Boris Johnson, London’s mayor, has come under fire by equality campaigners after it emerged that one of the capital’s biggest free music festivals has been told to drop its anti-racist message. The Rise festival has been held in London since 1996 and has become the biggest anti-racist music festival in Europe. It was supported by the previous mayor, Ken Livingstone, as well as by trade unions and the National Assembly Against Racism (NAAR).
Yesterday however a spokeswoman for Johnson said this year’s event, due to be held on July 13, would no longer carry an 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.”
Boris Johnson was forced to apologise during his election campaign for describing Africans as having “watermelon smiles” and writing of “piccaninnies”. He said his comments were taken out of context and he was committed to fighting racism.
A spokesman for the NAAR yesterday called that questioned that claim: “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,” he said.
The Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) has also been told that its annual Big Cuba Fiesta stage has been banned from this year’s event. The Greater London authority’s director of arts policy , Munira Mirza, told the group in a letter that “it is no longer appropriate to have overtly political organisations involved in the programme or in the community area”.
Rob Miller, CSC’s director, said: “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.”Other news from Labour Matters