bebbington in collaboration with dot-art. Called Protest Plant, the project will seeschools create their own sculptures decorated with protest slogans they have devised.
  • Taking place at St Luke’s Church (Liverpool’s “bombed out” church) on 31 October, Katumba Drumming & Movement will bring some explosive rhythm to Halloween with a celebration of Orishas – also known as ‘Afrocentric Superheroes’. The event is free but pre-booking is essential.
  • Liverpool Irish Festival will host a mixer on 15 October which encourages people of dual and/or mixed heritage Irish backgrounds to share their stories of the racial assumptions and exchanges they have experienced.
  • Open Eye Gallery will host and facilitate a series of events which include slavery guided tour, artists debates abound how the world has changed since the death of George Floyd and photography exhibitions at the Museum of Liverpool.
  • Writing on the Wall will present a programme featuring inspirational local, national and international black artists, creatives and activists, including Man Booker Prize winning Jamaican writer Marlon James. The events will take place throughout October.
  • Storytelling and poetry will be used by Liverpool Arab Arts Festival to understand and explore the cultural heritage of Yemen, with the work acting as a living archive of the experiences of Yemenis living in the UK today.  
  • First Take will produce a short documentary focusing on the Black Lives Matters protests and looking at what comes next.
  • A spoken word, dance and music production called Journeys to the Underworld will take over the city centre on 12 October. Produced by Luma Creations,local and international artists  will look at the struggles of indigenous people from Africa , the Americas and other parts of the world.
  • Spread Your Wings is a commission by Movema which will create a platform for black dance artists to be celebrated, listened to and supported.

Further details about each event and the booking information be found at www.cultureliverpool.com/bhm. The site also has information about additional activities taking place by Liverpool Hope University and Whispered Tales.

All live events taking place outdoors will be Covid-safe, and will follow government guidelines.

A further announcement will be made in the coming weeks about an exciting month-long music celebration to coincide with Black History Month, which will include live online performances, documentary screenings, podcasts and ‘in conversation with’ events.

The commissions have been made possible thanks to the Mayoral Fund.

Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for culture, tourism and events, Councillor Wendy Simon said: “It’s fantastic to see our cultural sector come together with such a thought-provoking and engaging series of events.

“Now more than ever it is so important that we shine a spotlight on the black community and celebrate their outstanding achievements and contribution to society.

“This varied programme gives us the opportunity to do just that, and against the back drop of the Black Lives Matters protests and the horrific killing of George Floyd, there’s a real resonance around the importance of Black History Month and sends a message we will stand in solidarity with all of our communities facing racial discrimination.”

Madeline Heneghan who represents the Creative Organisations of Liverpool (COoL) and is also a Co-Director of Writing on the Wall, said: “Black History Month 2020 could not be more vital following the global protest that has laid bare enduring structural inequality.

“It’s fantastic that COoL and a number of our creative partners have collaborated to produce such a strong, diverse and vibrant Black History Month offer which is growing year on year.

“On behalf of COoL I’d like to thank Culture Liverpool and the Mayor’s office for their generous support.”