Welcome to the inaugural Paul Robeson Art Is A Weapon Festival.
Since 2007, I have been privileged to travel the world telling the story of Paul Robeson, one of the most remarkable human beings of the twentieth century. The fact that a figure like Robeson - one of the most famous people on the planet in his time - is relatively unknown today is due to his decision to use his formidable voice to speak out for freedom, peace, justice and equality around the world. The authorities did their best to silence him and wipe him out of public consciousness, and largely succeeded.
The multi-award-winning play Call Mr. Robeson comes to London's West End for a four- week run at the Tristan Bates Theatre from October 1 to 26, and a series of speakers and other performers will occupy the space during this period to make up a festival of entertainment, education, protest and ideas. Speakers will talk on theatre, arts, Black history, the global arms trade and much more. There will be an interview with Tony Benn. Performers will come from as far away as Canada, South Africa and Nigeria to offer great music, theatre, performance poetry and comedy. Some are quite well known (such as Jackie Kay and Bob Crow), many are not. And even though October is Black History Month in the UK, the festival is not exclusively Black: white working class, Jewish and other stories feature too. The common thread is that by sharing knowledge, ideas and art, we arm ourselves and others with weapons with which to fight for a better world.
Join us in October as we "occupy Covent Garden", brandishing weapons of mass creation!
CALL MR. ROBESON. A life, with songs.
Written and Performed By Tayo Aluko, with Michael Conliffe and Roland Perrin on piano. Directed by Olusola Oyeleye, Designed by Phil Newman.
When Paul Robeson - great and famous actor, singer and civil rights campaigner gets too outspoken for the establishment's liking, he is branded a traitor to his country, and denied opportunities to perform or travel. This rollercoaster journey highlights how his activism led to his dramatic downfall. It features famous songs (including a dramatic rendition of Ol’ Man River), great oratory, and a spectacularly defiant testimony to the Senate House Un-American Activities Committee.
A comic personal and political black hair-story. Comedian Paul Ricketts traces the funny and sometimes embarrassing relationship between hair fashion and social change. The search for a black identity as represented through his choices of hairstyle – from bald head to dreads, kinky to straight, flat-top to Afro.
"A Black British comic who is engaged with black history and politics is still too rare a thing on the comedy circuit"
Editor Choice Award Winner, Brighton Fringe 2010
STOP PRESS: CANCELLED. Due to problems with Ms Davies obtaining a visa, her performances have regrettably had to be cancelled.
Powerful and charismatic singer and popular judge on “Nigerian Idol”, Yinka Davies brings a unique range of Blues, Highlife, Salsa, Swing, Soft Rock, and Traditional Yoruba folk-songs on a rare visit to London from Lagos. The hit songs “Bambam Bata,” “Eko ile,” “K’Oluwa ko so,” “Ise Oluwa” and “Emi a r’owo f’use” make her a household name in Nigeria, and hopefully soon too, in Europe.
BIRMINGHAM CLARION SINGERS.
Founded in 1940 following the Spanish Civil War, and continuing into the twenty-first Century with songs and music from a long established workers’ tradition. A socialist choir who support the causes of peace, justice and equality for all. Their repertoire is wide, encompassing styles from folk to classical, from ballads to African choral works. Paul Robeson was their second president, Tayo Aluko was recently appointed as the fifth.
Ava Vidal juggles motherhood with a hectic schedule of club dates and TV appearances, both as a comedian and a commentator. She has become a regular presence on television since she turned heads as the BBC New Comedy Awards' only female finalist in the very first year of her career. As a commentator, Ava has contributed to The Wright Stuff, Daybreak, ITN News and BBC World Have Your Say. She has written for The Independent and The Guardian, and has used racist abuse directed at her as fuel for her acclaimed solo stand-up show.
Written and performed by Patrice Naiambana.
A Diaspora Jeli meditation on the present future of Africa.
In the harrowing dark pit of misery, captives and keepers are on the verge of mutiny. Who is best placed to provide inspirational leadership? Othello, Aron, Toussaint, Sojourner, Nanny, Bai Bureh, Obama? The people of the soil contemplate the elements needed for sovereignty and peace. Will they sink or swim across the perception gap that threatens victory?
Edinburgh Fringe First Winner.
Townsend ProductionsWE WILL BE FREE! is a new drama about the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Dorset farm labourers convicted and transported by an oppressive Government for swearing a secret oath and forming a Trade Union in 1834 to fight against a succession of wage cuts inflicted by the local landowner. This vitally important story is told in an entertaining theatrical style, through political cartoon and animation, puppetry, and the exquisite musical arrangements by revered folk singer and squeezebox player John Kirkpatrick.
Reviews of Townsend Productions’ The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists:
**** 'Sets bells ringing... friendly...... Well worth catching.' Times (Libby Purves)
'A strong and robust show that brings the characters, humour and inspirational ideas of this great book to life. It is needed now more than ever. You’ll leave the theatre and join the struggle!' Ken Loach, Film Director
RESHAPE WHILE DAMP.
Written & performed by Naomi Paul
Shining a satirical and hilarious light into life’s darker corners. At times poignant, always funny, Naomi wonders what to do about the litter on the street, the libraries closing down, and what a nice Jewish girl like her is doing in a world like this. A distinctive take on our times. With original songs. Jewish stories. And a lemon.
'Terrific deadpan delivery of material that is topical and relevant. Audiences loved it!' (Alexa Kelly, Artistic Director, Pulse Ensemble Theatre, New York 2013
Written and performed by Leslie L McCurdy
There are many plays about Harriet Tubman, but none share her entire life story like a visit with The Spirit of Harriet Tubman. Leslie McCurdy invokes the 'spirit' of Harriet Tubman as she portrays the life of the famous Underground Railroad conductor, recreating stories familiar and some rarely told, using words said to have been Harriet Tubman¹s own. Through it all we learn of the faith and conviction that drove Harriet Tubman to follow her dreams; the spirit of the past connecting with the present, inspiring her charges to have the courage to do the same in envisioning their future.
Scottish-born Jackie Kay MBE is one of the nation’s most celebrated novelists, playwrights and poets, with several awards and prizes to her name. She reads from some of her work, including FIERE, her most recent collection of poems which was shortlisted for the COSTA award, and from her new book of short stories REALITY, REALITY, recently published by Picador to great acclaim.
Written and performed by Themi Mtshali-Jones
Mother to Mother is a beautifully imagined conversation between the mother of a killer and the mother of the victim, based on true events surrounding the murder of American Fulbright scholar, Amy Biehl in Gugulethu, South Africa. It allows a deeply empathic theatrical encounter, exploring how one unforgiving moment in an ordinary day has repercussions beyond the imaginable. The tour-de-force monologue makes for powerful and profoundly moving theatre, delivered with dignity, sensitivity and humour by South African actress Thembi Mtshali-Jones.
WOODY GUTHRIE: THE LONG rd topeekskill.
William Kaufman presents the story of Woody Guthrie’s personal transformation from a youthful Oklahoma racist to the ardent anti-racist champion who, along with many others, risked his life holding the line against American fascism during the notorious Peekskill riots of 1949. Conventionally known for his championing of the poor white Dust Bowl migrants, Guthrie also left an extensive body of songs condemning Jim Crow segregation, lynching and race hatred. Most of these songs were never recorded, but they are the legacy of this remarkable journey that eventually brought Guthrie into the fellowship of Lead Belly, Josh White, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee and Paul Robeson. The Long Road to Peekskill is both a harrowing and uplifting presentation, showing through the example of Woody Guthrie that racists are not born, but made - and that they can be unmade.
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Here I stand! Paul Robeson, Jewish people, Palestine.
Selma James is an anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist campaigner and author. In 1972, she founded the International Wages for Housework Campaign, and in 2000 she helped launch the Global Women's Strike which she co-ordinates. In 1975 she became the first spokeswoman of the English Collective of Prostitutes. She is a founder member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (2008). Her anthology Sex Race and Class, The Perspective of Winning (2011) has had rave reviews. Ms James is a contributor to the Guardian, and is acknowledged as a rivetting public speaker.
Veteran MP and former Labour Party Minister Tony Benn, who famously retired from the House of Commons to “spend more time on politics,” will be interviewed by writer, journalist, publisher and BBC Radio presenter Dotun Adebayo.
Black People and British Drama.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a Ugandan-born multi-award-winning journalist who has written for The Guardian, Observer, The New York Times, Time Magazine, Newsweek, The Evening Standard, the Mail and other newspapers and is now a regular columnist on The Independent. She is also a radio and television broadcaster and author of several books. She advises various key institutions on race matters and is also a regular international public speaker in Britain, other European countries, North America and Asian nations. She has been voted one of the top ten most powerful Asians in Britain and one of the most influential voices on the left.
Who were the Moors? Why were they important? Since 1992 and up to the present period, Robin Walker ‘The Black History Man’ has lectured in adult education, taught university short courses, and chaired conferences in African World Studies, Egyptology and Black History. Author of several books on African History, in 2006 he wrote the seminal When We Ruled - the most advanced synthesis on Ancient and Mediaeval African history ever written by a single author. In 2008 he wrote a companion volume, Before The Slave Trade.
Sokari Douglas Camp.
Pride. (All the world is now richer).
Sokari Douglas Camp was born in Buguma, Rivers State, Nigeria. She studied fine art at Central School of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art and has had more than 40 solo shows worldwide at venues including the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute and the American Museum of Natural History. Her public artworks include Battle Bus: Living Memorial for Ken Saro-Wiwa (2006), a full-scale replica of a Nigerian steel bus, which stands as a monument to the late Niger Delta activist and writer. Her work is in permanent collections at The Smithsonian Museum, Washington, D.C., Setagaya Museum, Tokyo and the British Museum, London. Last year Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, selected Otobo (hippopotamus) masquerade figure (2005) as the number one artifact from the British Museum’s permanent collection to represent London – A World City in 20 Objects. In 2005 she was awarded a CBE in recognition of her services to art. In 2012 All the World is Richer Now, a memorial to commemorate the abolition of slavery was exhibited in The House of Commons.
The Shadow World – The Impact of the Global Arms Trade in Africa.
STOP PRESS! For very good reasons, Andrew has had to go to the United States, and his talk will be given by Paul Holden.
Paul Holden is a South African-born and London-based historian, researcher, writer and activist. Since 2009, Paul has worked closely with Andrew Feinstein, acting as the lead researcher for Feinstein’sThe Shadow World and as co-author. Paul has appeared regularly on South African and international news platforms discussing issues related to corruption and its impact on development and democratisation in developing countries. More about Paul on the Corruption Watch website: www.cw-uk.org
Robeson and Othello: Britain, America, Moscow.
Tony Howard is Professor of English at Warwick University. He's leading a three-year investigation into the Shakespearean work of British Black and Asian actors since Robeson's 1930 Othello. His books include Women as Hamlet: Performance as Interpretation in Theatre, Film and Fiction (Cambridge UP). He has written plays including A Short Sharp Shock! (with Howard Brenton) and 'I Have Done the State Some Service': Robeson, Othello and the FBI.
Out of the Shadows: Eslanda Robeson the Anti-Colonial Activist and Global Citizen.
Imaobong Umoren is a PhD history student at the University of Oxford. She is researching the travels of a group of twentieth-century Caribbean, African and African American women intellectuals including Eslanda Robeson.
The Colonies and Colonials in World War II.
Marika Sherwood and a small part of her family survived Nazi rule in Hungary, emigrated to Australia in 1948, and then to England with her son in 1965. She taught in schools before undertaking research on aspects of the history of Black peoples in Britain, more particularly the political activists of the past hundred years or so. In 1991 with colleagues she founded the Black and Asian Studies Association, which campaigns on various issues with a focus on education. Author of a number of books and articles, her most recent books are After Abolition: Britain, The Slave Trade and Slavery from 1562 to the 1880s (2007),Origins of Pan-Africanism: Henry Sylvester Williams, Africa and the African Diaspora (2010), Malcolm X: Travels Abroad (2011), World War II: Colonies and Colonials (2013).
Bob Crow is the General Secretary of the National Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT). A self-styled “communist/socialist”, he is one of the so-called “awkward squad” of trade union leaders.
Paul Robeson and the Haitian Revolution.
Christian Høgsbjerg teaches history at Leeds Metropolitan University, and is the editor of C.L.R. James’s 1934 play about the Haitian Revolution, Toussaint Louverture: The story of the only successful slave revolt in history (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013). His monograph, based on a revised version of his doctoral thesis, C.L.R. James in Imperial Britain, is forthcoming with Duke University Press, as is a co-edited volume relating to James’s history of the Haitian Revolution, The Black Jacobins Reader.
The Interesting Life of Duse Mohammed Ali (1866 -1945), Black Egyptian Renaissance Man.
Sean Creighton is an independent historian who has researched and published on Paul Robeson’s life and work in the UK . He compiles a British Black History Digest and is Co-ordinator of the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Network and publisher of Jeff Green’s Coleridge-Taylor. A Centenary Celebration. He has recently been a member of the Nubian Jak Community Trust team delivering the London Schools Remembrance Project about the influence of black music and musicians in Britain from 1900 to 1920, focussing on Coleridge-Taylor and the Southern Syncopated Orchestra. As the historian of John Archer, Battersea’s Black Mayor (1913-14) he is organising commemorative events from November.
On discovering Coleridge-Taylor.
Jonathan Butcher is an experienced and versatile conductor, whose repertoire not only encompasses all the major orchestral, choral and operatic works, but also includes a large selection of 20th and 21st Century compositions and first performances. He holds Musical Directorships with several Orchestras and is Artistic Director of Surrey Opera. He also directs two choirs at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art - RADA. In 2012 Jonathan was the initiator and Artistic Director of the SamuelColeridge-Taylor Centenary Festival in Croydon and during that year he conducted and promoted numerous concerts including the World Première of SC-T’s rediscovered opera Thelma.
Negro Toilers: African Liberation Struggles as observed by George Padmore.
Tunde Zack-Williams is Professor Emeritus in Sociology at University of Central Lancashire. He is past President of the African Studies Association of the United Kingdom, a member of the British Academy Panel. He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and Feldman Fellow at Brandeis University. He was granted the Amistad Award by the Central Connecticut State University earlier this year.
Paul Robeson's British films (1935-40).
Stephen Bourne will discuss Paul Robeson's film work in Britain in the late 1930s. The talk will be based on the chapter in Stephen's book Black in the British Frame - The Black Experience in British Film & Television (Continuum, 2001). In 1998 Stephen programmed a centenary tribute to Robeson for the National Film Theatre. Stephen has also been interviewed in two major television documentaries about Robeson: Speak of Me As I Am (BBC 1998) and Paul Robeson: Here I Stand (American Masters, 1999)
Before Paul there was Ira.
Oku Ekpenyon is a Historian, Education Consultant and Campaigner. In 2003 she launched a campaign to hang a picture of the Black 19th century Shakespearian actor Ira Aldridge at the Old Vic Theatre in London which took place in September 2004, marked the bicentenary of his birth with a production at the Old Vic in July 2007 and wrote an education pack about him. In October 2007 she unveiled an English Heritage Blue Plaque to Aldridge at his former home in South London. She also campaigned for stamps to mark the Bicentenary of the Parliamentary Abolition of the Slave Trade in 2007 which were produced by the Royal Mail and is currently working to erect a permanent memorial, the Enslaved Africans Memorial Garden, in London's Hyde Park.
Paul Robeson and 'Black Bolshevism’
Hakim Adi is a historian who has written widely on the history of Pan-Africanism and the African Diaspora, including three history books for children. His latest book is entitled Pan-Africanism and Communism: The Communist International, Africa and the Diaspora, 1919-1939. He is currently working on a film documentary on the West African Students’ Union www.wasuproject.org.uk.
The Social Movement for Afrikan Reparations.
Esther Stanford-Xosei is a Jurisconsult, specialising in the praxis of law as resistance, and internationally acclaimed Reparationist. Esther is currently engaged in PHD research at the University of Chichester on the historical trajectory and outcomes of the Social Movement for Afrikan Reparations based in the UK.
Paul Robeson and the Unity Theatre Movement.
Harry Landis is a stage and screen actor, a theatre director. He has appeared in many films, TV plays and West End productions and tours and was President of Actors Equity from 2002 to 2008. He is the Chairman of the Unity Theatre Trust and a Board member of the Equity Charitable Trust. For two years he was Artistic Director at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury.
Wilf Sullivan has worked for the TUC since December 2004, when he was appointed as TUC Race Equality Officer. He worked as UNISON’s National Black Members Officer from 2000 before moving to the TUC. He is active on race equality policy matters both inside and outside of the trade union movement. He is a member of the Government’s Ethnic Minority Employment Stakeholders Group, is Vice-Chair of the UK Race and Europe Network, is a co-opted Executive Board member of the European Network Against Racism and sits on a number of race equality research academic advisory boards.
The Speech: The Story Behind Martin Luther King's I have a dream speech.
It's 50 years since Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, which stands as the USA's favourite address delivered by one of its most beloved figures. But "I have a dream" wasn't in the text of the speech and its mainstream popularity only grew after King was assassinated. Award-winning Guardian and Nation columnist, Gary Younge, author, traces the genesis of the speech and asks, “Why has America embraced it the way that it has and what is its significance in the age of Obama."
The Federation of the West Indies.
Luke Daniels is a consultant , counsellor and trainer on Domestic Violence. He has worked for over thirty years with perpetrators of domestic violence and his ground-breaking 'Pulling The Punches-Defeating Domestic Violence' self-help book for perpetrators was published in 2011 by Bogle L'Ouverture. He is also the President of Caribbean Labour Solidarity - campaigning for workers’ struggles in the Caribbean and in Britain.
Dr. Nick Draper
Unearthed: Tracing Legacies of British Slave Ownership.
Nick Draper is co-director of the Structure and Significance of British Caribbean Slave-Ownership 1763-1833 project at University College London and author of The Price of Emancipation (2010). Prior to returning to academia, he worked for 25 years in the City.
London: Migrant City.
Lindsey German is a socialist writer and campaigner. She is the co author of 'A People's History of London', which traces London's radical past from the Romans to the present day, and most recently 'How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women.' Lindsey has been the convenor of the Stop the War Coalition since 2001 and is a lifelong campaigner against war and racism. She is a lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire.
Professor Gus John
Making the Global African Diaspora the Sixth Region of Africa, and central to the 21st Century African Renaissance.
Professor Gus John is an associate professor and honorary fellow at the Institute of Education, University of London. He is a member of the African Union’s technical committee of experts, working on modalities for making the Global African Diaspora the Sixth Region of Africa. Prof John advised on equality, diversity and social mobility issues as part of the Legal Education and Training Review and is researching issues of bias and disproportionality in the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s regulation of solicitors and their firms. In 1989 he was appointed Director of Education in Hackney, the first black Director of Education in the UK. Since leaving Hackney in summer 1996, he has been working as an international development consultant in Britain, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean, and was from 1997 until 2008 a Visiting Faculty Professor of Education at the University of Strathclyde and Special Adviser to Glasgow City Council on race and social inclusion. Gus John has written extensively on issues relating to education, race, social action and civil unrest, one of his latest publications being ‘The Case for a Learner’s Charter for Schools’.
The Importance of Identity when sharing a common cultural hetritage.
Jak Beula is a social entrepreneur who is CEO of the edutainment and leisure group "Nubian Jak". The brand includes an Educational Academy, a plaque and sculpture scheme; a multi-award-winning board game series of the same name, plus educational products and services. Nubian Jak was created to inspire young people and to highlight some of the amazing achievements by people of colour. The trademark has now become one of the best known minority brands in UK, and continues to attract international interest. The organisation has one of the highest profiled commemorative plaques in the world with the Ignatius Sancho Plaque installed on Her Majesty Foreign Office in Whitehall. The Nubian Jak name is also engraved in stone on the Foreign Office.
Caribbean Migration: It Was Not The Windrush Alone!
Donald Hinds was brought up by his maternal grandparents in the Parish of St. Thomas in Kingston, Jamaica. He attended the local elementary school. He joined his mother in London in 1955, the year London Transport started to recruit black bus conductors. He attended evening schools and was one of Claudia Jones’early recruits to the West Indian Gazette, the first commercial black news paper for black migrants. He also began contributing to the BBC Caribbean Programmes. He left London Transport after a commission to write a book about West Indian migration to the Mother Country. He was Head of History at a secondary school and later Senior Lecturer in history in the Department of Education at the LSBU. His latest publication, a novel“MOTHER COUNTRY: In The Wake of a Dream” is to be published later this year.
Call Mr. Robeson: £12 (£10)
School Parties: £7 (for 11.30am shows, Wed 16, 23 Oct)
Other Performances £10 (£8)
The Tony Benn Interview £10 (£8)
Speaker events £5 (£4)
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