The UpRise Anti-Racism Festival returns to Hackney this weekend, its aim to celebrate the many community initiatives and cultures that make up the city of London.
Taking place in Dalston on Sunday September 25, the theme of this year’s festival is ‘Community Is Home’, a direct response to the devastating riots that engulfed London in August. It will serve as a platform and forum for those working towards a better society by bringing unions, community groups, charities, organisations and businesses together for a common cause. Over 12 multiple venues will be home to the festival trail, including a roof-top vegetable garden, WWII bunker and other unusual spaces that will host live music, exhibitions, speakers, DJ’s, live art, talks, comedy, debate, spoken word, family and children events and workshops.
Music fans are in for a treat with performances by ESKA, Aruba Red, Cynikal, Baby Sol, Fiona Bevan and Under The Driftwood Tree and The London Jazz Orchestra, with Mercury Prize-nominated Ty as host.
Paul Richards, director of UpRise, said: “As the most multi-cultural place on earth, London is a leader in tackling the issue of racism. It would be unwise to assume that we live in ‘different times’ and that the issue has somehow vanished. Casual racism is as prolific as it ever was and not wishing to deal with it, admit it or talk about it, does not mean it will go away.
“Prejudicial views derive from a deep rooted history, and sadly, racism still very much blemishes our society every single day. Only by open discussion will we all be able to live with peace and respect and enjoy our many rich cultures, and finally resign racism to the history books where it belongs.”
Doreen Lawrence OBE and founder of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, whose son, Stephen, was murdered in a racist attack in 1993, said: “We hope that events such as UpRise will contribute to hastening the day we’ll speak not so much of people of colour, but about colourful people.”
UpRise is organised and produced by the arts collective BrazenBunch, a non-profit, community-focused movement set up to assist those who are marginalised, discriminated against, or at a disadvantage.
The festival organisers also work closely with UNISON and the Southern & Eastern Region of the TUC (SERTUC). The first Respect festival was organised by the TUC in 1996 to campaign against racism at work and in communities.
When Ken Livingstone was elected as the first Mayor of London in 2000, SERTUC became a major part of subsequent festivals. However, When Boris Johnson was elected in 2006, SERTUC claims he dropped the anti-racist message of the event, forcing the union to withdraw their support.
Megan Dobney, SERTUC regional secretary, said: “It is not only a day out for us, but an important statement of our commitment to social equality and harmony and our determination to oppose racism wherever it rears its head. Racism flourishes on, and creates inequality. Racists and fascists are feeding on the current government attacks on the poorest in our society. Trade Unions don’t exist in a work-shaped bubble – we ARE our communities also – and we say no to racism.”
Ken Livingstone, who has supported UpRise Festival since its inception, added: “Every single nation on earth is represented in London, and it works. If I am lucky enough to be Mayor in 2012, I will provide funding for UpRise to help it grow.”
The festival has already generated a buzz of excitement among Londoners as reflected on the festival’s Facebook page. Ngum Ngafor says: “There’s still a lot of racism in the UK and I doubt it’s going anywhere anytime soon. Still, it’s good to educate the masses.”
While Sidel ‘Comfort’ Stewart, 35, a Newham resident, added: “I have assisted in programming and will be stewarding on the day. The UpRise anti-racism festival will work towards developing greater community cohesion, helping to restore and build relationships between all sections of the community in a fun and inclusive way at a significant time.”
Zena Edwards is a performance poet and resident of Tottenham, where the London riots started. She said: “I think an event like this proves there is a spirit in the people of London that is not passive and doesn’t sit and wait for government money to make positive things happen. UpRise proves that through self-belief, determination and coming together with the common cause as of battling racism, anything is possible.
“In the wake of: the UK riots, where the government failed to honour its ‘duty of care’ to all it’s citizens; Boris Johnson cutting the Rise Anti-Racist festival because he said that racism doesn’t exist in the UK and David Cameron stating multiculturalism doesn’t work, the UpRise anti-racism festival is a positive force pushing back against the stereotypes and intense negative press spewed out over those incredible seven days in August.
Also, there are many changes taking place in Hackney, rapid changes. Gentrification tends to neglect the needs of the resident community in favour of the money made by real estate investment. Events such as UpRise give the local residents a voice. It’s a festival for their presence to be acknowledged. UpRise is citizen and people power in full effect”
The UpRise festival is free to attend. For More information, go to: http://uprise.org.uk/