BELLA BARTOCK, our culture correspondent, on the uninspiring offer from Croydon Town Hall
It is hard not to have a degree of ambivalence about this year’s offering from Croydon Council for Black History Month. Just like last year, and the year before, and the year before that.
When Croydon was under the Tories, it was as if they were trying to ignore BHM, in the hope that it would go away. There is not a single Afro-Caribbean councillor among the Conservatives’ 29+1 opposition group at the Town Hall. Those two things might not be just coincidence.
Yet things have hardly improved much since Labour took control of the Town Hall in 2014.
There was little advance publicity for the month’s activities, and much of the initiative appears to have been delegated to Croydon’s BME Forum and other cultural groups – such as the David Lean Cinema Campaign, Lenses of Croydon and the Stanley’s Film Club – to pitch in with contributions towards the borough programme.
Actual input from Croydon Council, therefore, is minimal, and often tokenistic. And this from a council which has a full-time “culture tzar” in Paula Murray, who had the £82,500 job created for her in the midst of a recruitment freeze last year.
Even the council’s logo for BHM is the same one they have been trotting out since 2013. They haven’t bothered to go to the (small) expense of getting a graphic artist to put something fresh, inspired and innovative together.
They are not beyond stretching a point, either. For instance, the council’s BHM publicity includes the Wandle Park Mela. Hmmm. Now, (a) the Mela took place in September, and not in Black History Month, which is October; and (b), according to the council’s own promotion of the event, the Mela was largely about south Asian culture.
There’s almost a nodding acknowledgement within the council’s 2017 brochure that Croydon, London’s most diverse borough, is not doing a great deal for BHM, as they have included listings for a range of London-wide events. Of itself, that’s not a bad idea. It’s just that you can’t imagine many other boroughs looking at Croydon’s BHM events and recommending many of them to their residents.
The launch of Croydon’s contribution to Black History Month – which was staged after the Mela had packed up and gone – was described by our loyal reader as “The biggest bucket of crap I have ever seen.”
They were truly underwhelmed. “People are lauding mediocrity,” they said.
So if you really don’t want to sit through yet another reading of Rastamouse in your local library (again), what else is there in store over the next couple of weeks?
This year’s focus is on black institutions that have been actively leading their communities in the borough for 10 or more years.
The council’s announcement says that, “The programme will include opportunities to discover historical events through performance, music, storytelling and song, and also by taking part in thought-provoking discussions.
“Black History Month helps remember people, places and events from the African Diaspora that have made an historical impact, as well as highlighting those who are making history today.”
If you’re looking for an event to attend tomorrow, there’s The Ministry of Empowerment Gospel Extravaganza choir performance at Braithwaite Hall from 6.30pm.
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