October 5, 2015, by Michael Jennings

Launching Black History Month 2015

On Friday 2 October, we launched our programme for Black History Month 2015 with an evening of music and performance at the Nottingham Lakeside Arts Centre.

The evening kicked off with an introduction from Dr Paul Greatrix, the University’s Registrar, who highlighted that Black History Month was an opportunity to celebrate BME cultures and achievements across the globe. Vincent Wilson then took the stage to introduce the first of the evening’s acts – The Gang of Angels (The G.O.A. for short).

The Gang of Angels Choir gave a fantastic acapella performance, singing both original songs and covers including The Gossip’s ‘Standing in the Way of Control’ and Nina Simone’s ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free’. This song was introduced with reference to recent media coverage of BME people being refused entry to nightclubs – an example of discrimination in the UK which is why Black History Month is as relevant as ever. The G.O.A. also took some time between songs to explain that the choir is made up of people from a wide range of backgrounds, and they’re always open to new members – basically, anyone who can sing – so get in touch if that resonates!

Val Watson, Chair of the University’s Staff BME Network then took a moment to say how proud she is of our programme, and said it was an opportunity to ‘bring about change’. She introduced our second act – David Stickman Higgins, whose powerful mix of music and spoken word covered a range of topics including culture, history, food, what it means to be human and racism. David’s performance was very energetic and often humorous, and he made a point of juxtaposing Caribbean and global culture with local references familiar to the audience (David was born in Lancashire, his mother was from Barbados and his father Irish). There was however a very serious side and often sad under-current when the topic of discrimination was explored. You can visit his website to experience examples of his unique work.

The last performer of the night was Nottingham’s Natalie Duncan, whose breathtaking vocals made for a brilliant set of songs. In between songs, Natalie also spoke about the importance of Black History Month, particularly noting the relevance of her cover of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Alright’ about racism in America. Natalie said that there are challenges to BME communities across the world, including in the UK. Take a look at a video below (via Martin Snodin) for her incredible rendition of Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Many Rivers to Cross’.

While the performances themselves were undoubtedly the highlights of the night, it was also fantastic to see the audience so engaged with the performers. When David Stickman Higgins set up a call/response in his performance, he got an enthusiastic reaction and all of the acts resonated with the capacity audience. We hope this enthusiasm continues through the month – we’ve got some fantastic events on offer including public lectures, screenings and Q&As. We’re confident that there’ll be something of interest to everyone, so make sure you take a look at our programme of events and keep following this blog.

Lastly, a huge thank you to Natalie Duncan, David Stickman Higgins, Gang of Angels, Val Watson, Vincent Wilson, Dr Paul Greatrix, and everyone who got involved including the audience to make our launch night such a success.

Left to right: Mike Jennings, Natalie Duncan, David Stickman Higgins, Val Watson, Claire Henson and Vincent Wilson

Left to right: Mike Jennings, Natalie Duncan, David Stickman Higgins, Val Watson, Claire Henson and Vincent Wilson

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