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.
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.
© Orientalist Museum, Doha, OM 762
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.
- Visit www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk for full listings. Follow Black History Month on Twitter @blackhistoryuk.
© Angela Dennis
© Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
© NFFCChrysalis The Kobal Collection
© Patience Ndhlovu
© Thapelo Motsumi