At the close of Black History Month, we are incredibly proud of what we have been able to achieve as a working partnership, delivering 4 in person events across Margate, Canterbury and Gravesham as well as producing a new exhibition and film which debuted as part of the month long celebrations. Some 500 people in total engaged with the events which celebrated the themes of immigration, race, heritage, the arts and community. A common thread throughout the celebrations was the fact that Black history is in fact British history

Some 500 people in total engaged with the events which celebrated the themes of immigration, race, heritage, the arts and community. A common thread throughout the celebrations was the fact that Black history is in fact British history.

The celebrations kicked off on the 1st October with People Dem Collective’s ‘Come Stand With Us’ event at the Turner Contemporary. Bringing together diverse communities in the area, the event discussed social mobilization and change through the medium of art and offered artistic workshops for all who attended. Also on offer, was the incredibly dynamic musical talent of Folkin Fusion, a Cohesion Plus produced act who brought the house down with fusion sounds of African and Indian beats as well as a hit rendition of Bob Marely’s Three Little Birds.

The premiere of a new exhibition called “The Windrush Front Room” which encapsulates the quintessential living space of a migrant family from the Caribbean, took place in North Kent on the 4th of October. Produced and curated by the North Kent Caribbean Network, the exhibition has been incredibly well attended and has received high praise for its authenticity and pride in its heritage. Currently the exhibition is available to see at the Blake Gallery in Gravesham.

Next was North Kent’s flagship event “This is Kent” Community Film Screening which took place 20th October. The event saw a free screening of community led and produced films at the Woodville Theatre which some 200 people attended. Dignitaries and community members alike were able to watch the premiere of Cohesion Plus produced film ‘Identity’ which featured members of the local community chronicling their journey as diverse individuals and how their journeys and experiences have shaped their identity.

Other short films were shown produced by the North Kent Caribbean Network which took a look at what Black History Month has meant in the past and how celebrations and discussions could evolve in the near future. People Dem Collective also showcased their short films around social justice and the impact of art on minority communities and artists. Chief Constable Alan Pughsley QPM was the keynote speaker at the event and spoke about the importance of Kent Police reflecting the communities it serves as well as his dedication to diversity and inclusion.

The month long celebrations culminated in the screening of cult classic ‘Babylon’ at the Gulbenkian Theatre on the 28th October. The film was originally released in 1980 and still resonates with audiences to this day. It focuses on the experience of racism and police brutality experienced by young black men of Caribbean decent against the backdrop of an ever diversifying London. The film was then followed by a Q&A panel with an original cast member and fostered discussions around culture, modern day policing and ways to forge forward positively. Attended by community members from Margate and North Kent, the screening was a huge success and the evening climaxed with dance and drinks with music provided by a DJ’s Steve and Flate from North Kent.

Online content published as part of the Black History Month programme has also been incredibly well received with around 151,000 engagements online to date.

Michelle Bramble, Chair of the North Kent Caribbean Network commented, “What an absolute joy Black History Month 2021 has been. It’s taken a lot of hard work and effort to be able to organise an entire month’s worth of activity, celebrating the vast contributions of our black and brown communities here in Kent as well as taking much needed time to reflect on the past and discuss ways to forge ahead toward real, sustainable, systemic change. I am so grateful to the partnership of Cohesion Plus and People Dem Collective, whose collaborative spirit and efforts have made these celebrations possible. The key thing to note is that our individual organisations do this work all year round, which also feeds into the belief that Black history, is British history and takes place every single month. That being said, I am so proud of what we have been able to achieve and offer to the diverse communities of Kent who all put just as much stock in the celebrations as we do. We look forward to future celebrations which can only get bigger and better from here on.”

Gurvinder Sandher, Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus commented, “These month long celebrations which spanned across the breadth of Kent have been a long time in the planning. We are so pleased that these plans have finally come to fruition, not only broadening the reach of our work but also establishing firm partnerships with North Kent Caribbean Network and People Dem Collective. We truly believe that diverse led groups and organisations, when working together, can truly impact and affect discussions around representation, leading to real change. Creating this network of partnerships across Kent has always been an aspiration of mine and can only stand to get bigger and stronger. My sincere thanks go to our supporters and funders including Arts Council England, The Gulbenkian Theatre, Kent County Council and Gravesham Borough Council. These celebrations were led by the community, made for the community and our hopes for next year’s Black History Month are ambitious and given the success of this year’s celebrations, we are greatly enthused and excited to start planning.”

Victoria and Kelly, founders of People Dem Collective commented, “The spirit of our work is around collective, community engagement and we are so proud that Black History Month this year was celebrated with the community at its heart. We are really proud to work with Cohesion Plus and the North Kent Caribbean Network and look forward to future collaborations. We believe that we put together a month to celebrate the vast contributions of black and brown communities and champions past and present. Our goal has always to put Margate on the map and we believe that not only did we do that, but we also got to celebrate the communities in North Kent and Canterbury. We are so excited for what the future brings and look forward to working with our valued partners again soon.”