NEW LONDON Mayor Boris Johnson has decreed that London’s annual Rise festival is to drop its anti-racist theme. The festival originated as the Respect festival, organised by the TUC and major trade unions with the purpose of combating racism among young people and providing them with a great free music festival at the same time.
When Ken Livingstone was elected the first Mayor of London his office took over organisation of the festival, with the trade unions and the National Assembly Against Racism (NAAR) still strongly involved.
The name changed a few years ago to avoid confusion with the newly-formed Respect political party.
This year’s event has been set for 13th July and a spokesperson for Boris Johnson said this year’s festival would go ahead but without any anti-racist message.
“Boris has made a commitment to go ahead with the Rise festival this year but wants to emphasise its cultural and community dimensions.
Johnson, during his election campaign, was obliged to apologise for describing Africans as having “watermelon smiles” and writing about “piccaninnies”.
The NAAR commented: “The sincerity of Boris Johnson’s claimed commitment to opposing racism in his election campaign is shown to be false by the fact that one of his first decisions is to abandon Europe’s biggest anti-racist festival.”
Johnson has also barred the Cuba Solidarity Campaign’s Big Cuba Fiesta stage from this year’s event.
The Greater London Authority’s director of arts policy, Munira Mirza, wrote to CSC saying: “It is no longer appropriate to have overtly political organisations involved in the programme or in the community area.”
CSC director Rob Miller responded: “It is outrageous that the new mayor of London has taken such a discriminatory position against Cuba Solidarity … We hope that this silly act of political censorship will even yet be overturned.”