October marks the start of Black History Month in the UK, a time to reflect on the important roles that Black people have played in our society throughout history, examine their presentation today and look forward to a better future. This year’s theme is ‘Time for Change: Action Not Words’, which has been designed to highlight the ongoing need for actionable change in Britain. Here we’ve rounded up the events taking place across London for those looking to educate and enlighten themselves, both this Black History Month and beyond.
Africa Fashion Week London
8 and 9 October
Billed as being the largest African fashion catwalk in London, Africa Fashion Week London returns for its fifth year to the grand Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden. Grab a front row seat to watch vibrant and colourful catwalk showcases featuring designer collections from all over the continent, browse exclusive afro-centric designs in the exhibition marketplace and tune in to inspiring panel talks from leading experts in fashion and sustainability.
Following hot on the heels of LFW, Africa Fashion Week returns at a time when African designers are taking centre stage in the capital like never before, with the V&A’s blockbuster Africa Fashion exhibition spotlighting some of the continent’s buzziest new fashion names. If there’s ever been a time to brush up on the exciting creative talent coming out of Africa, this is it.
60 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5AZ
Black Corporeal (Breathing by Numbers) at Brixton House
5 and 7 October
Visual artist and south London poet Julianknxx is premiering his bold new film Black Corporeal (Breathing by Numbers) at Brixton House as part of Black History Month 2022, to highlight the disproportionate impact of air pollution in inner city London. Anchored by the voice of grassroots air pollution campaigner Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, the film traces her journey to have air pollution officially listed as a cause of death for her nine-year-old daughter Ella, after the intense levels of pollution on the South Circular triggered a fatal asthma attack.
Alongside her moving account, Julianknxx layers in poetry, essay, documentary and music to create a potent social justice message and draw attention not only to her campaign but also to the continuing stark realities of environmental poverty. Alongside two special screenings, Julianknxx will also be joined by guests as they respond to the multiple realities of Black life in London and their relationships with the built environment that holds them.
385 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London SW9 8GL
Grada Kilomba’s O Barco / The Boat at Somerset House
Until 20 October
Portuguese transdisciplinary artist Grada Kilomba is known for her works that draw on memory, trauma, gender and post-colonialism, and this marks the first time that her critically-acclaimed large-scale installation O Barco / The Boat will be displayed in the UK. Visitors to the courtyard at Somerset House will be able to see the striking 32-metre-long installation in all its glory and examine the 140 wood blocks used to create it, which have been configured to outline the lower ‘hold’ of an historical European slave ship.
Each of the blocks contain poems in six different languages, intricately inscribed into their charred surfaces, which directly address the history of European maritime expansion and colonisation. Alongside its sculptural elements, the artwork also includes live performance, combining song, music and dance produced by award-winning writer and musician Kalaf Epalanga. It’s a thought-provoking piece that asks audiences to consider forgotten stories as well as look towards the future.
Strand, Covent Garden, London WC2R 1LA
Black Futures Season at the Black Cultural Archives
Until 31 January 2023
Every month is Black History Month at the BCA, known for being the home of Black British History and the leading voice for the Windrush Generation in London. This month they’re launching Black Futures: Our Time is Now, a season of programming designed to amplify and celebrate contemporary Black British voices and ensure continued momentum towards racial justice and a better future for all.
As part of the season, they’re launching two new exhibitions, starting with a portrait show from 1 – 22 October that recognises future leaders in the Black British community and culminates in an awards ceremony led by the chair of BCA, Dr Yvonne Thompson CBE. Then, from 28 October, they’ll be launching their Transforming Legacies exhibition, which runs well into the new year and brings together emerging and existing artists to present a reflection of the last 40 years of Black British art across multiple disciplines, including painting, ceramics, film and performance.
1 Windrush Square, Brixton, London SW2 1EF
Black Lives Matter Festival at Somerset House
Held in the New Wing at Somerset House, Black Lives Matter Festival is an immersive celebration of Black contribution founded by long-time BLM activist and cultural producer Kayza Rose. With a programme of carefully curated events, talks and workshops, the festival aims to celebrate Black lives and amplify Black joy through its engagements.
On Saturday 22 October Somerset House will be playing host to two events, starting off with a free preview exhibition of The Black Portrait Gospel by Nigerian-born, British-bred multidisciplinary artist Dylema during the day. Then, come nightfall, Dylema will be joined by her collective for an evening of live music theatre, guaranteed to push boundaries and deliver a powerful message of Black experiences and achievements.
Strand, Covent Garden, London WC2R 1LA
Ballet Black at the Royal Opera House
19 – 23 October
To celebrate their 20th anniversary, ground-breaking British ballet company Ballet Black is returning to the Royal Opera House with two new works this Black History Month 2022. First is Say It Loud, which was choreographed and directed by the company’s pioneering founder and artistic director Cassa Pancho, who first founded Ballet Black in 2001 as a response to the lack of professional Black and Asian ballet dancers in the UK. It’s an autobiographical work that charts the struggles and inspiration behind the formation of the company and its journey to becoming one of the British ballet industry’s best-known names.
The second work, Black Sun, has been devised by acclaimed South African choreographer Gregory Maqoma (Vuyani Dance Theatre) and features an original score by Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante (Boy Blue). Described by one critic as “compelling… and completely spellbinding”, the work draws energy from the sun and the moon, giving rise to descendants of ancestors.
Bow Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9DD
Ladysmith Black Mambazo at the Southbank Centre
As part of their new UK tour – their first for many years – the much-lauded South African vocal powerhouse Ladysmith Black Mambazo will be holding two shows at the Southbank Centre on Saturday 15 October. Known for balancing soulful ballads and traditional dance songs – all while showcasing their perfectly-timed harmony work – this is a rare opportunity to see the renowned vocal group on home turf.
Held in honour of Black History Month, you can expect powerful, uplifting songs from their London gigs, where they’ll be joined by Cameroon-born guitarist and singer Muntu Valdo, who’s known for combining loops with the blues. Don’t miss this joyous musical event from the group dubbed by Nelson Mandela as ‘South Africa’s cultural ambassadors’.
Belvedere Road, Southbank, London SE1 8XX
Black History Month at the Union Chapel
5 – 26 October
In honour of Black History Month, north London’s award-winning music venue Union Chapel is hosting an exciting calendar of events, from film screenings and panel discussions to live music and spoken word. Highlights include a discussion on climate and past colonialism on Wednesday 5 October with Dorothy Grace Guerrero, Head of Policy at Global Justice Now, and a documentary screening of After the Flood on Wednesday 12 October, which examines the church’s role in the slave trade.
Finally, don’t miss ‘Music for Change and Resistance’ on Wednesday 26 October, which will see the historic venue host an evening of music and poetry from civil rights campaigns. There’ll be music from the struggles of Indo-Afro-Latinx America and resistance during the apartheid years in South Africa, as well as spoken word from Chris Rochester and music from the Andes played by Bolivian artist Phaxsi Coca.
19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London N1 2UN
New Poets’ Corner at Canary Wharf
Until 22 October
Canary Wharf might not be the first place that pops into your head when you think of exciting new literary projects, but that’s all about to change with the launch of their new poets’ corner. Held throughout the month and designed with the aim of giving a platform to young, inspiring Black poets across the capital, you can expect four weeks of free performances with spoken word artists including Young People’s Poet Laureate Theresa Lola, British-Trinidadian dub poet Roger Robinson and internationally acclaimed poet, playwright and performer Inua Ellams.
Each poem recited has been chosen to encourage listeners to share their own stories and experiences in the spirit of Speakers’ Corner, where anyone can lead a discussion. In keeping with that idea, every performance will finish with members of the audience invited to come up on stage to perform their own poem, rap or story.
Crossrail Place Roof Garden, Canary Wharf, London E14 5AB
Young, Gifted & Black at Theatre Peckham
Until 2 November
Curated by associate director Phillippe Cato, this marks Theatre Peckham’s fourth season of Young, Gifted & Black, which celebrates the voices and work of young Black artists in London, and this year’s programme is bigger and better than ever. Ten events – including seven bold new plays – take place across five weeks, exploring a wide range of themes that affect the African diaspora including identity, friendship, loss, self-discovery and Black Womanhood.
Don’t miss the two dramas by playwright, director, performer and all-round polymath Tatenda Shamiso, whose sold out Peckham Fringe solo show No ID returns for a three-night run on the main stage, with its sequel, Housewarming, following later in the month. Elsewhere, Edi De Melo’s Mulatto Boy is a funny, bold one-man odyssey that questions what it is to be Black and British, while Ellipsis is a brave new solo show written by Tambo Silavwe that delves into the seldom explored and sensitive subject of child loss of Black women. The programme closes with In the Key of Love, a spectacular visual performance by artist and singer Kaia Laurielle.
221 Havil Street, Peckham, London SE5 7SB
LexTempus: A Multisensory Music Experience
8 October – 13 November
Put together by Fever – the company behind some of London’s biggest immersive art exhibitions, including the Klimt and Van Gogh shows – this multisensory music experience will transport you from central London to three of America’s greatest cities, each known for their defining eras of Black American music. Start off by exploring smoky Chicago for the golden age of jazz, before moving on to the kings of soul in New York and finishing up with some heady disco tunes in San Francisco.
As you’d expect from a Fever production, there’ll be breath-taking visuals displayed on floor-to-ceiling 270-degree screens, as well as immersive scents created by Ecoscent, bespoke cocktails inspired by each of the cities and surround sound courtesy of Woojer haptic technology chairs 54 Pioneer Pro speakers.
18 Leake Street, Southbank, London, SE1 7NN