CSC banned from Rise festival, Guardian report
Campaign News | Monday, 16 June 2008
Mayor drops festival's anti-racism message
Boris Johnson, London's mayor, was criticised by equality campaigners last night after it emerged one of the capital's biggest free music festivals is to drop its anti-racist message.
Rise has been held in London since 1996 and has become the biggest anti-racist music festival in Europe. It was supported by the previous mayor, Ken Livingstone, as well as by trade unions and the National Assembly Against Racism (NAAR).
But yesterday a spokeswoman for Johnson said this year's event, on July 13, would no longer carry an anti-racist message: "Boris has made a commitment to go ahead with the Rise festival this year but wants to emphasise its cultural and community dimensions." During his election campaign Johnson was forced to apologise for describing Africans as having "watermelon smiles" and writing of "piccaninnies". He said his comments were taken out of context and he was committed to fighting racism.
But last night a spokesman for the NAAR called that claim into question. "The sincerity of Boris Johnson's claimed commitment to opposing racism in his election campaign is shown to be false by the fact that one of his first decisions is to abandon Europe's biggest anti-racist festival," he said.
Johnson's office said the mayor was "unequivocal that there is no place for racism or division in London", adding: "Major festivals and events are an important way of bringing Londoners from diverse backgrounds together, to celebrate what we share in common and enjoy the rich cultural contribution of different communities."
The Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) has also been told that its annual Big Cuba Fiesta stage is barred from this year's event.
The Greater London authority's director of arts policy , Munira Mirza, told the group in a letter that "it is no longer appropriate to have overtly political organisations involved in the programme or in the community area".
Rob Miller, CSC's director, said: "It is outrageous that the new mayor of London has taken such a discriminatory position against Cuba Solidarity ... We hope that this silly act of political censorship will even yet be overturned."
UNITE the UNION
17th June 2008
UNITE TO CEASE FUNDING RISE STAGE AFTER MAYOR’S POLITICAL CENSORSHIP
Unite the Union is to cease financially supporting the Latin American stage at the Rise Festival after the Mayor’s Office has targeted its partner in the production, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, as being a “political campaign group” and therefore unacceptable.
For the past five years Unite has co-produced a programme of Latin American music and dance at Rise, a close fit with its organising campaigns, working with London’s Latin American community who are often on the margins of the labour market.
The Latin American show has gone from strength to strength and is seen as one of the high points of the Rise Festival.
Not only has the Mayor’s Office banned CSC from the festival site it has also altered the message of the Festival, changing it from anti-racist event to one that celebrates London diversity.
Unite’s London Regional Secretary, Steve Hart, has tried to negotiate with the Mayor’s Office to resolve the impasse but has always come up against the same barrier, Unite is welcome to participate but it can’t participate if it involves Cuba Solidarity Campaign as its partner.
Steve Hart said: “The ban on Cuba Solidarity Campaign is the direct application of a political pre-condition on Unite in its sponsorship of the Latin American stage at Rise. Censorship is unacceptable to my union. I feel that I am left with no alternative other than to withdraw our intended funding of the Latin American stage at Rise in 2008.”
For further information please contact:
Steve Hart on 07970.081509
or Adrian Weir on 07970.081522
Note to editors:
The Rise Festival started life in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence murder and McPherson Report as the TUC organised Respect anti-racist festival.
The idea was taken up by Ken Livingstone when Mayor, who promoted seven annual festivals during his mayoralty.
During the Livingstone years the name was changed from Respect to Rise.