UpRise – Festival rises to fill the gap left by Boris

Friday, 1st October 2010

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Published: 1 October, 2010
by TERRY MESSENGER

A DREAM will come true this weekend for music lovers Mike Barnard and Freya van Lessen, who started a campaign to revive a huge anti-racism festival axed by Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

The flatmates from Holloway were outraged when the Mayor withdrew funding from the free Rise Festival last year, an event set up to celebrate London’s cultural diversity.

So they decided to organise their own. And on Sunday, their brainchild, UpRise, a successor festival, will be staged in Finsbury Park, with up to 20,000 people expected to attend.

Mike said: “We really felt strongly that London deserves a free anti-racism festival to bring everyone together and  have a good time.”

Attractions include reggae star Natty, rapper Ty and stand-up comedian Imran Yusef. Mike, who works in marketing, and Freya started their campaign with a protest petition. 

But Mr Johnson held firm so they enlisted the support of musicians, politicians, trades unions and music companies.

Mike added:  “We were very sad when he cancelled the festival and it galvanised us to try and bring it back.   

“The petition evolved into the festival organically with so many people agreeing with us and helping us to revive it.”  

Mike and Freya joined forces with music collective Brazen Bunch and PR outfit twenty%extra, and secured £20,000 from the South East Region Trades Union Council to pay running costs. Performers are appearing for expenses only.

Rise Festival was launched in 1996 by trades unions after the racist murder of black teenager Stephen Law­rence. 

It received backing from Labour’s Ken Livingstone when he became Mayor of London in 2000. Around 100,000 people flocked to Finsbury Park for the last Rise festival, headlined by reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff in 2008.

Among backers of UpRise is London Assembly Labour member Jenette Arnold, who said: “Not only is it a celebration of our differences and respect for each other but it sends a strong message that we will not tolerate racism.”

Mr Livingstone has promised to reinstate support for the festival if he becomes Mayor again in 2012.

Also performing at Sunday’s event, running from 12.30pm to 7.30pm, are Nathan ‘flute­box’ Lee, United Vibrations, Jimmy Screech, WanDan, Maracatu Estrela do Norte, Jally Keba Susso, Imaani, Sanchita Farruque, Step 13, DJ Rita Ray, DJ Ritu, Ordio Kid (Ubran Nerds), Aruba Red, The Insomniax and Yaaba Funk.

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