11 of the Best Black History Month 2020 Events in London

Black History Month returns this October with an eclectic mix of online and IRL events taking place across London, from doorstep dance performances in Greenwich to Loud Black Girls in Streatham and a pop-up celebrating Black independent brands in Covent Garden

Lead image: Mika Onyx Johnson, writer of Pink Lemonade, will take part in a Q&A at Bush Theatre during Black History Month

1 Greenwich Dance’s Ragtime to Grime – Bring It Home Tour, Royal Borough of Greenwich 
10-24 October
Greenwich Dance has commissioned social and street dance company Grounded Movement to bring live dance theatre to individual homes throughout the Royal Borough of Greenwich in celebration of Black History Month. The Ragtime to Grime – Bring It Home Tour is a powerful street dance and rap performance telling the story of troubled young people who feel mentally adrift and disenfranchised from history. Just 10-minutes long, the specially choreographed performance by Temujin Gill, featuring dancers Daniella May Selwood and Adrian Falconer, alongside rapper Sunanda Biswas, will take place at the end of a path or in a communal outdoor space in a physically distanced format. There will be 30 individual shows, each in a different location each day, from Abbey Wood to Eltham, Greenwich and Woolwich, and available to book for your own household. That means a total of just 30 tickets are available, priced on a pay-what-you-can basis. The original music is by Nick Ramm and features original lyrics by the late Nigerian-born hip hop artist Ty (aka Ben Chijioke), who died earlier this year after contracting Covid-19.
For the full list of locations, timings and to book, see greenwichdance.org

2 Coco de Mer x Janet’s List Black History Month Pop Up, Covent Garden
2-30 October
What better way to get behind Black History Month than supporting Black-owned independent businesses? Luxury lingerie brand Coco de Mer is joining forces with Janet’s List, a curated platform of independent brands by women of colour, for a pop-up championing independent businesses that have been founded by black women and women of colour. Popping up in Coco de Mer’s Covent Garden boutique, the curated edit will feature 12 brands from Janet’s List that have been founded by black women and women of colour, each with a purpose to make women look good, feel good and be empowered. The collaboration with Coco de Mer is the first of its kind and will be an opportunity to discover and buy from a selection of brands from Janet’s List in Coco de Mer’s beautiful Covent Garden boutique. Brands include Janet’s List, Ahima Jewellery, Ange B Designs, LB Beads, Sofia Latif, Kora Naturals, The Soap Connoisseur, Colourshot Cards, Afropuff , AK Wilde, Afrotouch and Sheer Chemistry.
23 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden WC2H 9DD; coco-de-mer.com


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3 GAIKA’s A New Dawn – The Era of Reclamation at House of St Barnabas, Soho
Throughout October
The House of St Barnabas – the Soho members’ club on a mission to break the cycle of homelessness – is examining its relationship to slavery after Director of Engagement Gillian Jackson came to realise that the House was built by slave owner Richard Beckford, one of the biggest Jamaican plantation owners of the 18th Century. To address the House’s links to slavery, they have invited British artist and musician Gaika – whose family were enslaved by Beckford – to reclaim a room in the house and create a unique new art installation, Flight Recorder, centred around an inflight black box as a metaphor for a slave ship retaining memories of the ship’s journey. Audiences can interact with the black box, touching it at various points to reveal different sounds. The GAIKA installation is the first of a series of culture and impact events called A New Dawn – The Era of Reclamation, which will also be digitally streamed. It will be open to members of the public through pre-booked tours, and those with links to the Beckford family are invited to participate in the installation (email art@hosb.org.uk). The exhibition will be on show at House of St Barnabas until December 2020.
1 Greek Street, Soho Square W1D 4NQ; hosb.org.uk


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4 Loud Black Girls at Streatham Space Project
11 October
While not strictly a Black History Month event, Loud Black Girls (part of Streatham Festival, running from 9-18 October), is an important panel discussion between Abiola Oni, Temi Mwale and Siana Bangura – contributors to the Loud Black Girls, an anthology of essays by 20 black women – that asks, ‘now that we’ve learnt how to Slay in our Lanes, what’s next?’. Nigerian-British writer Oni won the Guardian and 4th Estate short story prize for BAME writers in the UK in 2016, and she is currently working on her first novel. Mwale is a racial justice campaigner who founded the 4Front Project to fight institutional racism and supports marginalised young people to drive change. Bangura is founder of Black British Feminist platform, No Fly on the WALL. The discussion will be chaired by Marcelle Mateki Akita, who was shortlisted for the 2018 Morland Writing Scholarship and leads Africa Writes, Tottenham Literature Festival and SPINE Festival. Pods for two people are £10. Book online via streathamspaceproject.co.uk or watch online for free by registering at eventbrite.
Unit 4, 170 Streatham Hill, The Theatre London SW2 4RU; streathamfestival.com


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5 Black History Month at Bush Theatre, Shepherd’s Bush (and online)
Throughout October

The Bush Theatre’s Black History Month programme celebrates diversity in theatre with online and in-person events. Highlights include a series of videos titled Advice to my Younger Self, an online interview with Julie Spencer, Director of the School of Acting at Arts Ed (film released on 13 October), and an online and in-person Q&A with Mika Onyx Johnson, writer of Pink Lemonade (21 October, 7.30pm, tickets £5-£8). Advice to my Younger Self – a series that also ran for Women’s History Month in March – is a particularly easy and engaging way to get involved, with videos from four more arts industry leaders sharing the advice that they would give to their younger selves, including actors Paapa Essiedu (I May Destroy You, BBC), Jamael Westman (Hamilton, West End), and writer Matilda Ibini (Little Miss Burden, Bunker Theatre). One video will be released each Thursday from 1 October on the Bush Theatre’s social media accounts. In August, the Bush Theatre launched a campaign called Write the Bush’s Future, to raise vital funds to help the theatre continue investing in theatre-makers, emerging artists and their local community during these difficult times. Click here to donate.
7 Uxbridge Road, Shepherd’s Bush W12 8LJ; bushtheatre.co.uk

6 Trinity Laban’s Lunchtime Concerts at St Alfege Church, Greenwich
22 & 29 October
Trinity Laban is going beyond Black History Month as part of the Royal Greenwich Black History 365, with a year-long programme celebrating Black, Asian and ethnically diverse creativity in music, dance and musical theatre running into and throughout 2021. In October, Trinity Laban is presenting two lunchtime concerts with pre-concert talks and performances celebrating the music of Black composers and performers. The live concerts – free and open to all – will take place at St Alfege Church in Greenwich on Thurs 22 Oct and Thurs 29 Oct at 1.05pm, and will be made available to a wider digital audience afterwards via the Trinity Laban Youtube channel.
St Alfege Church, Greenwich Church Street SE10 9BJ; trinitylaban.ac.uk

7 Black Greenwich Pensioners at Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
3 October-21 February 2021
The ORNC’s Black Greenwich Pensioners exhibition explores the hidden histories of the Black Royal Navy personnel, who formed one of Britain’s earliest Black communities when they became pensioners at the Royal Hospital for Seamen (where the Old Royal Naval College stands today). Co-curated by Black British heritage consultant S. I. Martin, this vital and fascinating exhibition looks at the presence and impact of the recorded Black communities that have been resident in Greenwich for over 200 years. Telling the stories of Black seamen, some of whom were volunteers and others who were enslaved or impressed, the exhibition traces their dangerous and unpredictable lives in the 18th and 19th centuries. The exhibition examines the role Black Mariners played in British naval conflicts and the personal histories of prominent Greenwich pensioners such as John Thomas, who escaped slavery and was later returned to enslavement in Barbados, and John Simmonds, a Jamaican veteran of the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar whose descendants still reside in the UK. There will be related workshops and tours during the exhibition.
Mezzanine Gallery, Visitor Centre, Old Royal Naval College, King William Walk SE10 9NN; ornc.org

8 Riverside Studios’ Black History Month Film Screenings, Hammersmith
Throughout October
Riverside Studios is screening a selection of dramas and documentaries to celebrate Black History Month in October, exploring and interrogating different aspects of the Black experience, both in the UK and the US. Highlights include Pressure, released in 1976 and considered Britain’s first Black feature film (Sat 3 Oct, 2pm); Hitsville: The Making of Motown, introduced by writer and critic Kaleem Aftab (Sat 10 Oct, 2pm); and Daughters of Dust, Julie Dash’s majestic poignant portrait of three generations of Gullah women at the turn of the 20th century (Sun 25 Oct, 2pm). The programme is also a springboard for a number of screenings celebrating and showcasing Black talent in the coming months and into 2021.
101 Queen Caroline Street, Hammersmith W6 9BN; riversidestudios.co.uk

Black History Month in Greenwich: Black Greenwich Pensioners at the Old Royal Naval College

The ORNC’s Black Greenwich Pensioners exhibition explores the hidden histories of the Black Royal Navy personnel (pictured: John Thurston, A Caricature of Greenwich Pensioners, late 1700s / early 1800s, © National Maritime Museum)

9 RMG’s Global Greenwich: Reframing Black Histories
Throughout October
Global Greenwich: Reframing Black Histories, presented by Royal Museums Greenwich’s (RMG), has been curated to raise the profile of Black history in celebration of Black History Month. The programme of events is made up of three strands: Celebrating Black Histories, Re-telling Whitewashed Histories, and Black Futures. Highlights include the Black History Museum Online Trail focussing on John Simmons, a Black sailor who went from being enslaved on a plantation in Jamaica to fighting at the Battle of Trafalgar with Admiral Nelson (21 October and then available year-round through the website); Black Women and the Waves, an online talk and Q&A session by Black History Walks’ Tony Walker, recount stories of Black women who have done amazing things on the water from ancient voyages to the Surf Girls of Jamaica (21 October, 7pm); and Mutiny at Sea: Enslaved African Resistance on Board with historian Professor Hakim Adi (16 October, 6pm-7pm).

10 Black History Month at Tate (online)
Throughout October
This October, Tate marks Black History Month with online events and digital content that take you behind the scenes of the galleries. Highlights include Late at Tate Britain (Fri 23 Oct) with the Tate Collective Producers, looking at the reflective nature of isolation. Lead Producer Kori Humphrys will explore dark thoughts brought to the surface during lockdown, using artists such as Francis Bacon and Henry Moore as inspiration. Several film interventions will examine these themes, like Ben Steele’s Lockdown Baby: Shop-Dash, about a single father working from home, and Reprezent Radio will stream a specially curated playlist live from their studio in Brixton. Other content on tate.org.uk includes artist interviews such as the recently released film with Zanele Muholi, detailed looks at artworks in the Tate collection and podcasts introducing listeners to art and artists through themes such as protest, hip-hop and comedy. A new podcast, The Art of Care, will be released on 30 October, exploring self-care in Black womxn and non-binary communities.

11 Black Book Celebrates Black History Month (online)
Every Tuesday in October

Black Book, founded by Zoe Adjonyoh (of Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen fame), Dr Anna Sulan Masing and Frankie Reddin in June 2020 as a platform for Black and non-white people working within hospitality and food media. In celebration of Black History Month, Black Book will host workshops, masterclasses, cook-a-longs and discussions focused on the food and drinks world every Tuesday throughout the month. The events will focus on the four pillars of Black Book – Equality, Visibility, Wealth Creation and Equity – tackling one pillar a week. Week one focuses on Equality with wine writer Aleesha Hansel leading the first workshop on 6 October, sharing her tips on working in the wine industry (10am-10.45am, £5), followed by a dive into the world of PR as Black individual with Ronke Lawal, founder of Ariatu PR (2pm-3pm, £15), then a cook-a-long with Joe Faulkner of The Krio Kanteen (6pm-7pm, £10), and finally a #BattleOfAfros between Melissa Thompson and Zoe Adjonyoh, who will discuss the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement (8pm-9pm, £5). A full day ticket bundle is £30. Tickets available via eventbrite.
Follow @blackbook_2020 for announcements of further events

Black History Month in London: Late at Tate Britain with Kori Humphrys

Tate marks Black History Month with online events such as Late at Tate Britain with Kori Humphrys (photo: Dan Weill Photography)