Black History Month, which celebrates the achievements of Black Britons, has been marked in the UK every October since 1987. It is an opportunity to reflect upon British history, from the pain of slavery and colonisation to the resilience and hope of the Windrush generation, while showcasing the work of today’s Black British creatives. Here are some events taking place across the country this month.
Boy Blue’s hip-hop, Manchester
Blak Whyte Gray is the latest work by Olivier award-winning Boy Blue, a hip-hop dance company founded in 2001 by the choreographer Kenrick Sandy and music producer Michael Asante. Their expressive theatrical performances feature hip-hop from the streets and clubs, and explore themes of identity and oppression, with energetic dance performances.
Blak Whyte Gray, Home Theatre, Manchester, 20-22 October, from £11.70
Sculpture trail, Bristol
Bristolians have largely repudiated the city’s links to the slave trade. This is reflected in The World Reimagined’s trail of 10 globe sculptures around the city, addressing themes of displacement, identity and racial justice. The trail starts in Royal Fort Gardens and finishes in Broadmead.
theworldreimagined.org, until 31 October, free
Changing attitudes towards Africans, Southampton
Ebun Sodipo, a London-based multidisciplinary artist, explores how attitudes towards Africans and their descendants have changed throughout history. Her solo show, For My Only Love, Yours in Body and Soul, is a fictional visual and audio love story in which she imagines alternative ways of speaking about the body, including the black trans-feminine self, after slavery and colonialism.
God’s House Tower, 7 October-6 November, free
Black ballet, Durham
Ballet Black celebrates its 20th anniversary with two new works at Durham’s Gala Theatre and Cinema. In 2001, Cassa Pancho founded the ballet company to give a platform to dancers of Black and Asian descent. Say It Loud, choreographed by Pancho, charts Ballet Black’s journey to becoming an industry name. Black Sun, choreographed by Gregory Maqoma, explores the power of the moon and sun.
Gala Theatre and Cinema, 28 October, from £18
Flower bed installation, north London
Gladstone Park in Dollis Hill will unveil a garden with three flower beds, in the shape of the Akan symbols for a double drum, a ship and an anchor, evoking themes of Black migration and belonging. The north-west London park is named after William Gladstone, whose family owned plantations in the Caribbean during the transatlantic slave trade. The installation, designed by Harun Morrison and Antonia Couling, reflects on how representation takes place in contested public spaces and will be unveiled on 14 October, near the former site of Dollis Hill House. From 12pm to 1.30pm there will be an introduction to drumming workshop and demonstration by the Akwaaba Drummers, refreshments and a Q&A with the artist.
Stables Cafe, Gladstone Park, London NW2, free
Youssou N’Dour, Edinburgh
Youssou N’Dour is the Senegalese singer, songwriter, musician and activist known for catapulting west African mbalax into the mainstream. His music fuses traditional west African drumming with modern pop and is bound with Senegal’s postcolonial identity. In 1985, he organised a concert for the release of Nelson Mandela and also performed in the 1988 worldwide Amnesty International Human Rights Now Tour. N’Dour will perform at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.
EICC, 15 October, tickets from £65.27. N’Dour is also at the Barbican in London on 3 November
Various events, Leicester
It is hard to choose just one event in Leicester, with Serendipity, the Institute for Black Arts and Heritage, coordinating a rich, month-long programme of trailblazing artists and activists from the African and Caribbean diaspora, featuring film, theatre, dance, lectures and exhibitions. Highlights include a performance by Mercury prize nominee Soweto Kinch on 12 October at Leicester Jazz House (tickets from £5) and Black is the Colour of My Voice, a play inspired by and featuring the music of Nina Simone, on 17 and 18 October at the Curve theatre (tickets from £10).
Bernardine Evaristo, Warwick Arts Centre
In October 2019 Bernardine Evaristo became the first Black woman to win the Booker prize, for her novel Girl, Woman, Other, which is told mostly from the perspectives of 12 black British women. It took decades for Evaristo to receive recognition, and in this exclusive live event the audience will hear a first-hand account from the writer about how she did it, refusing to let any barriers stand in her way.
warwickartscentre.co.uk, 9 October, tickets from £16
The Leeds Black History Walk
Discover lesser-known stories about the African presence in Leeds, going back as far as Roman Yorkshire, on this guided public walk. You’ll hear tales of the Leeds mummy, the Queen of Sheba, and artist and dance teacher David Hamilton MBE.
The tour starts at 11am at the Parkinson Building, Woodhouse Lane on the University of Leeds campus, 22 October, £7
British Art Show 9, Plymouth
Through film, photography, multimedia, painting, sculpture and performance, this exhibition delves into Plymouth’s role in Britain’s colonial history, focusing on how indigenous cultures and practices were exploited and marginalised, and how that history continues to shape contemporary society. It features 37 artists, presenting their work across four venues: Karst, The Box, the Levinsky Gallery at the University of Plymouth and Mirror at the Arts University Plymouth.
britishartshow9.co.uk, 8 October-23 December, free
For full events listings over the next month, visit blackhistorymonth.org.uk