Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band to Muhammad Ali: Black History Month 2012

By Ben Miller | 28 September 2012
A photo of a group of people celebrating as part of a triumphant football crowd
Wembley To Soweto – A Photographic Journey appears in Brighton as part of Black History Month 2012
Festival Preview: Black History Month, various venues, October 2012

Who knew that sections of John Lennon’s lyrics centred on the agile enlistees of Britain’s pioneering first black circus proprietor?

Pablo Fanque – born William Darby in Norwich in 1796 – had to wait almost 200 years for the Beatles to subtly immortalise his Fair among the poetry of Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite, from the little-known Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Black History Month is always reliable for a good hidden story, and this year’s line-up is no exception.

The 50th anniversary of Jamaican Independence provides a particularly momentous edge, but in Tower Hamlets, where the Museum of London Docklands will screen Babylon, a film mixing music and social commentary looking back at the borough during the 1980s, there are other prescient reasons to rejoice.

“We have witnessed black history being made on our doorstep,” explains local Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

“The likes of Mo Farah and Usain Bolt achieved unparalleled success at the Olympic Games, as well as local sportswoman and Olympian Perri Shakes-Drayton.

“We are proud to present a diverse range of activities and events to mark the Month and the unique themes and achievements which have emerged this year.”

They include the history of black hair at Rich Mix, where a film, Muhammad Ali’s Bangladesh I Love You, follows the great man on a journey of breathtaking landscapes during his tour of the country following his defeat to Leon Spinks in 1977.

An image of a portrait of an African man in a white robe and hat during the 18th century
The earliest known portrait of a black African Muslim has gone on temporary display at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery, spearheading the festival in the north-east© Orientalist Museum, Doha, OM 762
Elsewhere around London, the local Mayor, Jamaican independence and the Olympics also feature prominently in Enfield: a 90-minute whistlestop tour of African involvement in the Games is open to just 100 viewers, while novelist Alex Wheatle discusses Jamaica’s landmark.

Kate Anolue, a Nigerian chieftain who has worked in Edmonton for decades and was joined by friends and family from her hometown when she was appointed Mayor in May, will also recount her remarkable life.

Numerous other areas of London enjoy events, but there are full programmes across the country, ranging from pan handling sessions in Norfolk and open mic nights in Manchester to portrait exhibitions in Glasgow and a gig, on an enticingly-titled evening called Rum ‘n’ Bass, by Marvin Gaye remixer Dennis Bovell in Brighton.

That performance is at the Dome, where renowned photographer John Cole is also displaying an extraordinary exhibition, Wembley to Soweto, including an iconic photo of the 70th birthday bash for Nelson Mandela, which now takes pride of place on a wall of the former South African leader’s home.

The photos form the centrepiece of a series of shows and activities in Brighton for a festival which, 35 years after starting, looks as entertaining and inspiring as ever.

More pictures:

A photo of a young black woman with a light yellow headscarf on portrayed in profile
Rich Mix, in London, bases a series of events on the theme of hair© Angela Dennis
A photo of people looking at a display inside a museum as part of Black History Month
The National Museum Of The Royal Navy will hold a Black History Month Multicultural Day on October 6© Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
A photo of a young African man with dreadlocks standing in an open doorway
The Museum of London Docklands will screen the film Babylon© NFFCChrysalis The Kobal Collection
A black and white photo of a young African boy and his mother standing in a doorway
Sussex goes from Wembley to Soweto© Patience Ndhlovu
An image of a man in a green football shirt and blue hat celebrating among a crowd
The exhibition will be at the Dome until the end of the month© Thapelo Motsumi
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