In 2017, Zahra Ash-Harper spent some time thinking about Black History Month and the specific and challenging questions it presents. Should we focus on one month, when we are trying to encourage an open and accessible venue all year round? Of course there is no simple answer and three years on we are still exploring the questions in her article.
However, Black History Month is a time to celebrate the contributions that people of African and Caribbean descent make to UK culture. And in this year of significant and welcome change in Bristol, a moment to amplify Black voices from our community.
Here are a few of the highlights in Watershed's October programme which foreground Black history, champion talent and celebrate Black voices:
In our cinema programme, both Steve McQueen's Mangrove (7 Oct) and Rubika Shah's White Riot (22 Oct) look back on the racism of Britain's recent past, fusing history with contemporary relevance and fierce defiance.
McQueen's rousing, urgent story is one of five distinct films set in London's West Indian community between the 1960s-'80s commissioned by BBC. It tells the story of the Mangrove Nine, arrested and tried for inciting a riot in 1970 that exposed endemic racism in policing and the judicial process.
Rubika Shah's vital prize-winning documentary explores how 70s London protest movement Rock Against Racism (RAR) confronted British fascists head-on. An engaging, energising documentary, Shah brilliantly chronicles this confrontation, incorporating archive footage and contemporary interviews to create an evocative picture of what became a highly effective movement.
Soul (11 Oct) is Pete Docter's first Pixar film since Inside Out, and this time he wonders where our core essence comes from. With an all-star cast that includes Jamie Foxx, Hamilton's Daveed Diggs, Angela Bassett and Tina Fey, Docter and co-director Kemp Powers have crafted a universal narrative that will appeal to all ages, and a universe that is as smart and life-affirming as it is funny and exciting. The perfect film for your heart, body and, well... soul.
In the Pervasive Media Studio, The Residents podcast is available throughout October as a series of four podcasts exploring tech, arts, economy and health. Produced by Studio residents Will Taylor and Jo Kimber the first episode is 'The Residents are BAME-TASTIC' featuring Nikesh Shukla - author and screenwriter, Fozia Ismail - social anthropologist and supper-club host and Adibah Iqbal - Rife Mentor. Will and guests cover everything from lockdown, to the Black Lives Matter movement and most importantly community and hope - all themes that play a huge part in the lives of residents of the Pervasive Media Studio community.
Garrett Bradly is one of the most exciting filmmaking voices to emerge in recent years - her new film Time, which won her the Best Director award at this year's Sundance Film Festival, screens at Watershed on 11 Oct. Enduring love and social justice lie at the heart of this poignant documentary about a single mother's battle for the release of her incarcerated husband. Enhanced by stunning black and white photography and an evocative Blues score, Time is an epic personal journey of hardship and hope, revealing the devastating effects of mass incarceration on Black communities in America.
Rife, which champions and advocates for young creative voices in the city, has commissioned six young black photographers to share their work. The photographers have covered a range of genres that include fashion, portraits and photojournalism. All of them have a distinctive style and way of approaching their work. We're kicking off with Manoel Bolutife Akure's series from the Black Lives Matter Protest in June, who said of this series:
"I felt a duty to document those moments. They will go down in history. As a black man documenting it, I felt like finally people were standing with me."
And as October draws to a close, our free Pervasive Media Studio Lunchtime talk on 30 Oct is by residents Imwen Eke and Camille Aubry with technologist Takita Bartlet exploring the role of digital tools in creating cultural relevance in both physical and virtual spaces - starting with the inclusion of Black African and Caribbean voices.