Bass Festival | Black life outside London

As I get older, I realise more and more things about people, places and life in general. One of such realisations is the fact that many black Londoners are unaware of the existence of black communities outside of London. In all fairness to them, the percentage of black people in London is by far the highest in comparison to other parts of the UK. As of the 2011 census, London is the region with the highest percentage of the black population (13.3%) versus the North East which is the region with the lowest percentage of the black population (0.5%)[1]. In addition to this, the black British culture that is portrayed on TV and across social media is very London centric. So, who can really blame these Londoners for not realising there is black life outside of London?

With that being said, in order to deal with this naivety, I think it’s time to shed some light on some of the amazing things black people outside of London are doing. A few days ago, I had a conversation with this year’s curators of Bass Festival, RTKal and Aliyah Hasinah. Bass Festival is an event that takes place in Birmingham and has been run by Punch Records for the past 13 years. The Birmingham-based festival features exclusively black artists, and the likes of Layfullstop, Anais, Sharnie, 808ink as well as a huge mural unveiling. Plus, a night of Black and Brown womxn sharing their stories through poetry/music at Heaux Noire, and British Bake Off’s Liam Charles hosting The Cheeky Treats Test. This is the first year where the event has been curated by individuals outside of the Punch Records team.

From Rapper to Artist Manager, Curator to Film Director this is just a selection of the many hats both RTKal and Aliyah wear. When Punch Records reached out to them to curate this years Bass Festival the only answer they could give was “yes”. Not only was the task they had ahead of them a large one, but they also had to come together to create synergy despite having different views on how certain aspects of the festival should run. Speaking with Aliyah and RTKal, it was very clear to me that they are passionate about what they do and what they’re doing with Bass Festival. This passion, along with getting to understand each other as humans and developing respect for each other has led to a somewhat unspoken unison and cohesion in their viewpoints surrounding the festival.

When asked to tell me more about Bass Festival and where they hope to see it going in the years to come, the responses that flowed were full of knowledge, clear vision and retweetable quotes. RTKal spoke about this year’s Bass Festival being an opportunity to “unite a young Birmingham and give people a platform they would never normally get, whilst also exploring the multiplicity of cultures in the city”. Aliyah highlighted the festival’s theme ‘Spotlight on the Future’ when discussing what she hoped to see from the festival in the years to come. She hopes that the festival will become more than an event run during Black History Month but an event that is ongoing that can help to build infrastructure. She hopes that the people of Birmingham will “feel like stakeholders” and should get a say in the running of the festival. And she’s glad that the theme is a ‘Spotlight on the Future’ because often times Black History Month is all too samey, however, focusing on the future with respect to the past and what’s happened in history is a new and exciting perspective.

Speaking with RTKal and Aliyah, has been one of my most exciting opportunities yet. The discussion was a breath of fresh air for me because their passion, ambition and drive were palpable throughout the whole conversation. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to write about this event because I do think many people need to simply step out of their comfort zone and try a new city every once in a while.

From 22nd October, Birmingham locals can expect five days of live music, workshops, panel discussions, exhibitions and film screenings across some of Birmingham’s hidden venues, as well as an unveiling ceremony of the ‘Future Faces of Birmingham’ mural. To find out more follow @BassBirmingham on Twitter!

Paula M

[1] https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/uk-population-by-ethnicity/national-and-regional-populations/regional-ethnic-diversity/latest

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