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Exciting programme of activities for Black History Month

Published on Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A PERFORMANCE from an award-winning alto-saxophonist will launch this year’s Black History Month in Leicester.

MC Soweto Kinch, whose list of accolades includes a Mercury Prize nomination, two Urban Music awards and two MOBO awards for Best Jazz Act, will open a month of events celebrating the best in Black arts and culture.

Earlier this year, internationally-acclaimed Soweto took up his seat as presenter of the BBC Radio 3 jazz programme Jazz Now.

At this exciting event, organised by local diversity-led arts charity Serendipity, Soweto will also launch his new album, Nonagram. The album draws inspiration from the incorporeal ideas of mathematics, through shifting time signatures, harmony and tonality to explore how music gives form to ideas that can’t be seen in the natural world.

The performance takes place on Thursday 29 September at the 2Funky Music Café, in Belgrave Gate.

It will kick off Black History Month (BHM), which is returning to Leicester to celebrate the best in Black arts and culture.

This year’s jam-packed programme of BHM events, taking place throughout October, features something for everyone, with performances, discussion series, exhibitions, book launches, new theatre and film.

For 2016 Black History Month reflects upon the theme of policy, practice and social justice, inspired by several key anniversaries including the life and work of South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu on the occasion of his 85th birthday; the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party in the USA and the 40th anniversary of the seminal publication The Arts that Britain Ignores by Naseem Kahn.

Other treats include a set by number one DJ Aba Shanti-I, a performance the talented Akala, celebrating 10 years since his first album, and a special performance icons of Lover’s Rock; Janet Kay, Caroll Thompson and Victor Romero Evans.   

Poetry and spoken word also feature strongly in October’s offerings – Malika Booker, Dzifa Benson, Joshua Idehen, Abrose Musiyiwa, Boston Williams, Sandra Agard, Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze and Micheal Brome are just some of the local, national and international artists taking to the stage in events such as Bring Your Bars Story Tellers, Word! and Poets on the Verandah.

October is also the season for new publications, with Jacob Ross showcasing his new crime novel The Bone Readers, which will leave readers breathless with its fast-moving narrative, richly observed characters and evocation of place. Gloria Cameron MBE will be sharing from her new autobiography Case Dismissed! An Ordinary Jamaican Woman; an Extraordinary Life. A new book documenting the tenacity, strength and creativity of Black Women in Dance will also be launched at an event featuring a talk from the Black Cultural Archive who will be celebrating local dancer and choreographer Sheron Wray.  

Sharing the experiences of those who travelled from Jamaica to England on the SS Empire Windrush and others, The Y Theatre will be presenting an exciting new piece of theatre, Sorry! No Coloureds, No Irish, No Dogs. Furthermore, Curve, Inspirate and Serendipity will hold a conference exploring the current landscape for Black and minority ethnic artists and organisations and their relationships with venues and institutions in a national conference, 40 years on: The Arts That Britain Ignores and Diversity in British Theatre.

BHM Film Fest returns to Phoenix with a series of insightful documentaries from The Price of Memory, examining the legacy of slavery in Jamaica and an ongoing petition for reparations to The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution. The thought-provoking Life and Debt will be screening as part of the African Caribbean Centre Activity Week and there will also be another opportunity to see the Leicester Windrush Documentary.

This year, there is also a host of events with a community focus. All are welcome to attend a new debate and discussion series, BlackChat, which will be taking place at Newarke Houses Museum each Saturday throughout October, addressing topics from health and wellbeing to dress as a marker of identity.

There is a week of events for young people at the African Caribbean Centre during half term (17-21 October), plus a networking event for World Mental Health Day (10 October). And throughout the month Leicester Community Radio, which will also be celebrating its first birthday, will be keeping listeners up to date with the BHM programme, with a special broadcast each Tuesday evening. 

Serendipity is also holding a call-out event for an exciting new project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will culminate in an exhibition in 2017 to mark 30 years of Black History Month in Leicester. The project, Lost Legends, aims to celebrate local trailblazers and record the contributions of Leicester’s African and African Caribbean community to the cultural heritage of the UK over the last three decades. The call-out, on 1 October, will be an opportunity for people to come together for discussion and to donate brochures, posters and other Black History Month memorabilia, to tell their stories and listen to an update on the research project.

Pawlet Brookes, artistic director at Serendipity said: “This year’s Black History Month programme is stronger than ever, marking the commitment of Leicester’s communities to supporting and celebrating the artistic and cultural contributions from the African and African Caribbean diaspora. There is something for evening to get involved with”. 

Cllr Piara Singh Clair, assistant city mayor responsible for culture, leisure, heritage and sport, said: I’m always delighted to welcome Black History Month to Leicester. It’s an important fixture in our cultural calendar, and a wonderful chance for all of our diverse communities to find out more about the valuable contributions made to our city by the African and African Carribbean community.

“It’s also a great testament to the commitment of the organisers and the quality of this festival that it is approaching its 30th year. I hope that lots of people will take the opportunity to enjoy the fantastic range of events on offer.”

To find out more about Black History Month, including full listings of the events planned, pick up a leaflet at city museums, libraries and other council buildings, call 0116 257 7316 or visit www.visitleicester.info/blackhistorymonth or www.serendipity-uk.com

Black History Month is organised by local diversity-led arts charity, Serendipity, on behalf of Leicester City Council, which provides funding. Black History Month is also supported by Lottery funding from Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

ENDS