Liverpool’s Against Racism…ok LAR?

“Earlier this Spring Liverpool hosted Liverpool Against Racism — a series of week-long events to raise the issue of anti-Black discrimination and reiterate that we are a city against racism, we are positive about change and we WILL change the narrative around racism in Liverpool and beyond.

Never afraid to stand at the forefront of change, we utilised our culture — the elements which unite us so strongly and which have helped us through times of hardship and celebration alike. Our aim was to put a line in the sand and say, enough is enough, Liverpool is against racism and who will join us on this journey?

Thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, we called it the Liverpool Against Racism Festival (LAR) — the acronym not being lost on residents of the city. Featuring music, creativity, and debate — the city stood proudly under the spotlight of cultural change. Creating an accessible platform for all, a three-day musical element featuring emerging black artists and household named in a host of city centre and localised venues for just £5 enabled access to a high-class musical experience endorsed by leading industry musicians which opened its doors to all regardless of economic background to open the festival.

The sold-out conference featured an array of speakers and workshops from across the industries and continents for a series of high class, interactive, professional conversations about changing the city scape in the fight against racism across all sectors and a united decision to come together to bring to life and uphold the values of the conference in all areas of employment.

Finally, looking to the future for the city, teenagers from schools across the city region descended on the Liverpool John Moores University to continue the debate, be inspired from leaders in their field who brought to life their life stories and overcoming racism and pledge how together they too can change the cultural scene of evolution for the next generation.

In addition to the programme produced by Culture Liverpool, our cultural and community partners responded to our call out and created an additional aspect to the whole week long festival. Mandela8 premiered their new film “The Active Ingredients of Liverpool” celebrating the work of activists that have gone before us and the work they did from elder states people of Liverpool 8 (L8) to the voices of our future, our young people.

Our Libraries, Business and IP centre hosted an Audience with Chris Lube, “From apartheid to freedom” the incredible and humble story of peace a reconciliation and forgiveness, struggle and strength, and being stronger than the oppressors.

The Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse opened their doors to many cultural partners and general public to debate and challenge for more inclusive cultural spaces that reflect and serve our communities.

Then came Summer and as a city, our continued support and desire to change the narrative around racism, that it is not accepted in Liverpool, that we are forward thinking and recognise our diverse, multi-cultural city was once again celebrated with a week-long programme in partnership with community organisation, Mandela8, celebrating the ethos and values of Nelson Mandela.

Working closely with our communities and school children in and around the L8 area of Liverpool and arts organisations Writing on the Wall and Mandela 8, we celebrated the life and message of Nelson Mandela with specially created placards and banners by our communities. Creative writing workshops educated local children on the life of Nelson Mandela, celebrating his legacy and these values today before a family friendly parade through Princes Park welcomed the Queens Baton Relay culminating in a community wide outdoor picnic and freedom festival featuring the diverse range of cultures, beliefs and shared values that are present in our communities regardless of skin colour or background.

These values, so essential to the continued inclusive focus of the city, as highlighted by the former President, are still remembered and are a core focus of Liverpool’s continued fight against racism and, as Lord Peter Hain noted during an exclusive event with the former President’s eldest daughter Dr Makaziwe ‘Maki’ Mandela and his granddaughter Tukwini Mandela, “only in Liverpool can this have been done so well”.

As we celebrated, upheld, and stood together in our communities, united in our public spaces, our city’s iconic venues glowed in yellow to support the cause and show their united colours as we stood together. In the heart of the city’s crown, the jewel that is St George’s Hall, long associated with the Mandela family and home to Nelson Mandela’s unique artwork, renamed one of their main suites to the Mandela Suite, in recognition of the long term legacy of the initiative and commitment to the future and will now, as noted by the Mandela family, be home to additional future pieces of artwork by the iconic Nelson Mandela to continue to celebrate the city’s relationship.

I feel incredibly proud to have been part of this and thanks must go to Mayor Joanne Anderson and to the LAR team’s creative vision from Yaw Owusu with the amazing hard working culture team who always deliver fantastic events throughout the whole LAR week. My thanks also to the amazing work of Mandela8 in creating a celebratory programme of events and activities that unite our communities across the generations.

I take away that we are all standing on the shoulders of giants and it is everyone’s responsibility to challenge, speak out and strive for change. The next steps need to be a city responds to a coalition of the willing to keep challenging and to see positive change and action.

We need more young voices, more people seeing and listening and getting involved, there is change happening but if we don’t see it then it’s invisible make it visible make the change. There is amazing work happening across our city, we need to be a collective voice, so we need to come together to continue to make positive change happen”.

Alicia Smith Interim Divisional Manager Arts, Heritage, Libraries & Participation. Culture Liverpool, Liverpool City Council

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Culture Liverpool

Culture Liverpool

Telling stories. Delivering events. Championing creativity. Inspiring audiences. Thinking forward. — Culture: the rocket fuel for regeneration.