Soweto Kinch launches online #BLACKPERIL2020 festival (14-18 Sept)

Peter Bacon reports: He’s been known for innovative festivals like the Flyover Festival in Birmingham, and he’s no less innovative online. Saxophonist and activist Soweto Kinch is curating a collection of performances and discussions which will not only feature a strong line-up of musicians and speakers – original music from Kinch, Jay Phelps and Xhosa Cole, and choreography by Jade Hackett – but has some historical heft too. These events will be available via our computer screens, tablets and phones each evening from Monday 14 to Friday 18 September.

Soweto Kinch. Publicity photo

It’s called #BLACKPERIL2020 and the press release explains what it’s all about: “Throughout this summer, British bridges, streets and squares that were the scene of violent race riots in 1919, will be transformed into dynamic stages, galleries and plinths to creatively explore this past. It’s easy to get the erroneous idea that mobs of ‘woke’ millennials are suddenly forcing Britons to confront ‘diversity’ for the first time – however, from Glasgow to Barry, and indeed Chicago and New York the entire western world was engulfed in racial conflict over 101 years ago. “As well as new commissioned performances, we’ve invited a number of historians and notable cultural figures to discuss the modern implications of this past: including Kehinde Andrews, Lowkey, Nicholas Payton and Jason Moran. Moreover, we’ll be drawing on local councillors, venues, promoters and cultural leaders to contribute to a lively series of panel discussions. “With a mixture of improvised responses, existing material and new commissioned work we intend to shed new light on Britain’s fractious relationship with race and class. “What is distinct about a ‘British working class’?  Why is the pre-Windrush Black British presence so often overlooked? If there were the scenes of violent racial animus over a century ago, what is to prevent it from recurring? especially amidst a post Covid-19 deep recession. “The backdrop of today’s civil unrest, statues being torn down and serious soul searching across Britain, mean that there has rarely been a more opportune moment to explore ignored British history – radically challenging the way ‘British’, ‘White’ and ‘Working-Class’ identities have been constructed. As Soweto Kinch describes, ‘1919 established and entrenched hierarchies of racism that have yet to be undone’.” Here is a video introduction:
The press release continues: “#BlackPeril2020 is also a response to the insecurity of lockdown. Venues and performers face an uncertain future, however we’re seeking to reframe the ways in which local communities, landmarks and creativity are perceived. Travelling to communities which are often excluded by exorbitant ticket prices or perceived elitism, we’re excited by provoking discussions around: who are ‘the arts’ for? do working class communities feel represented? and how many people are unaware of the diverse history on their own doorsteps.” Kinch sums it up: “The Black Peril tour is a bold new approach to touring the arts in working class communities, drawing new audiences and creatively confronting Britain’s complex history of racism.” LINKS: Find out more at and on social media at #BLACKPERIL2020

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