Week-long celebration in city centre as Sheffield's first African-Caribbean market launches for Black History Month
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Taking place in the half term holidays, the event is organised by Adira, in partnership with Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Property Association, Sheffield Business Together, and Black-led organisations such as Action Collective and Unity Project Sheffield, amongst others.
The festival will feature a selection of stalls across Fargate; an art exhibition created by young people, a Black history archive, and a ‘human library’ in the Moor Market; live performances from African dancers and poets in the city centre; and more.
Ursula Myrie, co-founder of Adira, said: “This is what real, true, co-production looks like - it’s what diversity and inclusion looks like. It’s made up of both Black and white people - this is what it means when you say equality and diversity.”
She told how it was a positive indication that people in the city are ‘walking the talk’, in reference to organisations who pledged to do more regarding diversity and inclusion following the death of George Floyd.
Ursula added: “It means so much to me personally. It’s not been done in Sheffield before, and I’ve asked the question why. Why has it taken so long?
“People have been saying, this is an amazing idea, we’ve not had this before, but we shouldn’t be accustomed. I’m also saddened that it took us that long - that us as a Black community had to get up and do something.”
An important part of the festival is honouring Windrush memories, and the first-hand experiences of elders from the Windrush generation can be heard in the ‘human library’.
Ursula said: “It’s so important that we capture these stories as we are losing our elders.”
Nigel Wilkes, director of Adira, added: “This will be Sheffield’s first Black African-Caribbean festival for Black History Month. It will reflect the diverse culture of Sheffield and will bring a flavour of the Caribbean to Sheffield, with food, clothing, song and dance, bringing old and young people together.
“Some of the elders will be reflecting on, and educating people, on Black history from their perspective, coming over from Jamaica and integrating into English culture.”
Funding from the council has enabled the event to take place on a larger scale.
Kate Josephs, chief executive of Sheffield City Council, said: “How fantastic that Sheffield is hosting its first Black History Month market. I’m really excited to get behind this great idea and provide this event with the platform it deserves. Black History Month is an important opportunity for us to celebrate and educate ourselves on the history, achievements, and contributions of Black people to our society, and this market will be an excellent milestone to do that.
“Led by local community groups, businesses, and organisations, it will celebrate and showcase the rich, diverse communities that make Sheffield the special place it is and reinforces our city’s commitment to being anti-racist.
“Alongside the market there are lots of other exciting events planned for the city centre too during half term, such as a visit from giant puppet Little Amal and a Human Library that will give people the chance to hear stories from some of Sheffield’s Windrush generation.”
She hopes people of all races, colours and backgrounds will be able to “enjoy all that is on offer”.
Martin McKervey - High Sheriff of South Yorkshire, chair of Sheffield Property Association, vice chair of Sheffield Culture Collective, and non-executive director of Sheffield Chamber - said: “The festival is very important for diversity, educational and cultural richness, and attracting people back into the city. Every individual and every community thrives when we work together, value and respect each other.”
Martin believes that the role of culture, heritage and art in the city is an important facet in ensuring that “Sheffield is the best place it can be”, adding that it impacts on our quality of life, wellbeing, sense of place and economy.
He told how the African-Caribbean community contributes towards Sheffield’s “very rich diversity in society” and the wider cultural aspects of the city, and the festival would enable people to recall the importance of that.
He hopes the event will not only bring people together to celebrate the success and importance of the work of Adira, the history, culture and diversity of Sheffield, but also build community engagement and bring economic benefits for the city.
Martin explained: “In a post pandemic environment, the ability to work together as a city is very important. Everybody and every community has a role to play.”
He added: “One of the challenges we face is how we build back confidence and footfall in our city centre. This festival is an important facet of doing that.”
Louisa Harrison Walker, co-chair of Sheffield Business Together and executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, added: “When Sheffield Chamber and Sheffield Business Together came together, it was to better support the charitable organisations that are so important to the people of Sheffield. As a city we must and can do more to support and celebrate communities from across the city.
“The Adira Black History Month market will bring fantastic experiences into our city centre. We hope as many people visit the market but also that local businesses get involved in making the whole week a success.”
The festival will also enable those with Jamaican heritage to take a walk down memory lane.
A Jamaican front room, featuring furniture from the 50s and iconic plastic sheeting typical of Jamaican households - which was out of bounds for children, as it was reserved for guests - will be recreated in the Moor Market.
The Black History Month market will take place from October 25 to October 30, from 10am-6pm (Fargate) and 8am-5.30pm (Moor Market).
Anyone interested in booking a stall, contact: [email protected]
Any business wanting to contribute, contact: [email protected].