The streets of Dalston were filled with the sounds of jazz and funk from midday until dusk yesterday, as artists from diverse backgrounds came together for this year’s UpRise Anti-Racism festival. However, fewer people turned up to enjoy it than in previous years.
The event, which was born from a similar but more popular, well-funded festival called ‘Rise’, brings together singers, bands, artists and poets, as they unite against racism. UpRise’s sponsors include the Co-operative, the National Union of Teachers, and the Musicians’ Union, as well as organisers and producers Brazenbunch, an Arts collective. Still, the festival strives to run on this funding alone.
The turnout this year was dwindling in comparison to that of the festival’s predecessor. After Johnson dropped the anti-racist message in 2009, the event’s sponsors pulled out their funds and the festival was consequently cancelled.
Organiser and project director of Brazenbunch, Paul Richards, then decided to make the festival a people’s festival. “The younger, smaller cousin of Rise,” as Daniel Alexander, a London-based graphic designer, describes, was renamed ‘UpRise’ and run “for the people, by the people.” Daniel speculates that the funds for the event were dropped, as cultural activities were not at the top of Boris Johnson’s priorities. “He doesn’t understand racism, and what tools are necessary to tackle it,” says Paul.
“There are pockets of society in which racism is prevalent”, Daniel says, and goes on to say how acceptance of those who are different from ourselves begins in school. Melissa, co-founder of ‘2 fingers to violence’, a charity dedicated to spreading the message of non-violence, also expresses the importance of workshops in schools as a tool for spreading awareness.