Trade Unions sever all links with Rise Festival

Campaign News | Monday, 23 June 2008

Financial support withdrawn

Press release from UNITE the UNION in London

23 June 2008



Today (Monday 23 June) the trade unions in London announced that they have withdrawn all support from the Mayor of London’s Rise Festival.

The organisation of the event has been a fiasco from start to finish. Arrangements for the festival began under former Mayor Livingstone. Three weeks after the London elections new Mayor Johnson confirmed the event would continue as before.

Then suddenly Mr Johnson’s new cultural advisor, Munira Mirza, stripped the festival title of its sub-heading “London United Against Racism” only for the Mayor to say to the BBC that he knew nothing of this decision.

Ms Mirza also banned the Cuba Solidarity Campaign from continuing their joint sponsorship of the Latin American stage in partnership with Unite, and from even participating in the event.

The unions have decided that this package of measures changes the focus and nature of the Rise Festival to such an extent that it will be just another musical event in Finsbury Park, and therefore that money earmarked for anti-racist campaigning will be better spent in other ways.

Megan Dobney, the TUC’s London Regional Secretary said: “Trade unions are greatly offended by the removal of the central anti-racist message as well as by the ban on an organisation supported by the TUC. Trade union negotiation has proved fruitless and SERTUC is therefore left with no alternative but to withdraw.”

Steve Hart, Unite London Regional Secretary said: “Rise, or Respect as it was known, was launched by the trade unions as a means of involving mainly young people in anti-racism in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence and other racist murders. What is the point of what was explicitly an anti-racist festival if it drops its commitment to anti-racism?”

Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union General Secretary said: "We have supported the Rise Festival as a celebration of London's diverse communities and of anti-racism. It appears that this clear message is now being lost and the FBU no longer feels able to participate. We remain committed to any genuine initiative aimed at combating racism."

This statement is also endorsed by Thompson’s Solicitors and the Greater London Association of Trade Union Councils.

**** ends ****

For further please contact: Megan Dobney (TUC) on 020.7467.1220; Steve Hart (Unite) on 07970.081509; Matt Wrack (FBU) on 020.8541.1765

Note to editors:

The Rise Festival started life in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence murder 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.

UNISON conference 2008 passes emergency motion on Rise festival

Emergency Motion 6

Rise Festival

Conference condemns the recent decision by the newly elected Tory Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to take anti-racist campaigning and politics out of the annual Rise Festival.

In a statement issued to trade unions last week, and confirmed in writing to UNISON on Tuesday, Johnson's Director of Cultural Policy stated that the explicitly anti-racist campaigning message was to be replaced with one of "joyous celebration of music and culture" and that "it is no longer appropriate to have overtly political campaigning groups involved". As a result the National Assembly Against Racism has had its tented area removed and it's volunteers rejected, while the Cuba Solidarity Campaign has been refused entry.

Conference is appalled by the London Mayor's latest act, which exposes his true right wing beliefs. The man who once called Black people "picaninnies" with "watermelon smiles" now denigrates the memory of Stephen Lawrence, after whose brutal racist murder the festival was first established, and all other Black citizens who have suffered at the hands of racism in this country.

This act by the Mayor has also given new life to the British National Party who recently won a seat on the Greater London Assembly. The BNP, who supported Johnson’s campaign as Mayor, openly welcomed the decision on Tuesday claiming Britain's major anti-racist music festival was in fact just an "orgy of anti-BNP rhetoric".

Conference is further alarmed at the blatant attack on the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, the only organisation to be targeted as an “overtly political campaigning group”. Confirmation that Johnson sits firmly in the right wing, pro-Bush camp supporting the blockade and interference in this independent country.

Conference urges the General Political Fund and the Greater London Region to implement their welcome decisions to withdraw funding from the festival. UNISON has a proud and successful record in campaigning against racism and injustice and must make a stand against any attempts to weaken or undermine this.

Further, Conference calls on the National Executive Council to work with relevant bodies within the Union to ensure this message is conveyed firmly to the London Mayor, is publicised widely amongst our members and the wider public, and that UNISON works with other unions and relevant campaign groups to ensure that anti-racist campaigning continues to thrive in Britain's capital city and across the country.

National Executive Council

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