Liverpool’s grassroots Black arts festival – BlackFest has revealed a packed lineup of multi-arts festivities taking place across the city in September and October.
BlackFest, who have once again joined forces with local Black artists to create the annual festival programme, will be showcasing art exhibitions, music nights, spoken word and poetry, literature events, theatre shows and much more as part of the festivities.
The Liverpool grassroots organisation prides itself on nurturing a vibrant arts community throughout the year via educational and empowering projects, and Director, Jubeda Khatun is delighted to be able to finally reveal the lineup of events – kicking off with an ‘opening night extravaganza’ at the Unity Theatre – after months of uncertainty surrounding live performance.
“Last year we were really proud to deliver a fully digital programme, and despite it being all online, it was highly successful and brought many important conversations to the table – it brought communities together virtually, raising much needed awareness on BLM (Black Lives Matter). It made arts accessible even through Covid restrictions” explained Jubeda.
“When it was confirmed that we were going to be able to use physical spaces again for this year’s festival, it felt so liberating. We’re working with lots of Black artists we’ve never partnered with before and the whole vibe of the programme is fresh and exciting, creating safe spaces for unapologetic, audacious, innovative voices to completely feel uncensored; creating much needed dialogue on themes of colourism, race, gender, class, spirituality, claiming ancestral rites, and decolonising narratives.
We can’t wait for it to start and we’d love to see as many people as possible out supporting grassroots arts in Liverpool.”
The visual arts arm of the festival will be headed up by an exhibition celebrating the work of Gold Maria Akanbi.
Gold is a British-Nigerian, neurodiverse, multidisciplinary artist based in both Liverpool and Greater London. Her work integrates a wide range of disciplines in order to better explore concepts such as Afrofuturism, the re-conceptualisation of worlds, social and environmental ecologies for healing, epigenetic trauma, architecture, spirituality, quantum mechanics, geometric abstraction and sensory overload.
For those wanting to explore some recent local history, the Museum of Liverpool will play host to an exhibition commemorating the 40th anniversay of the 1981 Toxteth uprisings.
The unique photography project looks to recognise members of the local community’s personal experiences and quotes around the uprising, which saw riots broke out on the streets of Toxteth that would last for nine days.
Food will also take centre stage at the 2021 festival, with BlackFest joining forces with Yamm Tree to deliver an Autumn Equinox food workshop – a celebration of the yam harvest and its importance in world heritage and food culture. Squash Liverpool will also be on hand to host a vegan cooking education session to help promote healthier relationships with the food that we eat.
Following a hugely successful online programme in 2020, spoken word and poetryreturns to the festival lineup, with a live performance from local artists at Hope Street Theatre, bringing different perspectives on social parallels; raising awareness on mental health and disparities between races.
The night will also feature a pre-show spoken word workshop hosted by the country’s leading Performance Poetry and Spoken-Word organisation, Apples and Snakes, led by former UK Slam Champion John Berkavitch, where participants will explore performance skills and techniques that could help bring their poetry to life on the stage.
There is also plenty at the festival for aspiring thespians, including an acting workshopexploring improvisation, storytelling, and script work with arts facilitator, Victoria Evaristo, as well as a series of rehearsed readings at the Everyman. The readings will feature an exciting showcase of new emerging black writers and writers of colour, supported by The Royal Court Theatre’s Community Participation Director Miriam Mussa and guided by independent writing guru Maurice Bessman.
FACT Liverpool will play host to a screening of Same But Different – an independent film which explores how Hollywood has “filtered our perception of what a black woman looks like, what she thinks, and feels”.
The film – by Ghanaian-British award-winning actress and filmmaker, Anniwaa Buachie – documents a conversation between a mixed-race woman and an African-Black woman, exploring and highlighting their similarities and differences.
BlackFest’s music nights are always a highlight of any programme and 2021 looks to be no exception with Rhythms Night – Lost in Sound at Liverpool’s Grand Central Hall set to showcase some of the hottest North West talent, including MC Nelson, Philly Djan, AMBA, Starkey The Messenger, and Eliza Mai, along with DJ sets from Papu Raf and Funk Butcher.
In one of the final events of this year’s festival programme, Liverpool writer Malik Al Nasir will launch his new memoir Letters To Gil, in which he tells the frank and moving story of how his life turned around all following a chance meeting with legendary performer, Gil Scott Heron.
The festival’s closing ceremony will take place at Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in what’s set to be a a night of fun, celebration and artistic entertainment, featuring the likes of the Wavertree Gospel Community Choir, Staged Kaos, and someone who is surely one of the youngest performers to ever take the stage at the historic venue – Kiki Lu-Naa Baxter Yakubu, a 5-year-old singer and poet and the current Mini Miss Global Darling.
BlackFest 2021 runs from 20th September until the 9th October and tickets for all events are on sale now via the BlackFest website.